In his first exclusive column for Crash.net, Wiechers Sport driver Emmet O'Brien looks back at his second weekend of competition in the World Touring Car Championship and a tough trip to France...

Magny-Cours was one of those weekends where it is a case of the sooner forgotten the better, except, of course for the experience!

I arrived in Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in great spirits after a really positive run in Monza where I showed that I had real pace and potential for the rest of the season To be honest Magny-Cours rates as my least favorite circuit on the calendar and I am happy that it is out of the way, even though I have a different mind-set this season, which is to treat every circuit as the same, and to work very hard so as to maximise our potential at all the races.

Magny-Cours is a notoriously difficult and technical circuit, but a great circuit for testing you as you have a blend of high speed flat out fourth gear corners with some corners that almost bring you to a stop in first gear, and then there are the violent kerbs and chicanes that your car must be stable over so that you can carry speed through the lap.

For qualifying I felt that I had a reasonable chance of being in the top three in the Independents Championship, although If I am honest I was a little unsure of how our set-up was going to work. It really frustrates me when I don't make progress - going backwards is always a worry for me - but you have to make changes sometimes in the hope of finding a big advantage. Our mistake in free practice two was that we made too many changes at the one time; we changed the diff because we thought it would eradicate the understeer, and we also changed springs and damper settings. I am a firm believer in keeping it simple by making one significant change at a time.

In qualifying, after I had left the pits I immediately knew that something was wrong, the steering felt heavier, and I began to think that I was not fit enough and my arms were getting tired!!! That was something that I wouldn't have been very happy with as I work extremely hard on my fitness, and I have stepped it up another gear this year to try and eek out any advantage over the other drivers in the WTCC.

I knew half way around the lap that the power steering was failing, making the car very difficult to drive competitively. My team manager Thomas Sheimann told me to pit and my team, Wiechers Sport, worked quickly and fixed a punctured power steering line underneath the car. I had around six minutes remaining in the session. I did an out lap and then started my flying lap; my first sector was really impressive and it set me up well for the rest of the lap until I got to the hairpin and a drive shaft let go! Unbelievable I thought! That left me 33rd in qualifying - not where I wanted to be!

In race one the car felt pretty good until around lap six and then I was struggling with bad oversteer. However I worked hard in the race and I finished 22nd overall and eighth in the Independents. I just had to concentrate hard and I picked one car off at a time. There were no real dramas in the race - it was boring enough actually, I had made most of my overtaking manoeuvres by the sixth or seventh lap. But the result did not leave me in too bad a grid spot for the second race.

My start in the second race left a lot to be desired. I let the revs dip too low and narrowly avoided stalling, but once I got going I made up quite a lot of ground, I was up to 19th at one stage and then the trouble started - suddenly there was chaos with cars going everywhere and I was hit two or three times on the first lap! I began to struggle in a big way with understeer and it was not until after the race that we understood why - my front left rim had been damaged on the first lap and I had lost one bar in tyre pressure which accounted for the struggle.

However worse was to come as Ceresoli lost control coming into the hairpin and spun into me backwards at well over 200kph destroying both his own car and mine. It was a heavy hit and my neck is still feeling it, though I am nearly better now and I am very thankful for my Hans device. It was a racing incident and I was an unlucky victim. I got going again but I limped home in last place, an unfortunate end to a difficult weekend.

I am still settling into the WTCC, and I am still trying to understand the professionalism that is required for the championship. My father Eoin and my brother Aran have been at every session to date this year and their support has been incredible, as has the support back home in Ireland - its just been fantastic, My poor mother has been left at home baby-sitting my Bengal kitten, so she has been nervously watching on the races live on Eurosport!

Something that has been a surprise to me though is the support that I am receiving within the WTCC paddock and within the championship where there is a great spirit. I have to say that Andy Priaulx has been really good to me and after qualifying he had my father, brother, and I over to his motor home for a drink. He has been very supportive to me and is really having a big influence on my career without even realising it! His advice has been invaluable to me and he is one of these guys that is so professional, but also has his feet firmly on the ground.

I am looking forward to Brands Hatch in couple of weeks, I know the circuit very well, and I have a huge contingent of Irish friends making the short hop over to the UK to support me. Hopefully I will be raising the Irish flag for my first Independent win!

Until next time,

Emmet

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