The forecast of rain set tongues wagging in the FV paddock with the hope it may peg back the Downton team, yet the downpour only served to play to their advantage as the British team took their fourth front row lockout of the season with Nathaniel Powers nearly half a second clear of Klaas van Snelheid.
Downton have seemingly re-found the pace they lost prior to the race at Silverstone by ending practice for the Belgian V-Prix fastest, with Nathaniel Powers less than six hundredths ahead of Klaas van Snelheid.
Reporter: Hello everybody and welcome to the team principle’s Thursday press conference ahead of round nine of the 2017 Formula Virtual World Championship, from Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium. Please welcome from left to right on the back row, Dylan Lopez of Lopez FV Team and Rai Miyamoto of Ocelot Japan Racing. And on the front row are; Harry Westwood of Westwood Racing, Bradley Downton of Downton FV Team, and Jamie Franklin of Franklin Honda.
We start todays press conference with you Bradley, first of all hello and congratulations on Downton’s 1-2 at Silverstone. What a brilliant birthday present that was, British V Prix, British Team, British winning driver, you must be very proud. What are your thoughts on the season so far?
Bradley Downton: Hello, and thank you. The entire team was proud of and delighted with our performance at Silverstone in the race. After a difficult qualifying session both drivers were at the top of their game for what was definitely the win we wanted most all season. As for this season on a whole so far, it has been absolutely incredible. We’d hoped for a good year, we’d hoped for a championship, it’s what we’ve been building towards for a number of seasons, but I don’t think even we expected the kind of performances we’ve been able to put in at certain races.
Reporter: Nathaniel was excellent considering his injuries, wasn’t he? He’s still only 25 years of age and clearly has more Championships in him, do you expect to be able to deliver him a car that will consistently challenge in the coming years? That is, of course, assuming Nathaniel stays at Downton!
BD: The drive that Nathaniel put in given everything was just fantastic. Yes, he did make an error, but the fact that he was able to still win by a margin despite that shows how impressive a performance it was, especially given – as you mention – his injuries. As for his future prospects, now that we’re at the front, we don’t intend on dropping off, so we very much hope to give both him and Klaas a car that can challenge for championships again in future seasons. As for our drivers, we will announce them in due course for next season – but we intend on focusing on the championships first.
Reporter: Okay thanks Bradley, next question is to Jamie of Franklin Honda. Hi Jamie, two poles in three races and a podium in Silverstone, the luck seems to be changing slightly! Franklin seem to be the team in the best place to mount an assault on Downton’s position, do you think you can equal them on race pace in the second half of the season?
Jamie Franklin: Our fortune does seem to be changing slightly, but it’s still not where we want to be. We’ve had quite a lot of bad luck this season, which hasn’t helped but it’s time we started capitalising and moving up in the Championship. Historically, we haven’t fared too well in qualifying but better in the races. At the moment it seems to be the other way around. But points aren’t awarded on Saturday and we need to be maximising our races, which I feel we all but did in Silverstone. As for Downton, they’ve had a great season thus far and it would be foolish to think we can suddenly match them. Having said that, they had better not rest on their laurels, because there’s a reason we are the most successful team, and that’s because we don’t settle for second best.
Reporter: You made it very clear earlier on this year that you weren’t impressed with Jochem’s performances in your car. After 6 races and 24 points, how do you feel Puccio is doing and is he fitting into your team well?
JF: Puccio has had a tough time settling in, not helped by the string of bad luck that our team has suffered. He has shown that he has the one lap pace, but obviously needs to continue that into the races. We will support him as much as possible to give him the best chance, but it’s no secret that no driver is bigger than the team, so delivering consistent results is important if he wants to remain with the team.
Reporter: Downton have claimed victory in the last 7 races now, which equals Franklin’s record. If they grab the win this coming weekend they will have beaten the record, would you be happy for the Downton team, or does it hurt seeing your magnificent records broken?
JF: I’ll be surprised if Downton don’t break the record here. I feel we should hold a higher record, save for reliability issues we suffered in our most dominant year. It will obviously hurt to have that broken, but one record doesn’t strip us of our success. If another team breaks our record for most wins, most titles, and most points, then we can talk about it more.
Reporter: Thankyou Jamie. Dylan Lopez, hello! Your guys had started the season pretty well with some decent points finishes, but four retirements in the last 3 races has really hindered your season, hasn’t it? What do you make of the progress of your team and what are your expectations for the second half of the year?
