|More than a toe in the water for Raneri in JK Racing Asia Series|
The usual pathway to an international wings and slicks racing career goes something like; karting, formula ford, a little bit of a run in formula 3 before the next Aussie international hopeful heads off into the “wild blue yonder” to pit themselves against others of their ilk in either Europe or America. But one young Aussie has bucked the trend and is planning on making his way on a path very much the same as an emerging Aussie F1 star.
Josh Raneri, a 20 year-old Melbournian, who after only 8 years in karting and amazingly only completing his CAMS OLT (Open License Test) in April and without even a test in a formula ford hasn’t just dipped a toe in the water of circuit racing, but jumped right into the deep end and backed himself by packing his bags for Malaysia to try his hand in the JK Asia Racing Series (Formally Formula BMW), the very same series that rising F1 gun Daniel Ricciardo began his international career.
Josh’s first taste of what he was getting himself into came on Tuesday mid May, but first a car fitting and familiarisation was in order.
Arriving in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday Josh was straight to the Eurasia Motorsport factory so the team could set up the car.
“This was a big eye opener for me, but the Eurasia Motorsport team really set me at ease when we did the seat fitting and car orientation. There was a lot for me to take in before my first test” said Raneri.
Committed to racing Round 1 of the JK Asia Racing Series the following weekend at Sepang F1 Circuit Raneri would only have two official test days to get himself up to speed and prove he was capable of driving the 6 speed sequential shift, Mygale chassis, BMW K1200RS powered, 140bhp machine.
Arriving at the Sepang F1 Circuit (a circuit Eurasia team principal Mark Goddard rates as “one of the hardest in the world”) on Tuesday morning, Josh set about learning to drive the car and the circuit. In a real surprise to the team Josh made rapid progress throughout the day impressing Mark Goddard, his engineer Greg Wheeler and data analyst Chris Wootton.
“Despite his total lack of experience of the car and the track, one of the most difficult in the World, Josh was very quickly setting lap times faster than any other first day novice we have run in this car over the past ten years”.
This progress continued on Thursday where another solid day of learning was completed without incident.
“The two test days were a completely new experience for me and I am glad I had undertaken a tough training program before I got to Malaysia, as the heat and humidity was indescribable. I was really pleased with the first two days as I made really solid progress.
“Data analysis was all new to me and Greg and Chris were really good helping me transfer what I was learning back into my driving” said Reneri.
Being a three day event Friday would present Josh with only a single free practice before a thirty minute qualifying session. Practice saw Josh having difficulty with sector one which was costing around 0.5 of a second. Qualifying in the afternoon was again difficult with sector one still causing lost time which ultimately had Reneri putting in a time good enough for ninth on the grid.
Race 1 was Reneri’s first ever race start and this didn’t go as he had hoped dropping him back down the field meaning he had to fight his way back throughout the race and seeing him finish in 8th place. A better start in Race 2 saw Reneri finish again in 7th place however more pleasing to his team was the fact his lap times were coming down and his data was showing that he was starting to more closely match his more experienced team mate in many parts of the circuit.
With two races under his belt, Sunday was always going to be a better day for Reneri and Race 3 in the morning proved to be his best for the weekend. A good start and dropping two seconds off his best time from Saturday’s races had him feeling more confident. Seventh place and only a .9 sec shy of the fastest lap time and 0.2 off his team mate were exactly the signs Mark Goddard was looking for from his rookie driver.
The final race of the weekend would again see Reneri finish in 8th place but this belied the fact that he had closed the gap to his team mate to only 0.02 sec, an encouraging sign.
At the end of the weekend Goddard was extremely pleased with Reneri’s efforts saying; “Josh qualified ninth for the starting grid of the first race which was a tremendous achievement considering the quality of the field. A total of four races were held over the weekend and Josh was able to finish eighth in two races and seventh twice. His lap times were improving to the point where he was only two hundredths of a second slower than his team mate (who finished on the podium in race two) in the last race”.
On his return to Australia, Reneri had time to reflect on what had been a whirlwind introduction to his circuit racing career.
“This has been just an amazing experience, to step out of karts, get my racing license and stepping straight into an international open wheel series within just a couple of months has just been unreal. I have to pinch myself as everything has happened so quickly. I am happy with how this first round went for me, I didn’t go in with any real expectations but now I have this first round under my belt I know I will just keep on improving every time I get into the car and I fully expect to be on the podium before the end of the year. Of course I am at a little bit of a disadvantage to the more experienced guys as I need to learn the circuits as I go, but I am confident that I will manage that fine. Right now I am really looking forward to getting back in the car again.
“This is a fantastic series with races in not only Asia but also in Europe (France and Belgium). The series has a wide television reach across Asia and the United States and we also support a number of the Formula 1 rounds so I am hoping that this will assist me in attracting sponsors, it really does have a lot to offer any business that operates in the Asia pacific region” ended Reneri.
JK Racing Asia Series continues with Rounds 5-6 with its first ever visit to Europe at the Circuit Paul Ricard in France on 29th June to 1st July 2012.