Martin Plowman insists he has 'taken away the positives' from a torrid season in the F3 Euroseries in 2008, and is now ready to 'take a leap of faith' as he bids to establish himself in America, where he will compete in the Indy Lights Series with Panther Racing this year.

Having shone in karting, Plowman enjoyed two moderately successful campaigns in Formula Renault Italia and the Formula Renault Eurocup with Prema Powerteam in 2006 and 2007, with a best finishing position of fifth in the championship. Following that, he elected to step up to the hotly-fought F3 Euroseries the following year with RC Motorsport, but to say that the season was a baptism of fire would be putting it mildly.

Finding the transition hard, the British ace failed to crack the top 20 on the starting grid until round four at the Norisring in Germany in late June, and he would not finish any higher than 17th in 14 outings. With no points to show for his efforts, he and the team parted ways three meetings before the end of the campaign - and he admits it was far from what he had been hoping for, even if there were occasional bright spots along the way.

"Going into the season we were very optimistic," 'Plowey' told Radio, "but unfortunately things didn't turn out the way we wanted. Formula 3 is probably the premier junior class in the world, and it's the input between driver and team that make it what it is. That's also what makes it so tough, though.

"As always, of course, you have to take away the positive things. It was very much a learning year; it was a brand new team with a brand new engine and obviously my first year too. On the plus side, at every race we went to I was constantly learning about the car, and I do believe that I've come away from the season very much stronger as a driver. Definitely my technical ability to set up a car and understand what a car needs to go faster has improved.

"There were a couple of races where we really showed our potential, like at Pau and the Norisring, where I was running in the top eight before an unfortunate incident took us out of the race. There were times when things were looking really good.

"Obviously I found it difficult and there are many reasons for that, but as a whole I believe I've learned so many lessons. No experience is a bad experience; you can always take it to the next level and remember what didn't work, and then use that to find what does work."

That, indeed, is precisely what Plowman intends to do in 2009, when he will be racing Stateside for the first time in his career with former two-time IRL champions Panther in the junior Lights category. Confessing to having initially had misgivings about his new challenge, he revealed that just one trip across the Pond to see for himself what it was all about was enough to convince him otherwise.

"I had the offer from Panther to join their Lights programme in IndyCar," the 21-year-old related. "I was very reluctant at first about racing in the States not knowing what it was like, but I went over to see the last race in Chicago (in 2008) and was really blown away by the whole experience.

"Not having seen an oval before, it really does make you take a step back. Of course you see it on TV, but that maybe doesn't do it justice; when you go there and see it in person and see cars running three-wide at 200mph, you just think 'wow!'

"I've done three days [of testing], two on road courses and one on an oval. I found the road course to be very much what I expected and what I was used to. I acclimatised to it really quickly, whereas the oval was just another kettle of fish. You go out there, you see it and you just think 'oh dear, this is not going to be easy!'

"Basically over the first few laps you've got to take a leap of faith; once you get used to the car you don't lift again ever, but to make that leap of faith and go flat-out for the first time, you've got to really trust yourself and trust the car and literally just take that leap."

That is now what Plowman is planning to do, and if he is looking for inspiration in his new venture he need look little further than countryman Mark Taylor, who secured the Indy Lights crown with Panther back in 2003. Though he has yet to even start his first race, a title bid, the Staffordshire ace suggested, is not out of the question.

"I think it's going to be a constant learning process," he concluded. "The cars are very heavy and have a bit more power, but the braking power is probably less than in Formula 3. The team have got a very strong oval car; last year they won four races on ovals, so I'm confident the team is going to give me a competitive car - it's all about whether I can adapt quick enough.

"Obviously going fast on an oval is relatively easy, if you can drive to the car's ability. You cannot over-drive a car on an oval, but the difficulty is the racing itself - running three-wide, drafting, running high, low and in the middle. They are all little things that we don't do in Europe - and things that I've got to learn quickly!

"There are no targets. Of course I'm going there to win the championship, as anyone should do, but I still haven't compared myself to the rest of the grid, so whether or not that's a possibility we'll find out. I'm determined to get my first win, and after my first win the aim is the championship."




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