It was a great weekend of racing in the Belgium Forest as British F3 arrived at the historic Spa-Francorchamps for rounds 13, 14 and 15 of the 2019 Championship.
With it still all to play for in the Championship, it was a stellar weekend for British F3. There was a lot to take in, so the F3 desk will do our best to bring you up-to-date with all the on track action from Belgium. Strap yourself in…
It was the number 12 of Ayrton Simmons who claimed a double pole in dominant qualifying performance on the Friday (19th)
Simmons, who made his British F3 debut at the circuit last year,used his experience to climb to the top of the times with about five minutes remaining, improved again late on, securing him a front of the grid start for race one on Saturday and race three on Sunday afternoon.
Simmons’ fastest time of 2m18.353 seconds was a tenth clear of Double R’s Neil Verhagen, who looked in great form, topping the time sheet multiple times throughout the session. Lucas Petersson enjoyed his best qualifying of the season to take third on the race one grid, 0.029 seconds further back for Carlin, and just 0.002 seconds quicker than team mate Kaylen Frederick.
All eyes were on local lad Ulysse De Pauw, who qualified fifth for the race one grid for Douglas Motorsport, and was a tenth clear of Carlin’s Clement Novalak in sixth.
Always a close qualifying session at Sap, just 0.673s covered the top-11 drivers, with 1.2 seconds covering the top 16.
Simmons’ succession of fast laps and improved times towards the end of the session meant that his second quickest effort was almost a quarter of a second faster than anyone else, giving the Essex lad his first double pole position of the year. De Pauw was 0.005 seconds ahead of Verhagen in third.
“I’m absolutely delighted, you can’t get any better than that. After the last practice session we were over a second off, so a big credit to the Chris Dittmann Racing guys for giving me the car to put on pole.
Overall the balance was a lot better than in practice and we managed to get a good tow as well on the last lap which got me pole. Regardless of the tow, our middle sector was still really quick so I’m really happy with it.
It’s good to see that everyone is so close and it’s such a long lap, over two minutes, and there’s only a few hundredths between us. I knew it was going to be tough and tight so even on the last lap when the tyres are starting to go off I just had to get every inch out of the car.
It’s going to be tough at the start tomorrow, I need to get through Eau Rouge safe and then pray that they don’t all get in my tow. After that I’ll just need to get my head down, it would be great if we can stay ahead of everyone by the time we get to Les Combes. I’m looking forward to it, I love a good race and I’ve got good racers around me.
The prize money will go towards a new set of tyres for the next test day, but it’s always good to get a bonus and a nice pay cheque at the end of the day too!”
Moving onto Saturday (20th) and it was time for race one of the weekend and it was Carlin’s Kaylen Frederick claimed his second win of the year after a great battle with Chris pole sitter Simmons.
Both took turns at leading the race, but Frederick made a move on the penultimate lap, and claimed the win by 0.864 seconds from Simmons, while Manuel Maldonado threatened to join the lead battle but had to settle for third after moving up from seventh on the grid.
Championship leader Clement Novalak was fourth for Carlin and bagged some important championship points.
Post race, a one second penalty was handed to the driver of car 22, Lucas Petersson, for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, which elevated Chaimongkol to ninth and Petersson down to 10th in the final classification.
The American racer was delighted with his race one win saying; “at this track you can actually really pass as opposed to a lot of other tracks. I got a good start and was up to P3 after turn one and then I kept the pressure on the guys in front of me. I had really good pace in the middle sector so I could stay right up behind the other drivers and once I got ahead, could create a bit of a gap and run my own race pretty much.
I just kept setting Ayrton up to get a run on him down the Kemmel straight and I stuck behind him in the last sector to make sure I was right up behind him. I didn’t want to be first leading onto the big straight so I stuck behind him, made the pass stick and then put a really good lap in and built up a little gap.
I think race two tomorrow is going to be quite an interesting race, coming from the back it’s going to be about making the right decisions and making sure I do the best I can to make it to the front and not make any mistakes or get caught up in any mess either.”
As the afternoon drew in so did race two of the weekend and it was an incredible performace from Hillspeed’s Nico Varrone, who secured his maiden BRDC British F3 win in just his fifth race, as he pulled off a string of sensational overtaking moves in a masterclass of overtaking.
Having started eighth, and with new tyres, he blasted his way through to the front and pulled off a great late move on Lanan’s Josh Mason, who also used fresh rubber, to take victory, with the British driver finishing 0.719 seconds behind and just two tenths ahead of pole sitter Neil Verhagen.
Yesterday’s winner Kaylen Frederick took to the gravel exiting Les Combes with a broken suspension bringing out the safety car. Championship contenders Clement Novalak, Johnathan Hoggard and Ayrton Simmons secured 10th, seventh and 15th places respectively.
Speaking on his win Varrone said; “It’s incredible. My first race was at Silverstone last month and I couldn’t get to Donington because of budget reasons but we are here at Spa, my first time at Spa and my first time driving here was only on Friday, so it’s all still very new for me. To get a win from P8 with very strong pace is something I can’t believe, the car was fantastic and it’s incredible.
I knew a podium was possible but difficult, but I never expected to win. I thought fifth or fourth place would be good but winning here at Spa is just amazing.
It’s only my fifth day in the car, I went to Silverstone and here with no testing and not knowing the circuits. If we could get some more budget to drive more continuously, we can improve.”
Still with me? Right on to Sunday (21st). Race three and the final one of the weekend saw Chris Dittmann Racing’s Ayrton Simmons converting pole into a lights to flag victory, his second triumph of the year rounding off a dominate display.
The British driver finished just under a couple of seconds clear of championship leader Clement Novalak, with Kiern Jewiss pulling off a series of overtaking moves to claim third place from 10th on the grid.
Hampus Ericsson claimed fourth for Double R Racing after a late overtaking move on teammate Neil Verhagen, with Manuel Maldonado sixth for Fortec Motorsports.
Championship contender Johnathan Hoggard was 2.4 seconds behind his teammate at the chequered flag, coming out on top of a battle with Carlin’s Lucas Petersson who finished eighth, with race two winner Nico Varrone (Hillspeed) and Lanan’s Josh Mason completing the top-10. The order changed post race though, when Hoggard was handed a penalty for colliding with Sasakorn Chaimongkol.
Speaking on his race three victory Simmons said; “Race one didn’t really happen for us so we had to make sure we converted pole in race three! All I had to go was get my head down from lap one, pull out a gap and try to break the tow, and that’s what I managed to do. No one could catch me with the tow and we were the quickest through sector two and ended up winning it.
This sort of weekend has been coming for us, we’ve been quick all year and in the test days we’ve done. On my debut last year we were fourth here in my first time in the car, so I knew there was plenty of potential and I feel we’ve converted that this weekend, so I’m really happy with it.
The progress from last year, having the data to work with has been a huge step forward and shows how competitive the grid is this year. But we’ve made a massive step forward and hopefully we can carry this forward and keep on evolving.
After the first three laps I knew I had a pretty decent gap and it was getting bigger on every lap. I didn’t really look in my mirrors, only on the last lap to check and I knew Novalak was behind, but he was so far behind that I knew if I had no mistakes and did a nice clean last lap I was going to win it.
It’s a good start to the second half of the year and hopefully we can close the gap to the top of the championship.”
Nest stop, Brands Hatch in Kent UK and Overtake will be there to bring you all the action.