It was a weekend of mixed emotions for promising young British hope Max Goff in the second outing of the 2011 French SEAT León Supercopa Championship at Nogaro, with a mechanical failure depriving him of a likely victory – or two – but a strong enough turn-of-speed to suggest that he will be a contender for glory right the way through to the end of the season.
Goff is in his maiden campaign of car racing this year following an ultra-successful national and international karting career, and having claimed a superb hat-trick of podium finishes in the curtain-raiser at Lédenon, the talented Northants teenager headed to Nogaro ready to demonstrate his mettle up against an expanded field of some 26 rivals and in front of tens of thousands of spectators on the same high-profile and televised FFSA bill as the popular French GT Championship.
“It's a really good track – a bit tight, but fun to drive,” the 17-year-old reflected of his first visit to the circuit in the south-western Midi-Pyrénées region. “It didn't take too long to get used to it, and we got onto the pace quite quickly – within just a couple of sessions, we were there or thereabouts. The car felt well-settled, and in the last practice session we were the fastest of anyone, which gave us a lot of confidence going into qualifying.
“Unfortunately, qualifying was damp, and that was the first time I had been out in the car or around Nogaro in those conditions, so I ended up just seventh. That was a bit annoying given the pace we had shown in the dry because we had been optimistic about going for pole, but for only my second race meeting in the car and first time in the wet, we were still fairly happy.
“It was dry for the races, and I got a good start in the first of them to move up to fourth. I was able to hold onto that quite comfortably, and we were reasonably satisfied to finish there after starting seventh – it was another top five for us, and more points in the bag which is always good.”
When he refers to 'us', Goff is alluding to Zest Racecar Engineering, with whom he is competing in the French SEAT León Supercopa Championship – and his relationship with the Malcolm Cleland-led operation is one that is clearly working well. With the leading half-dozen competitors reversed for the race two grid, the highly-rated Brigstock-based hotshot began third – but this time, Lady Luck would not be on his side.
“I got off the line well again and moved into second on the first lap,” he recounted. “The leader quickly established a gap of around one-and-a-half or two seconds, but I chased him down and set the fastest lap in the process – and then just as I caught him, the driveshaft CV joint broke.
“There were still eight laps to go at the time, so that was pretty gutting, to be honest, because we were seriously fast and I had quite a lot of confidence that I could have got past him for the lead. It's extremely difficult to overtake at Nogaro, but there's one main place around the track where you can do it, and we were very quick in that section – so we knew we had quite a good chance of getting through.”
With the weekend's second and third races being held back-to-back, there was no time to effect the necessary repairs, meaning Goff's failure to finish constituted a double whammy, being unable to even start the final encounter. The only small consolation were the bonus points he accrued for his outstanding fastest lap – extraordinarily, almost half-a-second quicker than that of the race-winner and more than a full second out-of-reach of the runner-up's best effort – corroborating his conviction that he could have gone on to triumph.