ROOKIE'S TOUGH WINTON WEEKEND
Friday practice at round three of the Genuine Ford Parts Australian Formula Ford Championship looked like rookie Ben Jurczak was going to carry right on from where he left round two. The 16 year old from Brisbane's Forest Lakes stunned the field by finishing 2nd in only his 4th CAMS motor racing event when the Championship visited Queensland just two weeks ago. Showing his pace wasn't beginner's luck, Ben piloted his SES Linear / King's Fibreglass Spectrum 012 to the 3rd fastest time in Friday practice at Winton last weekend, just behind the Spectrums of his team mate Ash Walsh and Synergy Motorsport's Chaz Mostert.
That proved to be the highlight of the weekend for Jurczak, with post practice inspections showing that his engine had developed an oil leak at the front seal, requiring an overnight engine change. His crew worked well into the icy Winton evening to have the car ready for Saturday qualifying. Without posting a time in qualifying, Ben's car suffered a broken driveshaft, relegating him to the back of the field for the start of the opening race. "Well; that's two firsts for this weekend," said Ben. "The team has never had an oil seal fail on any of the cars since the Fiesta engine has been running and they've never broken a driveshaft in Australian Championship competition either. I'm hoping that's my bad luck done for the weekend!" he added.
A strong drive in the opening race saw Ben carve his way through to 10th place and another valuable point. "I enjoyed that," Ben commented. "The Spectrum felt really strong. I had the grip to make the passes under brakes and through the fast corners as well. I think we could have made another few spots if we'd had a couple more laps."
Races two and three did not go quite to plan. Ben got a lot of wheel spin off the line in race two and fell back several places. After working his way back up, he ran wide coming onto the straight and was swamped by the pack as they entered turn one. "I'm pretty angry with myself after that race," said Ben. But his team were quick to point out that he is still very much a rookie; and that this year is all about learning. "Ben's going to make mistakes this year. That's part of the learning process," said Ben's team boss, Mike Borland. "It's only really a problem if he makes the same mistake again and again. So far, he hasn't done that and his performance for his experience is fantastic."
Race three saw Ben making good progress through the field when he encountered the car of his team mate, Caleb Rayner. Caleb had been turned around by another competitor and, with cars either side of him, Ben had nowhere to go. He did a great job to brake as hard as he did, but could not avoid contact which left both cars unable to continue. "Not what we wanted when we came here this weekend," is how Ben summarised his weekend. But in his typically optimistic style, he was quick to add "But we still have a good lead in the Rookie of the Year points and the team keeps reminding me that this year is about development. If I'm going to have a career in motorsport, then weekends like this one are going to happen. I need to know how to deal with it and focus on the next round."
Given his outstanding pace for his Rookie status, Ben was asked if it is simply a case of the Spectrum suiting his driving style. "I don't think that is it," he said. "The Spectrum is definitely an easy and comfortable car to drive, but I've also had access to all of BRD's previous MoTeC data so Mike can show me exactly what I need to do. And then I've had Ash on hand to coach me on my driving. It's like in karts when you race different classes. Each class needs to be driven differently and as a driver you have to adapt to what it needs. That's all I've done with Formula Ford and the Spectrum."