Slow starts cost Cliffe
It’s been a mixed year for 2012 Cup class champion Tristan Cliffe, whose dominant mid-season was preceded by something of a handicapped start when delivery of his new car was delayed.
It's been a mixed year for 2012 Cup class champion Tristan Cliffe, whose dominant mid-season was preceded by something of a handicapped start when delivery of his new car was delayed. The final few rounds of 2013 have been almost as varied, but he could still go one better than he did in 2012 and take the F3 Cup title.
The Mulbarton racer heads to his home circuit third in the standings believing his chances of glory are small. "But even when they're small you've still got to try." Cliffe said. "There are so many things that could happen; I've just got to go out there and do my best. I don't think I'll be bringing extra bottles of champagne to celebrate, the shock will be quite enough extra."
Omicron Motorsport has found some impressive pace in their Mugen-powered Dallara F307, and Cliffe is sure he has the pace to score a perfect weekend to give him a chance.
"Since I hurt my back at Zolder I've probably been the quickest driver in the quickest car. I've got to take that positive into Snetterton. My fastest lap before I crashed with Alice [at Snetterton] was three quarters of a second quicker than anyone else managed so I can draw on that and hopefully put myself at the front."
Cliffe knows where things have gone wrong for him this year and what has been putting him on the back foot, despite claiming 10 pole positions in a row.
"I need to obviously work on my starts." he admitted. "I suspect I've dropped more places on the first lap than anyone else in the year. That's what's lost me my championship. There have been too many races where I have been at the front or very, very near the front and by the end of the first lap I've not been and had to work for it. That's when out put yourself at risk.
"The trouble with practicing starts is that it's the hardest thing you can do to a car's transmission, clutch, driveshaft, input shaft. Everything takes such a hammering I don't really want to practice in my own car. My starts aren't actually that bad per se, it's just that everyone else's are that little bit better. I'm two car-lengths up to 100mph [slower] which if you were practicing on a test day you'd be hard pressed to notice the difference. It's just finding perfection every time and Alex is particularly good at that."
Those starts have indeed put Cliffe at risk in the middle of the pack and have resulted in two non-finishes and a non-start. The 32 year old still wouldn't change how he's approached his season but he believes he will certainly learn from it.
He said "There are so many what ifs in there: if I'd had this car from round one or if I'd done some testing before round two, if I'd accepted second place behind Alice and then finished on the Sunday at Snetterton, if I'd accepted second place behind Alex at Donington, things would have been different and I'd be right up there.
"You make your decisions in the heat of the moment so I don't hold regrets for what I've done but I can learn from what I have done. Ultimately the spins and crashes later in the year have all stemmed from poor starts that have required me to pick up places. That's what I need to learn from for next year, whatever I'm doing wrong in my starts."
Cliffe will need to claim another pole, win twice and continue his knack of setting fastest lap if he is to be champion. He still needs fortune to play in his favour as he needs Craven and Powell to pick up fewer than 35 points during the weekend.
"We're going into the final round of the season with a chance for the second year running. I want to win it, I'll go out there and do my best and see what the others do."
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