Baptism of fire for the new Omicron machine at Silverstone
Tristan Cliffe hit the track for the first time in newly-delivered car
Last season's F3 Cup Teams' Championship winners Omicron Motorsport believe there are more than enough reasons to be optimistic after a competitive start to Tristan Cliffe's 2013 F3 Cup campaign.
There wasn't much time for the Norfolk squad to get to grips with their new Dallara F307 Mugen Honda car before the second round at Silverstone supporting the new BRDC F4 Championship, but Cliffe was happy overall.
"We only took delivery of the car two and a half weeks ago from Canada via what seemed like most of Europe and we've spent that time rebuilding it. It was quick out of the box despite all the unknowns, and we had battery and data issues all weekend. Getting to the assembly area was the first time I'd driven the car, it was the first time I'd even touched the throttle with my foot instead of just my hand in the garage."
Without a wheel turning in earnest before the opening qualifying, the issues reared their heads in the middle of a race weekend rather than being ironed out during pre-season. Still, Cliffe qualified well inside the top 10 before finishing one place higher than his grid position in a solid sixth place.
"The throttle started to work itself loose and we finished the race with only 60 per cent throttle but we were on the pace of Gino (Ussi) which is promising. Due to various problems I had to guess gearing and it turned out I had no sixth gear so I was driving a gear down on everyone else which made it tough on the long Silverstone straights. But we learnt a lot about the car and after five laps I had already beaten my fastest time from 2012, and that was without sixth gear."
Cliffe improved again in race two to finish fifth, closely behind one of the drivers he was locked in a three-way shootout for the 2012 title with, Gino Ussi. There are two more pretenders to the F3 Cup title this year though in the shape of Henry Chart and Alice Powell. The experience of racing against the likes of António Félix da Costa, and lapping quicker than Kevin Korjus at the final round at Snetterton, means Cliffe can feel confident in trying to reel in early front runners Alice Powell and Henry Chart.
"Alice and Henry are both talented drivers and with them in F3 Cup this year we've got quicker times to target. It will be a good learning curve and we've already learnt a lot about the car at Silverstone. We're hoping to be in the hunt for the podium at Brands as it's a place I know well."
F3 Cup visits Brands Hatch next on June 1st-2nd with tickets available from £10. Click here to book tickets.