Difference between success and failure is in the blink of an eye
It was a simple, if not typical, predicament, with an archetypal solution. But the process of actually accomplishing the goal was, well, a complex mix of technique, experience and luck. And nearly halfway through his first Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup season, Darryl O'Young was staring at the answer: two-tenths of a second.
'Going just two-tenths slower makes a big difference,' O'Young said.
During May's race at Monaco, O'Young qualified a disappointing 18th, but had he been just two-tenths of a second faster than his 1:39.583 qualifying time, he would have started in 10th or 11th position. In O'Young's previous racing series, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia (where he was the 2006 champion), those extra tenths of a second may not have meant as much as they do in the PMSC series, where the competition is greatly elevated.
That lost time was particularly significant at a circuit like Monaco, where there are few passing opportunities and a strong qualifying session is even more important. The podium finishers came within a second of each other; O'Young (pictured), who managed to finish 15th, was 40 seconds behind.
His experiences through four races (where he managed 10th, DNF, 20th and 15th) have demonstrated a steep learning curve, stiff competition and the importance of realistic expectations.
'To say he would be a regular podium finisher, that would be overly optimistic and not very realistic,' said Robby Niermann, the general manager at the Porsche Centre Hong Kong and Macau. 'We cannot seamlessly continue with the same success we had in Asia. The first year is a learning year.'
Like O'Young's first year in the Carrera Cup, Schnabl Engineering-LKM-Team Jebsen are treating this year as a learning year. O'Young knows the car, but has little or no experience of the circuits, which include Silverstone, Istanbul and Monza. His knowledge has all been second-hand - studying past races and pouring over team data. His actual experience on the track has primarily been limited to the half hour free practice and half hour qualifying time before the race.
'In free practice, drivers have to sort out the line, turning in points, braking points as well as the set up together with their engineers,' team engineer Sven Schnabl said.
Niermann believes the quality of competitors this year is as good as it's been in a long time. The drivers include last year's PMSC champion Richard Westbrook, 2005 champion Alessandro Zampedri (who is in his eighth season) and four-time champion Patrick Huisman, who has raced this series eight seasons. Westbrook leads the standings with 80 points. O'Young is in 16th position with eight points, while his teammate, Jiri Janak, is in 22nd place.
'Before it was the front five guys that were fighting,' said O'Young, comparing the Carrera Cup with PMSC. 'Now it's the top 30 guys. The only thing separating this series from a world-class series is that it's a one-make championship.'
The Schnabl Engineering-LKM-Team Jebsen is the first Hong Kong team to race a full season in the PMSC and O'Young is one of two Asian drivers in the series (Indonesian businessman Mahrer Algadri owns his team as well as occasionally racing in the series). Just four of the 30 drivers are non-Europeans and with the high level of competition, O'Young would like to stay in the PMSC for at least another year, in order to make full use of his learning curve.
It's the same strategy that brought O'Young success in the Carrera Cup series, where he competed for three seasons. The first season, in 2004, was designated a learning year, the second year he won at Macau and finished third in the series and then he was the series champion in 2006.
Next week's race is in Magny-Cours, France. During the month-long break between the Monaco and Magny-Cours races, O'Young, who was teaching at one of Porsche's driving schools in China, flew out to Magny-Cours for a one-day test. The session didn't go as planned - an engine failure after 15 laps meant that O'Young drove Janak's car for another 15 laps.
'The course is a little faster than I expected,' O'Young said. 'It's very technical. The car was good, but there is room for improvement.'
The entire team are in agreement with O'Young's goal of finishing in the top 10, but even as adjustments are made, O'Young realises that not everything is within his control. Sometimes circumstance and luck dictate the span of time that works out to be less than the blink of an eye. 'With the one-practice, one-qualifying system, everything really has to go right,' O'Young said.
Bridging the gap
The number of points that separate Darryl O'Young from series leader Richard Westbrook 72