Dylan Lopez: Yeah, it feels like a long time since we led at the Island ay? Besides that we’ve been purely out-developed by other teams throughout the season to date. That’s just that, so we know it may be difficult to get back near the top, but we also need to ensure that we take the best path there is to take going forward.
Reporter: Okay, over to our final two team principles, Harry Westwood and Rai Miyamoto. Obviously guys, we can’t ignore the elephant in the room, I know we’ve already heard your thoughts on what was said in Silverstone about the pace of Ocelot, but could we now get your thoughts two weeks on? Starting with Harry please.
Harry Westwood: Well before I start my answer I’d like to thank you for getting press conferences going again. They used to add a great “behind the scenes-esque” element for the fans at home, who I’m sure will love it. Onto the question, well I thoroughly stand by what I said. I mean god knows what’s going wrong with Ocelot they’ve got the engine that’s currently powering the top team in the sport at the moment! Their guys at the factory do work hard like everyone’s but it’s them I feel bad for. I still feel at some races they could be too slow to race, which could make things difficult - see Gerard Alaniz at Melbourne a few years back – but only time will tell if they bring a race car or the same car they’ve been bringing all season.
Rai Miyamoto: Firstly, I want to thank the fans and the other team principles who stood by us during this, we were very heart-warmed by their comments.
It’s very easy to point fingers at us because we are off the pace. Yes, you could remove us from the field but then you’d just have another backmarker and the situation will continue.
Now we are within the 107% which means we have every right to race. Yes, we get in the way sometimes but that’s racing and the right penalty will be enforced. I think Harry needs to realise that we wrote this season off a long while ago. After all, why should we put our resources or be forced to put resources into a car which is going to be last either way?
I bet he’ll argue then why should we turn up if we wrote off the season. Well that’s frankly simple, isn’t it? We aren’t a big team and we need the prize money, we aren’t last in the championship either.
Yes, like I said we came to this sport rather ambitiously by signing Karl and Puccio, but we wanted to make a statement and try an alternative approach. We now know this didn’t work.
I do however believe Harry’s comments were quite ignorant and that he should apologise.
Reporter: There’s clearly still a fair amount of tension regarding this topic, would anyone else care to comment on what’s been said?
BD: I’ve made my comments and said my piece. I apologised to Rai and to the Ocelot team in case what was said by myself during commentary in the last race made them feel unwanted at all, because that absolutely isn’t the case. Given all that, I don’t think there’s anything further for me to add.
JF: I feel there isn’t much more to add. We all clearly have our opinions. Was it a popular opinion by them? I wouldn’t say so. But then again, are we a popular team? Probably not.
DL: None of my business. No comment.
Reporter: Okay thanks guys. Rai, you’ve recently suggested that the team might be re-branded Cerberus, are there any more developments about this news?
RM: If we re-brand as Cerberus will we be allowed to race then or are they not allowed to compete either?
HW: That’s a very odd question dude, I don’t mind what the team is called, if Cerberus can race and bring their A game perhaps there’d be less of an issue.
Reporter: Let’s change this topic slightly. Dylan, since moving to Zurich before the start of the 2016 season, obviously results have improved but what advice would you give to another team thinking of relocating?
DL: For us the switch would be nothing compared to Ocelot if they did move to North America, since we only had to head to the middle of the continent! For sure the new facilities would be welcoming for them, and as it did for us I hope they can get it right and get some results going their way.
Reporter: Great, thanks. Harry, last month it was confirmed that Tumo will be leaving Westwood for Holmqvist in 2018. Tumo has been with you for four seasons and of course, has created so many memories for the team. How do you feel personally about the move and does it console you slightly that he will be moving to your good friends over at Holmqvist?
HW: I mean for sure, Tumo’s been a driving force for this team for a solid three years and four seasons now. In that time he brought us two wins and has helped us get through the teams rough patches. It will be an emotional day when he leaves the factory for good because all the guys down there think he’s great. But absolutely I believe he will thrive at Holmqvist and that technical partnership means we’ll still definitely get to see plenty of him around.
Reporter: Westwood are the only team to score points at every race this season so far, as well as a double top 10 finish in Brazil at the end of last year. The team has scored 106 points at the halfway point in the season. In your best ever season, 2015, the team scored 213 points. Surely the aim this year is to try to beat that excellent tally?
