Young Kiwi racing driver, Chris van der Drift (20) finished 2nd overall in the Formula Renault Eurocup 2.0 championship after another frustrating weekend.
Having lead the championship for some time, meant that Chris is extremely disappointed, but the reality is that Chris is a complete newcomer to this class of racing against others with 1-3 years already in the class, so it was an extremely good effort, but little consolation to Chris - after all, he was determined to try to win.
The problems really went back to the previous round at Le Mans before which he had a good points lead and looked almost certain to clinch the championship.
A DNF in the first race there (a damaged part of the rear bodywork could have cut his rear tyre so a decision was made to pit for safety reasons) was the start. While he made a good start in the first race, the closeness of the racing resulted in the damage just in front of his rear wheel.
Of course the second race on Sunday at Le Mans was wet, and Chris struggled with car set-up as he has done all year in these conditions. He gradually fell back through the field after making a great start. Only three points for the whole weekend - really disappointing.
Leading the championship and going into the final weekend at Barcelona was great - free practice on Friday, Chris was third fastest in the morning session, followed by sixth in a frequent yellow flag (frustrating) second session.
Qualifying was on Saturday with a fifth grid placing for both races. Chris's closest title competitor (Carlo van Dam) was fourth and sixth respectively.
Sixth placed in the championship at that point (18 points behind Chris) was Felipe Albuquerque who managed pole for both races.
"I had a reasonable start to the first race (lots of grip on the start line) and while I lost one spot in the long run to the first corner (right hand), I made this up in this corner going around the outside of two cars, and just about passed my own team-mate to place myself third. But rather than take an unnecessary risk, I let him go forward into the next left hand corner. However, it would seem at some point I lost the complete right hand portion of my front wing. I felt nothing and saw nothing come off the car - just experienced huge understeer -and found myself drifting back through the field without actually knowing what was wrong.
This was really frustrating as the car seemed quick initially - but again, no points!" said Van der Drift.
Therefore Chris went into the final race of the weekend and the championship on equal points with Carlo van Dam - 86 - and van Dam was starting 6th on Sunday. However Albuquerque had caught up by virtue of his win in the first race - he was on 84 so it was really tight!
"I had a good start in my last race in Formula Renault. Fourth out of turn one, and I remained there for three laps when I was passed by two cars at the end of the front straight and in turn one. This left me in sixth position and powerless to attempt to re-gain positions. I was experiencing straight line speed problems (but fortunately so was Carlo van Dam behind me). I could do nothing but hold position, finally finishing 6th, with Albuquerque taking another win. Providing he did not have problems in the technical check the championship was his. He didn't and so he was the champion," said Van der Drift.
"Albuquerque's father told me that he considered I was the real champion - but that is not what the results and points say! I was absolutely gutted.
"I just want to thank everyone who has supported me this season, and all the messages of support I have received. I had a great team - I am just absolutely gutted that it all fell apart at the end after everything had been going so well up until then," said Van der Drift.
Chris is now in good company in losing a championship in the last weekend of a race season (Valentino Rossi - Superbike, Andy Soucek - Renault World Series FR3.5, and to a lesser extent Schumacher / Alonso in F1).
However, not having won the championship means the first place Renault prize (200,000 Euros) to compete in F Renault 3.5 World Series in 2007 is also not available, which creates its own financial implications - more sponsors needed !!
Chris will remain in Italy while he does some testing and will continue training until he heads back to NZ over the summer period - but is unlikely to contest any of the Toyota Racing Series rounds