Josh Files achieved a second place in Round 7 of the 2013 Renault Eurocup Clio Championship at Circuit Paul Ricard, but was left reeling when a careless rival took him out of contention for the race victory in Round 8, severely damaging his title bid (28-29 September).
The Eurocup Clio protagonists returned to action at the Castellet-based Paul Ricard circuit after a lengthy mid-season break.
Files, aged 22, arrived on the Cote d’Azur in the South of France with the aim of reducing his 16-point deficit to Massimiliano Pedala in the championship standings.
He was satisfied with the base setup of his Team Pyro challenger in Friday's first practice session, going fourth fastest with an eight tenths deficit to Frenchman Eric Tremoulet.
The Norwich racer lost ground in FP2 while testing new development parts for Renaultsport and running a tweaked setup, but reverted back to his original configuration for qualifying to set the second and fourth fastest times, three tenths off pole-man Tremoulet.
A new and revised clutch helped Files achieve a sensational start from the second row of the grid and he briefly passed championship foe Pedala for third on the run to Turn 1.
Files followed in Pedala’s wheel-tracks, disposing of Tremoulet before going in pursuit of the Composit Motorsport driver in second place.
The Team Pyro racer forced Pedala to defend into the Chicane and used a superior run out of the corner and into the next right-hander to demote the Italian to the final step of the podium.
Thereafter, Files gapped the chasing pack and gradually homed in on race leader Oscar Nogues, taking the finish just 1.2s after the Spaniard.
With a front-row grid slot, Files hoped to go one better in Round 18 on Sunday (29 September).
Another blinding launch saw the Norwich driver go side-by-side with Nogues through Turn 1 at Verriere. Holding second at the exit, Files stayed within touch of the RMS Engineering driver while trying to break free of the field, which included chief title rivals Pedala and Nicolas Milan.
With everything going to plan, Files pushed on and attempted a carbon-copy of the move he made on Pedala in the previous race, forcing his competitor to go super-defensive into the chicane on the Mistral Straight.
Unfortunately, a wayward Gonzalo Martin de Andres cut the corner and curiously returned to the track between Nogues and Files.
The inevitable contact forced the leading pair into retirement and that the offending driver was disqualified from the result was little consolation for Files, whose bid for the 2013 Eurocup Clio title has been severely dented.
“Circuit Paul Ricard is brilliant, as it’s really technical,” said Files. “We had a great base setup on the car during FP1 and ended up racing with that configuration after our experiments while running development parts didn’t pay off.
“Both of my starts were stunning and I also made some proper overtaking moves on my rivals in the races. To finish ahead of Massimiliano Pedala in Round 7 was the perfect start to the weekend. I was undoubtedly on for victory in Round 8 until one of my competitors mindlessly took both Oscar (Nogues) and myself out. It was a crazy move that has potentially destroyed my championship. The only saving grace is that Pedala only finished sixth."
Files now lies third in the Renault Eurocup Clio standings with a 23-point deficit to Pedala, as Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya prepares to host the penultimate round – Rounds 9 and 10 – of the championship (19-20 October).
“It’s going to be hard to bridge the gap in the championship during the remaining two rounds," said Files. "However, I have nothing to lose by going for wins in every race. It’s still achievable so I’m staying positive!”
For more information on Josh Files' racing activities, please visit the official www.joshfiles.co.uk website, 'like' his Facebook page or follow @JoshFiles on Twitter.