Three weeks from now I’ll be doing a track walk in the late-summer heat of Milan, sampling the sights, sounds and smells of one of the world’s most famous racing circuits: Monza.
I haven’t taken the starter’s lights for a motor race in close to 18 months. That’s a long time for someone who’s used to being in a race car every other weekend, and the invitation from Porsche Motorsport to compete in the Mobil 1 Supercup in support of the Formula One, for their final round at Monza, came at the right time.
Without it, there was a good chance we would do as so many young drivers are forced to do, and ‘throw in the towel’. You can only slave away with no return for so long, and when I found myself without a sponsor after my Hamilton 400 win in April last year, we knew we were in a spot of bother. Since then, without a word of a lie, the efforts behind the scenes by myself, my family and my support team have been non-stop. It gets really hard to keep motivated when for every hundred proposals, meetings and contacts you come across, only two or three show any interest, and they end up faltering anyway. But we did.
It’s been an exciting year and a half though. There’s been lots of travel, networking in Europe and the Middle East, a bit of testing up there also, track time locally in the Juno sports car and a few Japanese tuners, and I’ve met some incredible people who have offered to help me through what has been a difficult dry patch.
The time out of the seat and the motorsport ‘spotlight’ has given me time to reflect. To reflect on myself, my attitude, my approach to my racing; to analyse my strengths and maintain them; to recognise my weaknesses and put the processes in place to fix them. I’ve experimented with all kinds of new fitness regimes and found a routine that I feel fits perfectly with GT racing in all its forms. More importantly, I’ve found the confidence within myself that I’ve always been lacking in my career to date.
That’s the clincher.
Monza will mean many things to me, but really it’s just a tremendous opportunity that I know I am privileged to receive. Winning the Porsche Motorsport Talent Scholarship in February has definitely helped my credibility, and this is my reward.
Between my father Richard and I we have a plan in our minds. We have a set of goals we want to achieve up there. They are optimistic but realistic – we’re under no illusions of the level of competition in the Supercup. We also know the racing style in Europe will be a shock to the system – it’s kill or be killed on that grid.
And if that’s the way it’s got to be, then that’s how we will have to adapt.
Just sitting here writing this is making my fingers quiver. It’s so damn exciting!
What comes next is still up in the air. I’m working hard on a deal for the New Zealand season with some key people whom I believe will help me get things over the line.
And if I do, expect a different Jono Lester to the one you’ve seen previously.
So, roll on Monza, and roll on the future!