Motorsport Games | 1-3 November 2019
The FIA Motorsport Games was the first Motorsport event of its type, following in the footsteps of the Olympic Games, nations competed head to head, across GTs, Touring Cars, Karting, Drifting and Esports, with the nation acquiring the biggest medal tally being crowned the victors. The FIA absolutely nailed the opening ceremony which was hosted in the Circus Maximus arena, the worlds first ever race track, where the Romans raced chariots in this 150,000 capacity stadium for almost 1000 years. It had so much atmosphere and it was a really special place to open the games. Standing on the stage flying the British flag was a nice moment too!
On Friday the competition kicked off and the Touring Car Cup was looking really tough with drivers from 20 nations entered, including many European and World Championship contenders. The competitiveness of the all new MG6 TCR was our biggest concern as the shakedown test at Barcelona highlighted a number of weak spots and areas for improvement. We had no expectations and instead we focused on improving reliability and speed.
In the practice sessions I could only manage P17 with my team mate Zhendong in P18. We were a fair chunk off the pace but had closed the gap over the day and started to move the MG forward. The car had a nice balance but we were experiencing a lot of turbo issues, with a frustrating amount of turbo lag.
The weather was looking changeable so I did my rain dance on Friday night and was rewarded with a damp Qualifying on Saturday morning. The slippy conditions masked our performance disadvantage and the MG came into its own. I pushed straight out of the box in the wet conditions, passing cars on the out lap. When I could see the cars behind dropping further back I thought, that’s positive, but I was still surprised to hear that I was fighting for third on the grid. I eventually ended up 5th after being pipped in the final minutes.
The second qualifying session was fully dry which was going to be a real test for us. We had some new settings to try and once again we bridged the gap to the front runners in optimum conditions, as I qualified 10th overall for the second race. This was a real result and a sign we were going in the right direction.
Two cars were given penalties for Race 1 and were sent to the back of the grid which meant I’d start from 3rd on the grid. I was relishing the chance to show what the MG6 could do but unfortunately we hit technical problems. With a slipping clutch and turbo issues I dropped down the order to dead last and eventually had to retire. We were absolutely gutted as a team, but I was really happy to see how quickly the team bounced back, diagnosing the problems and then putting them right!
With a new turbo and clutch fitted overnight we could only hope that the car would allow me fight in Sunday’s race. The track was mainly dry with some damp sections which would definitely help me. As I left the pit lane on the warm up lap it was like a different car, the turbo lag had almost completely gone and I could now shoot the car out of the corners. This gave me extra fire in my belly!
I lost a couple of places off the line but settled in to the first lap. It started raining very lightly and I knew I had to take advantage while it was slippery. I got back up to tenth by the end of lap one and then passed another two through the first sector. Heading into the very damp final corner I darted up the inside of Hong Kong’s Jim Kato and Sweden’s Jessica Backman. The French World Touring Car driver John Fillipi was next. I made him defend into turn 3 and cutback on the exit to secure 5th. The rain was stopping and the race settled on the drying track. Just when I thought the race was decided the safety car was deployed due to a beached car at Turn 9. The safety returned to the pits and we were given a 1 lap dash for the cash. The rain started to fall again and the 4 cars ahead were in striking distance. We came into the damp final sector and I got the run on the battling cars ahead. I stayed left and sent the MG6 deep in to the final corner holding it around the outside of the Netherlands’ Tom Coronel and Slovakia’s Mato Homola. I got ahead of Homola and exited side by side with Coronel but he just edged ahead to take third over the line.
I screamed down the radio and gave the steering wheel a couple of punches – this was as good as a victory for everyone involved. I arrived back in the paddock and the team were absolutely buzzing, throwing me up and down in the air! They had worked tirelessly over the last month to get the MG homologated and ready for this event and the last thing we expected was to be fighting against the TCR establishment. If only we could go back and start the weekend where we finished!
As the MG6 project continues into 2020 this result gives MG the confidence in their new TCR car with plans of further development scheduled.
This was an incredible experience and it’s been a real honour representing the UK and MG at the first ever FIA Motorsport Games.
This marks my final race of the 2019 season and I’m working hard on my 2020 plans. I look forward to updating you in due course! Thanks for all your support this year!
Pictures: Scoferd & Xavi Bonilla