Target Competition’s Josh Files described qualifying and the opening race for TCR Europe at Spa-Francorchamps as one of the “worst” days he has experienced in racing, losing the championship lead after torrid results.
The double TCR Germany champion struggled initially in an interrupted qualifying session, having his best time stripped after a red flag, which demoted him to 33rd and forced him to push on his final run, eventually suffering a heavy shunt at Raidillon.
Files told TouringCars.Net the incident was caused as he was “pushing too hard” to try to get back towards the sharp end, and commended Target Competition for managing to repair the car in time for race one.
“As days go, that’s up there with the worst. But you have to keep a smile, and we’re trying to extract the maximum performance out of the car and I’m trying to extract the maximum performance out of myself,” said Files.
“I made the mistake today and that was trying to push too hard to keep up with the Audis, VWs and Peugeots in qualifying. I made the mistake and that was that.
“But the boys at target did a tremendous to actually repair the car – to my surprise – I’ll be honest. It ran. OK, it ran interestingly, but it ran.”
With the Target Competition outfit replacing the majority of the front end of the car for race one, Files noted the car was “doing a few strange things” as a hangover from the accident, but still managed to progress 12 positions on the opening lap from his grid slot of 33rd.
With a safety car necessitated on the first lap following contact between Olli Kangas and Teddy Clairet at Les Combes, Files then suffered contact with Abdulla Ali Al-Khelaifi’s CUPRA at the same sequence once the race restarted, causing a puncture and ending his race prematurely.
“I made a good restart, and I was behind Al-Khelaifi and I was up the inside of him into the start of Les Combes,” explained Files.
“Then we went side-by-side through the second part of Les Combes, and in the third part I was still side-by-side with him but he must have thought I wasn’t.
“So he just turned into the apex and put me on the grass on the inside and it punctured the tyre. That was that. I limped the car home, but actually from the accident damage the car was doing a few strange things.
“Maybe it was a bit of a blessing in disguise. The important message here is that these Target boys what was to me a car worthy of putting in a bin. They repaired it to a state of actually being able to drive it and that’s more impressive than anything that happened today.”
Despite the disastrous day of results, erstwhile standings leader Files still only sits 22 points adrift of race one winner Gilles Magnus in the championship, with title rival Julien Briché also scoring zero points.
However, Files believes he will have his work cut out to minimise the deficit in the championship in tomorrow’s race, particularly given what he describes as a “ridiculous” amount of weight aboard his Hyundai.
“I see it like this – Julien and me both had bad days today – Magnus had a perfect day and good for him, he was very fast. So I’m happy for him,” Files said.
“Tomorrow’s another day, he starts tenth, I start basically last. Julien probably starts somewhere towards the front and will probably get the reverse-grid win because he’s very good at that.
“So it makes life difficult, but it’s absolutely evident that the Hyundais here are very slow.
“We’ve got too much weight, we don’t know why – because in Hockenheim everyone was very similar – so I’m just hoping that for Red Bull Ring we lose some of that weight and actually have a chance because frankly here is ridiculous.”
Ahead of tomorrow’s race [9 June] at 12:00 CEST, Files’ Hyundai is undergoing a precautionary engine change as it is believed some parts may have been damaged in the Raidillon shunt.
He will start at the back of the grid in a tactical move which realistically makes virtually negligible difference to his starting position.