After a brilliant start of season, when he won several important races, French driver Esteban Ocon came to Spain for the European KF3 Championship (Junior) with concrete victory ambitions. But the Zuera circuit was merciless with a number of favourites, including Esteban, who could not avoid race incidents, in particular when this young driver supported by Gravity Management ended up relegated to 26th at the start of the final. In these conditions, his spectacular return to 9th despite a warped steering column can be seen as a really satisfactory and encouraging performance!
The European KF3 Championship was one of the main goals of Esteban Ocon's season. In France, in early May, he had taken the second step of the podium at the qualifying round, the South European Trophy. Hence his great determination to replicate those results in the final phase, on the Zuera circuit, near Saragossa. "Since I have joined the Spanish team Genikart, I have had some very good races and I am really determined to keep this good momentum going", commented Esteban.
Although he hoped for a better result in timed qualifying - he had to content himself with the 31st time - he took advantage of the qualifying heats to work his way up the order. "It is never easy to start from the 7th row, because you can always find a driver a bit too impetuous. Luckily I often made good starts and I also managed to climb to 2nd in a heat. Overall, I was 18th for the pre-final". In the pre-final, Esteban moved up a few more places and ended up 12th.
A Frenzied Start
With a 25 km long final, everything was still possible for Esteban, who could still aim at a place in the top 5 or even on the podium. "I made a good start. But on the second bend, there was a crash in front of me. A kart pushed me and warped my steering column. Nearly all the pack passed me, and I concluded the first lap of this decisive race in 26th place". At that point, the Gravity Management driver displayed great fighting spirit to make up for lost ground by passing several drivers. Finally he succeeded in getting back to the top 10 with all the honours. On Sunday evening, his feelings were somewhere between the satisfaction of having made the best of the situation and the disappointment of having missed the opportunity of a place of honour. Esteban commented:
"During the qualifying heats, I did not feel totally in sync with my kart. Technically, I knew that we could still improve the performances of my FA Kart-Vortex. We analysed the situation, we tested a new solution during warm-up and I think we worked in the right direction to regain sufficient competitiveness and be able to battle in the lead pack. Unfortunately, the crash that warped by steering column also accelerated tyre wear. This is why I could not climb any higher".
After this 9th place in the European Championship, Esteban Ocon is determined to finish in beauty at the prestigious WSK Euro Series, where he is currently 3rd in the provisional classification. Then, his focus will shift to the preparation for the World Cup...