WELCOME TO THE BIG LEAGUES –
Olson Struggles in 2004 Formula Renault Season Opener
For Immediate Release
March 28, 2004
Zhuhai International Circuit, Zhuhai China –
Sunday, race day. A million television viewers, dozens of cameras, and above all, the pressure to win.
Racer Pete Olson has come a long way from a quarter mile karting track in a small beachside town in sunny California -
from hanging out with his racing buddies at the local dirt oval on a Saturday night to discussing the merits of
monocoque chassis design with Renault Sport representatives visiting the ZIC [Zhuhai International Circuit] on a
trackside tour from Europe.
However, Olson’s experiences at the ZIC this past week mirrored the topsy-turvy NASCAR debut of Tom Cruise’s
character “Cole Trickle” in the 1990 film Days of Thunder.
Olson demonstrated great natural talent and potential in the few days he had to test and learn the advanced Formula
Renault race car [article] and managed to qualify almost halfway up the grid during Saturday’s qualifying session in the
pouring rain in only his sixth day in the advanced race car and second day ever on a race track under rain conditions,
only to lose succumb to mishaps on the start grid which included getting stuck behind a stalled car and as well as
jumping the second start and causing a second ‘formation lap’ for the race while on Chinese national television.
Despite the high expectations for the rookie Formula Renault American race car driver that he created as a result of his
excellent testing and qualifying sessions, Sunday’s competition showed that the Olson still has much to learn about
racing in the big leagues.
By noon Sunday, the photo sessions were over and the marching band and umbrella girls had cleared the grid. In its
place were twenty one screaming race cars putting out a combined total of nearly four thousand horsepower, waiting
to launch from 0-100kph in three and a half seconds.
It was also Maryland racer Pete Olson’s first Formula One style standing start in a race car, in a vehicle that he had sat in
for the first time just two weeks ago. Olson admitted later that he had been seriously concerned about stalling when
the start light signal was given – but little had he known that worse things could happen.
When the red ‘start light’ blinked off and twenty one clutches were released within fractions of a second of each
other, Pete Olson found himself accelerating straight towards the rear wing of a stalled race car directly in his path.
Olson turned toward the inside to get around, but was an instant too late as he found the inside gap taken by another
racer. With nothing to do but almost come to a complete stop during the middle of the adrenaline-filled start, the few
seconds lost were enough to allow the seven cars starting behind him to rush by the frustrated Formula Renault
rookie. Olson only made things worse by then accelerating aggressively to make up for the lost positions, which
resulted in massive wheel spin on the damp track as the pack rushed away toward the first turn.
Olson spent the entire race playing catch-up, but his lack of track time showed as he did not have enough speed to
create a single passing opportunity during the ten lap race. Finishing seventeenth resulted in Olson losing his qualifying
advantage by being placed at the back of the grid for the start of the second race three hours later. During the
second race start, Olson showed improvement in his ability to launch the car off the line, but again lost valuable
positions as the result of heavy wheel spin on the still-damp track. He spent the second race dicing with a pack of four
other cars, but as the result of starting in the back of the grid and another tire smoking launch, he finished in the back
of the pack.
Surprisingly, Olson was in an upbeat mood as he rushed from the ZIC to cross the Macau border in time to make a late
flight back to Taipei. It had been quite a weekend for the American racer, who was making calls to the States at 3am
on Saturday morning, the day of qualifying, in order to receive last minute approval from the SCCA in America [The
organization that sanctions professional race events in America] to race in an international FIA-sanctioned event.
“It was quite a week” said Olson. “I expected to do better in the races of course, but I am actually happy right now
because I know exactly what I need to do in order to win. When I started in karts, I had mediocre lap times. But
within six months I was running at the head of the pack. By the end of my first day in Formula Renault, I was faster
than guys that have been running here for three years. I know I have the potential, and that is what is most
important to me. I know that this whole first race weekend was rushed, I mean, I hadn’t even practiced a single race
start before I was actually in the first race! [laughs]. I feel that I am suitable for Formula Renault, and the thing that is
sometimes strange for me is that the faster the car, the higher the level, the faster I drive, relatively. Formula Renault
is everything I dreamed of in a race car – it is a pure bred, built with one purpose in mind – incredible speed. And
thanks to the instruction of FRD drivers, engineers, and mechanics, I feel, and I know, that I can do much better. As a
matter of fact, I can’t wait to get to Shanghai in June for Round Three and Four. I mean, before then, I intend to get
to know the Formula Renault better than any driver. That is my primary goal right now, apart from getting back into
the gym to condition myself for the physical stress of piloting the car, as well as studying everything I can about race
car dynamics. And then, in June, we go to the Shanghai F1 track, the Great Equalizer – it is a brand-new circuit, so no
one in the entire world has driven it. It is a great opportunity for me, because I will not be racing against guys who
have done five hundred or a thousand-plus laps around the circuit. It will come down to pure guts and car control. I
can’t wait to get there. There is just no point in being down after what happened Sunday. A good driver is compelled
to evaluate his mistakes and learn from them. If you get yourself down, you will never win, and I can tell you that from
experience. In order to win, or even to simply drive at the limit, you have to believe in yourself and also have faith in
your own abilities. It is like that with anything in your life, I think. But the point is always to learn, and be better, to
get better. You must never stop improving, never stop being hungry. I think anything is possible as long as you want it
Quite a statement from Olson, who seems to believe that his success in racing is a self-fulfilling prophesy. What will
happen in Shanghai? No one knows the future, but one thing is certain - Olson certainly has his work cut out for him
for the next nine weeks.
For more information on Peter Olson/Racing for Children contact:
Christian Children’s Fund
Media Relations Contact Agent for Pete Olson:
Christian Children’s Fund
2821 Emerywood Parkway
Richmond, VA 23294
Olson Motorsports, LLC
Taipei, Taiwan R.O.C.
Tel: + 886 9 3567 8609