It was a glorious weekend of racing as the sun came out in Kent for rounds 16, 17 and 18 of the BRDC British F3 championship at Brands Hatch.
With the sun shining, the F3 desk arrived at our local track for what was to become a great weekends racing. With Clement Novlak still leading the championship and Johnathan Hoggard closing up behind it was all to play for.
First up its was qualifying on Saturday (3rd) morning and Fortec Motorsport’s Johnathan Hoggard put in a dominant display to secure a double pole position.
The British driver set a best time of 1m20.649 seconds as the session came to a close to put himself over three tenths clear of Douglas Motorsport’s Kiern Jewiss on the grid for race one, with championship leader Clement Novalak third, just 0.035 seconds further back.
Hoggard dominated the top of the time sheet with his pole position margin of over three tenths of a second being quite large by British F3 standards. Jewiss, racing on his local circuit, secured his best qualifying result of the year with second, whilst a confident performance from Novalak ensured the pressure was still on Hoggard.
It was a tough session for Ayrton Simmons who had a surprising 11th for Chris Dittmann Racing. The session was red flagged with 14 minutes remaining, as Double R’s Hampus Ericsson went off at the exit of Westfield but was unharmed.
The race three pole for Hoggard is his fifth pole of the year, and was again ahead of Jewiss and Novalak.
Speaking to Overtake Hoggard said; “yeah really happy with that. The car felt really good all weekend, yesterday and today so a faultless job by Fortec on that one. Quite surprised with how far ahead I am, but I’ll take it. I really enjoy driving this track.”
So the stage was set for the Fortec driver to gain some important championship points and chase down Carlin driver Novalak, and it was the perfect start as Hoggard took another dominant lights to flag win for race one on Saturday (3rd) afternoon.
Hoggard made a great start from pole to hold a one second lead and then extended that to almost three seconds mid race, a massive margin. Jewiss tried to put pressure on the Fortec driver with a late charge but finished 0.626 seconds behind at the chequered flag.
Championship leader Novalak secured another podium with third to take some important points back off Hoggard. Hillspeed’s Sasakorn Chaimongkol put in a great performance to take fourth and finishing just under a second clear of Carlin’s Kaylen Frederick, with Manuel Maldonado sixth for Fortec. Ulysse De Pauw, Neil Verhagen, Lucas Petersson and Benjamin Pedersen completed the top-10 in a race that if truth be told saw little action on a track which is difficult to overtake.
Not that race winner Hoggard minded. “It was a good race, a really good start and just build a gap from one. Towards the middle of the race the rears started to go off a little bit, but that’s what happens around here when you are pushing hard. I was managing the gap, I let him [Jewiss] close the gap a little as there was no point pushing a risking a crash, which can happen around here.”
After a good nights sleep the F3 desk returned to the Kent sunshine for race two on Sunday (4th) morning. With a reverse grid it was America Kriss Wright on pole and as lights went out there was action immediately.
Wright was immediately challenged around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend by a fast starting Ravishankar. The pair both took the first corner together and two doesn’t go into one with both going off into the gravel and for an early shower. That promoted Nazim Azman, who started third, into the lead, while Simmons was able to slip unnoticed up the inside of Ericsson in the melee to move into second. Mason who had a slow start from fourth took advantage of the first corner incident to move into third on the first lap.
The safety car was deployed to recover the two cars, with the race resuming on lap five. Simmons immediately set about putting pressure on his teammate, with the pair running nose to tail throughout the contest and never separated by more than four tenths. Azman held out and crossed the line to claim his first victory by just 0.334 seconds, with Simmons banking a decent haul of points for his championship challenge. The 1-2 finish is the first for any team this season and a very different story from the one yesterday.
On his maiden race win Azman said; “the last lap was really, really scary actually! I thought the race ended on the second last lap and then I saw there was one lap to go and I was so scared! But I just kept on pushing and kept my cool, and in the end, here we are on the top step.
It was quite intense, I got really lucky at the first corner and I was so close to making contact but I managed to avoid the pile-up, so all was OK in the end, so I’m quite happy!
I’m not sure what we can do later on today, we didn’t have such a good qualifying so we will have to see. We’ve used our best tyres but hopefully we can have another good start, gain a few positions and get some good points.”
Overtake caught up with second place man Ayrton Simmons. “Yesterday was not our day but to bounce back today, we made a few changes overnight and the car has improved a lot.”
Simmons was keeping details of any chances close to his chest but expanded on tyre strategy. “We’ve got reasonable tyres saved for race three so we will see what it brings.”
Moving on to the final race of the day and with Hoggard back on pole could the British driver take yet more points of Championship leader Novalak. It was however Douglas Motorsport’s Kiern Jewiss who claimed his first win of the year, holding off pressure from Hoggard on his local track.
Polesitter Hoggard was second, with Jewiss’ teammate De Pauw claiming his second podium of the year with third place. Novalak was fourth, taking yet more important points again. Frederick, who endured race long pressure from Chris Dittmann Racing’s Ayrton Simmons took fifth with Simmons sixth.
Jewiss did well to hold off Hoggard as the Fortec driver came close to overtake on several occasions but in another race where overtaking was difficult, Hoggard had to settle for P2 but will be happy with the points haul.
The result means that Hoggard is now just 40 points behind Novalak in the title race, with six races remaining.
On his maiden race win Jewiss said; “It’s about time, a long time coming, but what a way to go out in style at my home race with all the guys from FM Conway, my family and friends, it’s been great. Big thanks to them and Douglas Motorsport who have done a great job this weekend. I was hanging on out there a lot but we won the race so it doesn’t matter.
At the start I thought here we go, that’s alright, we can pull out a gap but then he started coming at me and I thought oh no, go away! But it’s been great and hopefully we can go forward to Silverstone and have another great result.”
The F3 circus will head back to Silverstone in two weeks time for the second of two visits to the Northamptonshire track for rounds 19, 20 and 21.