HW: Now you’ve gone and done it! (Laughter) But seriously I hadn’t even realised we were on such a good streak! The boys at Renault and our factory seem to be providing us with a highly reliable package. Obviously in 2015we had a very different year, where we picked up well over half of our total points in the second half of the season. This year we’ve been falling back a bit since the start of the year. I honestly don’t believe we can beat the tally of 213 points but we can give it a damn good go!
Reporter: Back to you Rai, it was announced by Nick Forrest on Thursday that your driver, Karl Beckenbauer, will be swapping seats with Aleksy Nowosinki for the remainder of the season. What are your thoughts on this and does it mean we could possibly be seeing Aleksy make a permanent move?
RM: Regarding Aleksy getting a full-time drive, I’m afraid that isn’t what we have planned. But of course, plans change should the performances come in.
Reporter: Jamie, the weather looks clear for the race, how do you expect the weekend to pan out for your team and who do you think the team to beat will be?
JF: There’s no doubt Downton will be the class of the field once more but it will only last so long. As the season reaches the halfway mark, their drivers will inevitably come together, and when they do, we will be there to pick up the pieces. When you’re on top, it’s easy to become complacent, and it’s only a matter of time before that happens.
As for us, we will be doing what we can to win, because nothing else matters.
Reporter: Brilliant, thanks Jamie. Over to the rest of you, hopes for the weekend and which team do you all think you’ll mainly be competing with? Harry?
HW: This weekend for definite the aim is just keep our heads down and do our best. Hopefully we can grab ourselves a double points finish, but the priority is to gain over FIRST. As for who we’ll be close to on track, I gotta say we’ll probably be embroiled in a fight with FIRST and Holmqvist maybe, but definitely FIRST. We’ve brought a small engine upgrade package with us courtesy of Renault so we’ll see how that goes!
DL: Personally, I’m always a believer we can be in the points. Things haven’t quite gone our way of recent times, but I still remain hopeful that every next race is the one where it happens. Given we’ve had back-to-back double DNFs recently it’s a little hard to say exactly who we’ll race, but like I said I hope we’ll have a capable package to deliver points here at Spa.
RM: We will be at the back.
Reporter: And Bradley?
BD: Naturally we’d like another one-two, that has to be the only realistic aim, but as ever I think we’ll have considerable competition. Franklin have now taken three pole positions this season so clearly have pace, DS Mathershaw will surely be strong again after two unfortunate races, and then there are other teams showing great form too; FIRST, Holmqvist and Westwood. We may appear to have an advantage but we can’t rest on our laurels, to continue to win we need to be at the top of our game.
Reporter: Okay gentlemen that's all for this press conference, thank you all very much for your attendance and best of luck to you all for this weekend. Some interesting answers there, Spa looks set to be a cracker, make sure you all tune in on Sunday for the race!
Paul Ricard, France
DS Automobiles Team Mathershaw have confirmed that the 2016 World Champion Adrien Simon will race for the team as their first driver in 2018. The deal, covering a single season, will see the Frenchman remain at the team for a sixth season, continuing the longest team/driver association in the history of Formula Virtual.
Arthur Lapierre was clear in his feelings about the deal: "We're delighted to sign Adrien to stay with us through to the end of 2018. He's proven himself time and again to be one of the gold standard on the grid, with last year's World Title still fresh in our memories. Next season we shall be launching another attack on the championship with full factory backing from DS Automobiles, and Adrien was by far our first choice to drive the V10-powered challenger designed to the new regulations."
Adrien was just as pleased: "I'm very happy to be staying with DS Mathershaw for another season. Robert and Arthur have been amazing, and the entire team feels like family. I've been with the guys for 5 years, and the progression of the team is incredible - I'm so excited for next year, I will 100% be aiming to win back the title I won in 2016, because I think this year is too much to ask already."
When questioned about who will fill the second seat for 2018, Lapierre surprised many with his answer: "At the moment, we are looking at 4 drivers, including Allar. He has been good this year, but we want to secure a top line driver to partner Adrien - we're very serious about winning the 2018 title."
Sebastian Bergkvist will get more practice runs with Holmqvist this season, starting at this weekends Belgian V-Prix, following rumours the team are looking to assess him ahead of a drive next season.
Bradley Downton - team principal of the Downton FV Team - has exclusively revealed at his twenty-third birthday party tonight the tale of how his team came to race in FV, a story that was previously unknown, while also lavishing praise on those who have helped him along the way.
