Walero caught up with founder Fiona James to see how her racing season in the 2016 Supercar Challenge went and how she feels her skills have developed since she joined the Dutch-based Blueberry Racing team.
Q: What preparation did you do ahead of the season?
A: “My planned schedule for pre-season testing was cancelled after the Brussels bomb attacks shut down European travel for a few days earlier this year. As I only had limited time my best option was to get some coaching in the simulator at iZone (Silverstone) with John Pratt, which I continued all season. I also worked hard on my fitness, as there are no luxuries such as power steering in the Praga race car and it’s a high G-force car.”
Q: What were the challenges you faced?
A: “The lack of testing was an issue and a setback. It took a bit of time getting the seating sorted out, and I ended up having to learn to left foot brake on a race weekend, which was not ideal. Having come from GT cars where you stand on the brakes as hard as you can, this is the opposite and just takes a bit of time to understand. Zolder has never been my best circuit as I get car sick at that circuit (though I have managed a few podiums, so it’s obviously not as bad as I think!). Coupled with that the extreme noise and vibrations from the car can unsettle you and my ears were ringing for some time after the 60-minute race.”
Q: How would you describe your season?
A: “I really enjoyed it – it was great to get back to basics and not have any driver aids. It was a big learning curve, and I would like to do another year in Europe as I think it helped my driving skills. The season was a bit mixed, as the car was very underpowered on the straights so at places like Snetterton and Assen I struggled. The GT cars were flying past me on the straights, but at Oschersleben, I had a great race and came from the back of the grid into third place.”
Q: Your best result?
A: “I had a few second places, but Oschersleben was my most satisfying podium, as I had a real fight on my hands after poor qualifying but managed to get up to third.”
Q: How important was the support from the race team?
A: “Blueberry were great to work with. Despite the language barrier, we had some fun and everyone worked really hard. I felt terrible when I had to pull out of the race at Zolder after I became ill. They have given me my racing bug back after a tough 2015 and I’m hoping that I can contest the Dutch Supercar Challenge in the same car next year. We did a lot of set-up work and made tremendous progress at Spa at the end of the season, which has given me the confidence to challenge for race wins.”
Q: Where did you end up in the championship standings?
A: “Second. I collected points and had several podiums, so I am happy with my performance this year. Having said that, I intend to push myself more in 2017 and capitalise on this year’s experience and results.”