King troubles top five on competitive GP2 test bow

Abu Dhabi

Jordan King laid down an early marker as he made his track debut for Racing Engineering in the first GP2 Series pre-season group test in Abu Dhabi, covering more than 160 laps and threatening the championship’s experienced front-runners in the process.

King is dovetailing his GP2 racing commitments this year with his recently announced development driver role for Manor F1, and he headed for the Yas Marina Circuit – home to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – keen to get more miles under his belt following an eye-catching test outing there in the fiercely-disputed Formula 1 support series last November.

Over the course of three busy and productive days behind the wheel – and with the full 2015 field in attendance – the talented young Warwickshire ace conducted qualifying runs and race simulations, pit-stop drills and practice starts as he got to grips with the set-up of his new Dallara-Mecachrome chassis, Pirelli tyres and the Formula 1-style DRS (Drag Reduction System), which is a new addition to the grand prix feeder category this season.

In so doing, King worked closely alongside not only his Racing Engineering mechanics and engineers, but also team-mate Alexander Rossi, a race-winner and multiple podium-finisher in GP2 and formerly an F1 test-driver for Caterham and Marussia.

The 21-year-old FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy member encountered niggling throttle issues on two of the days that masked his true potential, but he nonetheless impressed by concluding half of the sessions ensconced inside the top ten in the pecking order, notably winding up an excellent fifth-fastest amongst the 26 high-calibre protagonists on the opening afternoon, less than four tenths-of-a-second adrift of the leading pace.

Indeed, twice King topped the timesheets outright in Abu Dhabi – underlining the fact that he has never been afraid of illustrious reputations – and the British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) SuperStar and MSA Team UK protégé reflected afterwards that it had been an extremely promising start to the next phase of his burgeoning single-seater career.

One more official test remains before the 2015 GP2 Series campaign revs into life in Bahrain at the end of April, and whilst the Sakhir circuit will be uncharted territory for King, he has always been a quick learner – a quality that he hopes will stand him in good stead once the season proper gets underway.

“I’ve settled into the team really well,” revealed the erstwhile McLaren AUTOSPORT BRDC Award finalist and British F3 Champion. “I’ve already established a good relationship with everybody at Racing Engineering and I’m working well with my race engineer – it all feels really comfortable. We still have a lot more to learn about each other, of course, but we’re off to a great start!

“Although Racing Engineering is based in Spain, there’s a sizeable French contingent within the team and it probably helped that the first time I met them, we got chatting about the Six Nations. Like me, they’re big rugby fans – so we’ll see if we’re still on speaking terms after the England vs. France match this weekend!

“I’ve known Alex for a while, which helps, and I’ve always gotten on well with him on a personal level – he’s a fun guy to be around and I’m looking forward to working together. It’s fair to say I put quite a lot of pressure on the team regarding the choice of my team-mate, because I really wanted someone fast – it’s only by pushing each other that you get the best out of each other and really drive the whole team forward.

“Alex has a lot of experience from not just GP2 and his F1 testing but also Formula Renault 3.5, and that can only be beneficial for me. He’s two years older than I am and effectively two years further down the line in his career – he has been where I am now and done what I’m about to do. He’s a very open guy and always happy to share his knowledge and feedback in team debriefs – and that’s exactly what I need to help speed up the learning process.

“I worked closely with the team engineers in Abu Dhabi, which enabled us both to gain a better understanding of what we each want to get out of the car. I learned a lot and felt like I adapted well, and it was good to be able to gauge ourselves against the opposition, even if you never know exactly what kind of programmes the others are running.

“You’re always going to come across a few speed bumps in testing like the throttle issue that we had, but whilst it was obviously frustrating not to be able to show our true hand, internally we know what we were capable of. Our pace was very encouraging; I’m not saying I’ll be up at the sharp end straightaway in my rookie season, but I am confident we’ll be competitive.

“I’m well aware that I’ve got a big learning curve ahead of me, but Racing Engineering is one of the most consistently successful teams in GP2 history, so there’s no question that I have the right people around me to perform and Abu Dhabi represented a very positive first step. We covered most of the bases and ticked a lot of boxes, so hopefully we can pick up from where we left off when we get to the next test – we certainly have a very solid base now to work from.

“It’s going to be a very tough year, there’s no doubt about that, with some big names all the way up-and-down the field. That means that if you’re just half-a-second off the pace, you’re likely to find yourself outside of the top ten – but I’m definitely up for the fight!”