Less than 72 hours removed from his best ever finish in Formula Virtual, it has been reported that Aleksy Nowosinki has left North Star Racing with immediate effect.
Team principal and race commentator Harry Westwood has spoken up about the reaction to his comments regarding Ocelot during the airing of the British V-Prix. He released a statement earlier today, which read as follows.
"First of all, I would like to make one thing abundantly clear; I am not, and will not, be apologising for my remarks regarding Ocelot last race. It isn't happening! But let me explain why.
First and foremost, neither myself, nor Bradley have called for Ocelot to be removed from the series. Nor will we, as it is an absurd idea. I'm irritated that words have been shoved into our mouths like that but I suppose that's just what happens in these situations. We merely suggested an alternative solution has to be found, since they're so far off the pace. Yes a lot of us have had seasons where we've struggled but this is a very large margin back to a single team that cannot move forwards pace wise. They're doing a great job to not be last in the constructors yes but on track they're nowhere.
Secondly, at the end of the day, we're not all here to make friends and sit around the campfire singing songs and roasting marshmallows. We're here to win, pure and simple, and we do all get along (I believe), however I'm certainly not going to censor what I say because it may or may not upset a rival team.
Finally, as a commentator, my job is to keep fans informed and updated, make races interesting, and spark conversation and attention within the sport's fanbase, which is something I feel Bradley and myself have done.
I of course speak for myself in this statement, but there will be no apology from me. All Bradley and I were saying is a conversation needs to be had and something needs to change, and I even said Ocelot wouldn't like it. Just because I was right, doesn't mean it no longer needs to be had."
Ocelot have released a statement in regards to the comments around their pace made by Formula Virtual commentators Harry Westwood and Bradley Downton. Both commentators are also Team Principle's in the sport who claimed that 'Ocelot are far too slow to compete and should be removed from the field due to their lack of pace.''
Ocelot Team Principle Rai Miyamoto had the following to say in regards to the comments. ''Frankly I feel these comments are rather insulting to the guys and girls who are working extremely hard back home in Japan. We as a team are aware that we are currently not the fastest team and don't need to be constantly reminded by two people who should focus on their own team's problems. It's very sad to here they believe we shouldn't be on the field, but if so this will lead to cuts from our factory and to many jobs being axed.''
''Which of course is something no one wants. When we entered this sport we aimed to be ambitious and we always have, we've signed two very talented drivers which a team like ourselves should not have in the past 3 seasons, yes this hasn't been the greatest move however we wanted to make a statement to the other teams that we will take their drivers. Of course this hasn't benefited us right now but Ocelot has an incredible heart and passion for this sport, everyone here want's to succeed and sure FIRST, North Star and Holmqvist have proved to be better with much less time but we are still young. This is all a learning curve, Ocelot will improve next season for sure, I can't say how much of an improvement but we are doing our best with the amount of resources we have. We haven't given up on Formula Virtual and we believe they shouldn't give up on us either.''
''Yes, we have made errors and mistakes, but imagine the history this team could have to go from the bottom to the top in say 3 years time from now? A Fascinating underdog story.''
''Like I said we look to people like Bradley and Harry to look at what they have achieved, we have respect for them but their comments today have chipped away at that which is unfortunate to hear. We were accepted into this sport by Nic Morley, who feels we are a valued team in this sport or would be, if we didn't belong he never would have accepted our venture. Yes we haven't done well in order to repeat but we are a plucky team with a lot of heart, judge us in 3 or 4 years down the line, Not now when we know we have made a couple of financial errors.''
Canadian outfit Cerberus Motorsport have made a mover closer to possibly joining the Formula Virtual grid in the near future. The team currently racing in Indy Virtual are believed to be interested in the sport and already have a good relations with Ocelot. The team also currently sponsor the Ocelot Driver Academy.
Ocelot have known to have struggled to move from the bottom of the grid for the past few seasons since entering the sport, many believe that the team could be re-branded as Cerberus leading the team to sell their Indy Virtual team. Ocelot are yet to comment on the current situation however it is now widely known that Cerberus has gained a 15% steak in the Japanese outfit.
The news comes following the rumors that North Star are set to enter the sport next year under a Canadian licence following the increase of a stake in their team from Magna International. The news comes as a surprise to many as in the near future Formula Virtual could have two possible Canadian outfits however these are all just rumors after all.