It is always difficult to miss out on claiming a maiden title; though it is perhaps even more disappointing when you finish runners-up in a season where you clinched 10 race wins, 19 podiums and 15 pole positions.
Yet for Palmerston North racer Chris Symon that is exactly the unfortunate scenario that played out across his 2019/20 Formula First season.
With the final round from Hampton Downs cancelled earlier in the year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Symon was compelled to settle for second best as a resilient Reece Hendl-Cox snared his second successive crown.
Though dogged by misfortune culminating in two critical non-points scoring finishes, Symon admits the previous summer produced his most complete championship assault, one demonstrative of his promising potential.
“The pre-season goal was always to win the championship and get my name on the trophy that sees my father’s name, Ross Symon, appear 4 times,” Symon told Velocity News. “Finishing second didn’t achieve this.
“2019/2020 Season saw some awesome highs and also put us in some tough situations. Our pre-season upgrades were not ready in time, so we went into the first 3 rounds in 2019 on the back foot.
“The first race of the season got away from us as a spark plug lead came off with two laps to go from the lead of the race in the worst conditions I’ve ever driven in. Finishing second was still great.”
Despite a myriad of podium placings intertwined with sporadic race victories across the opening three rounds, Symon’s title campaign truly came on song following a second DNF from Hampton Downs in February.
Going on to claim victories in six of the remaining eight races, coupled by two further top-three finishes brewed the perfect recipe for a season-finale showdown with fellow rival Hendl-Cox.
Ultimately, the annulment of the event put a premature end to a highly anticipated weekend.
Superficially, it seemed like an insurmountable trek considering Hendl-Cox’s impressive form, though it does beg to question what could have been.
Upon reflection, his two retirements at Taupo and Hampton Downs are what Symon accredits as the definitive factor in what ambushed his title pursuit.
“Unfortunately, two DNFs while leading races cost us any chance. Reece [Hendl-Cox] and his team did a great job, were extremely consistent, and we had some great on track battles. Coming second isn’t easy though so I’m certainly driven to achieve the top step of the podium.
“Second two years in a row is still a great achievement in such a tightly contested class. We certainly challenged for the championship a lot more in the 2019/2020 season and showed our car speed once we were able to get our upgrades working.
“We placed on the podium in every race finished and claimed 10 wins. Winning races with margins of 0.04s and 0.06s certainly gets the heart pumping as you cross the line. Also starting on pole 15 times and only not on the front row once showed our tactics in qualifying were on point.”
Quickly becoming a Formula First veteran, Symon did moot the idea of seeing a switch from the junior formula to another attractive series should the opportunity come available.
Though the goal of sealing a maiden Formula Fist title remains the ultimate target riveted to his mind.
“Although, plans for next season are yet to be decided, at this stage a return to the track in Formula First is at the forefront with only one goal in mind – The Championship.
“But we are still keeping our options open as some other classes also have appealing factors.”
Main Image: Jarod Carruthers