Cameron Twynham’s Formula Renault 3.5 Series campaign continued with an eventful seventh-round outing in mixed conditions at the Hungaroring last weekend (September 12-14).
In only his second appearance for British squad Comtec Racing, the Market Harborough teenager initially struggled on a soaking circuit due to his lack of experience using Michelin’s wet weather tyres and the Hungarian Grand Prix venue itself.
The difficulty of getting into a rhythm around Budapest’s 2.722-mile circuit was always going to be magnified in the wet – with a notoriously slippery surface yielding little grip in tricky conditions – although Twynham’s confidence grew during free practice. However, the BRDC Rising Star’s chances of improving on 15th during Saturday’s 30-minute qualifying session were scuppered by a late stoppage and heavy traffic.
With Twynham admittedly more comfortable in the dry, heavy rain 20 minutes before race one ensured the 18-year-old would contest his first wet FR3.5 start, while also necessitating a quick turnaround from Comtec’s mechanics to alter his set-up following the sudden deluge.
Twynham initially made a strong start, although contact at turn one damaged his steering and turned the race into a 21-lap learning exercise. Despite this, Cameron was happy with his progress.
“The entire weekend was a baptism of fire,” admitted Twynham. “The weather made it increasingly difficult, and I’m still adapting to the characteristics of Michelin’s wet tyres after only using Dunlop’s version so far in my career. These cars are tricky to handle in the dry; they’re incredibly tough to drive with reduced traction. The car was tacking to the right down the straights due to the steering damage, so that didn’t make it any easier! Saying that, my confidence levels are continuously rising, especially after learning so much in Saturday’s race.”
The mixed conditions continued during Sunday morning’s qualifying session, yet Twynham managed to lap within 0.06sec of his FIA European F3 championship-leading team-mate, Esteban Ocon, on wet weather rubber. With the track rapidly drying, a change to slicks benefitted Cameron, although further traffic issues on his last run – particularly into the final turn – dropped him to 17th when the circuit was at its quickest having previously set the eighth quickest time following another red flag.
Following an early Safety Car period during Sunday afternoon’s race, it was decided that Cameron would be brought in early for his mandatory pit-stop so that he could later attack in clear air. A couple of errors during the service cost him valuable seconds but, undeterred, Twynham proceeded to give a brilliant demonstration of race pace, slashing the deficit to his nearest rivals by 0.5sec per lap until the chequered flag and making a daring pass around the outside of another driver through turn two.
“Firstly, I have to hold my hands up about the pit-stop blunder,” Twynham added. “It’s only my second stop in the series, so inevitably I was going to slip-up at some point. When we rejoined, the pace was excellent; we were really pushing hard, it was like a qualifying run! To subsequently discover that my fastest lap was quicker than [Carlos] Sainz Jr was brilliant.
“Overall, it was a tricky weekend, although the wet weather running was incredibly useful. I always knew these first few races were always going to be about learning as much as possible. It was also an eye-opener to have Esteban alongside me. With a quick team-mate, it pushes you forward in every aspect. Judging by my progress between qualifying sessions, I think it was mission accomplished, although we need to keep pushing.
“I must also thank everyone at Comtec Racing for their efforts over the weekend. They worked incredibly hard during a very challenging few days. And once again I must also thank my ever-loyal sponsors and family for their constant support. It really makes a big difference.”
The eighth Formula Renault 3.5 Series round of 2014 takes place at Paul Ricard on 27/28 September.