Hong Kong's Matthew Solomon making a mark in China Series
Two victories from three races have raised the profile of Eurasia Motorsport driver
Matthew Solomon's first win was certainly a thrill but it wasn't until the second time he took pride of place on the podium that the nature of success really started to sink in.
The 18-year-old Hong Kong driver had arrived at the last rounds of the Asia-wide Formula Masters China Series in Inje, South Korea, continuing to improve on the promise he had shown across the event's debut season last year, but still had yet to make the ultimate break-through.
The first thing Solomon learned was how quickly things can change. Two wins from the three races scheduled in South Korea have the Eurasia Motorsport driver in second place in the series standings - behind New Zealand's James Munro, driving for Cebu Pacific Air by KCM.
"It was an amazing weekend for us," says Solomon. "From the start of the season we knew we'd be up there, we knew we had improved from where we were last year and had a very quick package. There were problems in the first few rounds of the series, not a lot of luck, but then it all fell into place in Inje."
And luck certainly played its part, with Solomon's second win achieved thanks to a jump-start penalty dished out to Briton Dan Wells, of Cebu Pacific Air by KCMG, who had crossed the line in front of the Hong Kong driver but was then relegated to eighth.
For Solomon the victory was as sweet as it was a surprise and it taught him that in motorsport, you just have to grab every chance you can.
"The first time I came across the line I was ecstatic, but it didn't really hit me, it didn't really sink in," says Solomon. "But with the second win, I was so pumped it sunk in a lot quicker. In this sport, winning is pretty much everything. I realise you have to show you have what it takes to get the attention and to get the sponsorship you need to be able to race.
"You need to believe in yourself, that's the first thing and then you need the results. It's easy to say, 'Yeah, I am one of the quickest guys in Asia and I am going to do this and that.' But if you don't win, it doesn't mean anything."
Solomon hopes to build on those successes when the FMCS heads to Sepang, Malaysia, this weekend for round 10-12 of the 18-round series.
The FMCS series was established last year with the backing of the Volkswagen group and is designed to give the region's rising talent the chance to race in Formula cars in a professionally run, region-wide circuit. Of course, it also hopes to tap into the rising attention on motorsport in China - the world's largest car market - and across the region, two factors of which Solomon is well aware.
"The growing interest in China is fantastic," he says. "That's why this series is so important at this stage of my career.
"Last year was a good learning experience for me. I managed to get on the podium a few times. I was always on the pace, which encouraged me. It wasn't until coming into this series that I understood car racing properly. It takes a different mindset. I just sat down at the end of last year with my mechanics and said, 'teach me everything I need to know.' That was so I could really understand the dynamics of the car and how that translates to what you do on the track."
Solomon squeezed in his racing last year with his final year at Chinese International School and will soon head to Britain to start a mechanical engineering degree at Oxford Brookes University.
He says the plan has always been to ensure these two sides of his life complement each other as he plans for a future in motorsport that was apparently ignited the very first time he laid eyes on a Formula One car.
Solomon spent the first three years of his life in Geelong, Australia, before moving here to his mother's hometown and those early years coincided with the emergence of the Australian Grand Prix. "My mum tells the story of how when I was one or two years old there was a Formula One car in Myers [department store] in Melbourne and I was crying and carrying on and just trying to get into that car," he says.
"It seemed all I wanted to do. So I guess it started with that, but I have always been fascinated by cars, just for as long as I can remember."
Solomon graduated into FMCS from the local go-karting ranks - he represented Hong Kong at the world championship in 2011, finishing 12th - while he also has a win in the GT Asia Series to his credit.
Last year, he teamed with two-time world F1 champion Mika Hakkinen for a GT Asia Series event at Zhuhai as well as heading to Italy for some Formula Renault racing as he looks to further establish himself on the Asian and international scenes - something he says is being helped this year by appearances in the Audi R8 LMS Cup.
"Adaptability is a very important thing in racing so to be able to jump in and out of different cars and to be quick in every car you race in is very important," he says. "While all kids dream of Formula One and all kids fathers' do too, you have to be realistic, it's a very tough situation and you have to explore every option available to you.
"I think I am blessed to be in the position I am in, with the attention on racing in China and the growth of the sport. I am sure the pressure will come as I continue, but right now I am just having a great time learning," he says.