Rising star Kurt Hill made an impressive return to the competitive Asian Formula Renault series this weekend, clinching two third place finishes in the opening round at Zhuhai International Circuit. The talented young Australian overcame challenging conditions in the Asia Racing Team #96 car to bring home the first double podium of his career.
“Our first event here in Zhuhai was fantastic and went exactly how we wanted it to. I feel like I gave a complete performance right across the weekend and that shows in the results. It’s a really strong start to the season, especially considering all the crazy weather conditions we encountered! The car is fantastic to drive, rewarding a refined, technical driving style, which is what I think a well set-up racing car should do,” explained the thrilled 22-year-old afterwards.
Asia Racing Team manager Rodolfo Avila was equally pleased with his new driver’s strong start to the 2019 championship. “To come away from the first race of the year with two podium finishes is a fantastic reward for all the hard work over this weekend at Zhuhai. Kurt didn’t drive a race car for six months and we had to play catch up over the weekend. We know there is more performance to come, but we’ve started with our best foot forward.”
Former speed skating star Hill is thoroughly enjoying working with his new colleagues and had high praise for the Asia Racing Team as he left Zhuhai.
“It was really good to return to AFR with the Asia Racing Team. Rodolfo and the whole team have created a very welcoming and open environment that’s very comfortable and an absolute pleasure to be a part of. This really helps the driver to go out and perform to the best of their ability, and you can clearly see the benefits of that in the fact I had my strongest weekend so far.”
Though he hadn’t driven since summer last year, Hill was quick straight out of the box, qualifying P2 for the first race despite the red flag interrupted session. Wet conditions and a safety car period made race one a challenging opener to the season, but the young Australian showed strong, consistent pace and race craft to claim the final step on the podium.
“I feel we got the very best from our situation and conditions in race one, and it was great to be back up on the podium again.”
Starting the second race from P3, Hill managed to avoid the initial jostling and on-track tangles, to focus on his own race and collect another third position trophy, becoming the only driver to finish on the podium in both races across the weekend.
The Sydney born driver clearly enjoyed racing on the 14 turn, 4.319 km/2.684mi track Zhuhai International Circuit again. The Guangdong district facility was already a firm favourite for Hill, having brought him several career highlights, with this weekend’s results adding more reason to like the track, even in the wet.
“Zhuhai is a great place to drive. It looks like quite easy, and isn’t all that difficult on the surface, but the real challenge here is getting those last few tenths from the car. The wet conditions didn’t really affect my approach to driving, though you’ve obviously got to adapt to the different braking and throttle areas in the wet and the margin for error is much smaller. I actually find it easier sometimes as you’re using less throttle pressure, braking earlier and that gives you more time to respond.”
While Hill has been unable to race over the past six months, he feels that his strong, positive mental attitude and preparation over the off-season, combined with his experience of AFR in 2018, has helped him developed and grow as an all-round driver.
“My experience from last year is undoubtedly a big help, as I can draw on a lot of data and information. But I definitely think my different mental approach to what I do has helped me to best use that to create the optimal version of me on to the track and deliver great results this weekend. I’m focused on continuing to build on that, so I can ultimately become the best version of myself I can possibly be, both on and off the track.”
Looking forward to the next AFR race, Hill is taking a lot of positives away from Zhuhai, especially his overall consistency throughout the weekend. “That’s definitely the most consistent I’ve driven and my most consistent result too. Now I want to work on taking that to the next level, looking at where I can improve in order to consistently bring home even better results and turn those third places into seconds and firsts.”
Kurt Hill would like to thank the Asia Racing Team for not only providing him with a great racing car but also creating a great environment to work and perform in. He added, “It was an absolute pleasure and I can’t wait to do more events with them.”
Round two of the Asian Formula Renault Series takes place at Ningbo International Speedpark on May 25-26.
For more information about Kurt Hill, please visit: www.kurthill.com.au