‘The car was turning for me’: Sam Bird on the race of his life
Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird recalls all the twists and turns of the 2016 Formula E Buenos Aires ePrix – the race of his life.
Sports stars often talk about being in the “zone,” that mythical place where good things happen.
The Briton led from the start and says he was at one with his car, although he described the experience as “intense” as he fended off a phalanx of challengers to clinch his first victory that season.
“Going through the final chicane of every single lap I just needed to show the front of the car the corner and the car was turning for me,” he told CNN’s Supercharged TV show.
“I don’t think I ever really needed to do too much steering input, I just played with the rear like a rally car for 30 odd laps. It was really, really intense.”
From winning on his hometown track in London in 2015 to crashing out in Mexico City earlier this year, the 30-year-old Bird has experienced nearly everything possible on the track.
But that race in the Argentine capital, the fourth event of Formula E’s second season, gave Bird a much-needed boost after a sluggish start to the campaign.
He blitzed through qualifying to sit on pole before launching his blistering burst.
“I think I’d eaten my Weetabix that morning and I was able to secure pole position and then it really was the race of my life,” Bird added.
Bird certainly did not have an easy ride, having to fend off the advances of both Lucas di Grassi and eventual Championship winner Sebastian Buemi during the race.
“I think I always had a car within half a second of the back of my car,” he remembers. “I had Di Grassi breathing down my neck for most of the race and then Buemi came right from the back all the way to the front to put me under pressure.”
Bird remained cool despite the heat behind and took advantage of FanBoost — an opportunity for fans to vote for their favorite driver and award them an extra boost of power during the race — to finish 0.716 seconds ahead of Buemi and claim his third career Formula E win.
“It was probably the hardest I’ve ever had to work in a single seater car, and I could not wait to see the chequered flag,” added Bird, who is one of only four drivers to race for the same team for all six Formula E seasons alongside di Grassi, Oliver Turvey and Buemi.
“Honestly, that podium felt amazing. To get the first win for DS was a really, really big moment for us as a team and something I’ll cherish for a long time.”
While it was Virgin Racing’s second season in the sport, it was its first season paired with the manufacturer DS Performance.
And Bird believes his wild ride in Buenos Aires helped put the company on the map in its debut season.
“DS had just joined Virgin Racing so they had just become a manufactured team and we had this new powerchain but it was really, really heavy, really over weight, super tricky to drive but we managed to win the race,” he said.
In total, Bird has finished on the podium 18 times in his 62 races for Virgin, winning nine of them.