Team UK clear early hurdles at FIA Motorsport Games
Team UK has made a positive start to the 2022 FIA Motorsport Games, clearing the early hurdles in its path as the competition got underway in earnest in the south of France.
The 16 chosen athletes kicked off their respective campaigns across two busy days of action on Thursday and Friday, spread across Circuit Paul Ricard, the nearby roads of Saint Baume and the Autocross Veynois venue two hours further north.
Spearheading the Esports charge is James Baldwin, and one of the pre-event favourites has lived up to the billing thus far, qualifying on pole then scoring a comfortable lights-to-flag win in his quarter final to secure his place in the next round.
“So far I’ve really enjoyed the FIA Motorsport Games,” says Baldwin. “It’s been a great experience, and Team UK seem to be looking strong as a whole.
“The target is the gold medal, I have my semi-final and final tomorrow, it’s going to be tough but I’m ready for the challenge.”
Sam Neary has been drafted in as a late substitution for the unwell Chris Froggatt in the GT entry, shared with Ian Loggie, but despite the late switch, the duo surged to an impressive third in the qualifying race on board their Mercedes-AMG GT3 challenger.
Another squad facing early hurdles to overcome were CrossCar Senior, after an engine failure left Dan Rooke’s team on the brink of elimination having scarcely turned a wheel.
In the true spirit of the Games they – and kind helpers from all corners of the paddock – repaired the car, and Rooke will get his first taste of competitive action at Veynois tomorrow, after completing a five-lap shakedown to check the car over this evening. Among the Juniors, Corey Padgett has shown commendable pace against a very experienced field, and continues to make great strides.
To Auto Slalom next, and the combined efforts of Mark King and Laura Christmas have safely seen Team UK progress into the Round of 16 tomorrow.
“It was a tough day’s driving for the team,” reflects King after the duo placed 12th in the early running. “So far, I’m very happy with how things are going, but we do have a bit of work to do tomorrow as we face off against Israel.
“It definitely won’t be an easy ride. In the wider scheme of things, I feel as though all the Team UK athletes are supporting each other’s disciplines and enjoying spending the time to learn about each other’s skills and techniques, which is fantastic to see.”
Mark Richards’ Drifting campaign has gotten off to a flier with a stellar drive to second during his qualifying runs, ditto the Karting Endurance team of Rhianna Purcocks, Owen Jenman, Jack O’Neill and Mike Philippou, the quartet starting on the front foot during their respective practice sessions.
“A decent day overall for the team,” says Martin O’Neill, Team Manager for Karting Endurance. “We were in the top three in all four practice sessions. It’s been a great event so far, and we’re looking forward to qualifying and the race tomorrow.
“With reliability – and a bit of luck – a medal could be on the cards. But what colour…”
Steve Jones and Tim Jones round out the top five after a frenetic start to the Historic Rally action, with Oliver Mellors and Ian Windress tenth in Rally2 on board their Proton Iriz R5 with seven stages in the books.
Chris Smiley rounds out the 10 discipline-strong entry for Motorsport UK, the Northern Irishman using the opening practice session for Touring Cars to get bedded in with his Honda Civic Type R FK8 around the 3.6-mile circuit. He will hit the circuit again, this time in competition, tomorrow.
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