The BRDC British F3 season roared into Silverstone with a three way battle very much on the cards. Clement Novalak, Jonathan Hoggard and Ayrton Simmons all had points to prove at the Northamptonshire track. The F3 desk will try our best to round up the action!
Inclement weather was proving a challenge on Friday’s free practice but come Saturday morning (17th) it was clear sailings as Douglas Motorsport’s Kiern Jewiss claimed a dramatic late double pole position in a very close qualifying session.
The reigning British F4 champion left it until after the chequered flag had been waved to put in his best effort, and jumped to the top of the timesheets with his last effort, with his time of 1m55.845 seconds the quickest recorded lap by a British F3 car around the Silverstone circuit.
Jewiss was 0.117 seconds quicker than Hillspeed’s Sasakorn Chaimongkol, who looked on course to claim his maiden qualifying pole for most of the session until Jewiss’ late charge. Championship challenger Ayrton Simmons third for Chris Dittmann Racing.
Simmons’ fellow championship challenger Johnathan Hoggard secured P4 for Fortec. Championship leader Clement Novalak could only manage ninth for Carlin in a difficult session.
With the grid for race three decided by each driver’s second fastest time, Jewiss also claimed pole with a 1m55.969 seconds. That put him just 0.020 seconds quicker than Simmons who will start race three from second, with Hoggard also moving up a spot to third.
Speaking on his double pole, Jewiss said; “It was a good qualifying session, the car was amazing and the team did a great job. I’m very happy and what a way to do it with a double pole, and hopefully we can convert that into a win later on.
On the out lap I always get a really good feel for what the car is going to be like when I do start pushing. It felt good so I had a bit of confidence straight away and I was fast. When the rain kind of cooled everything down it gave us one last chance to really go for it.
I’d like to get another win, it would be nice but I’ll be under a lot of pressure and they’ll be coming at me pretty fast down the straights. The tow will play a big part I think.
We’ve done a lot of development as the year has gone on, from where we were at the start of the year until now it’s been a good hard journey but now it’s all worthwhile.”
With qualifying done. It was on to race one of the weekend on Saturday (17th) afternoon and after his excellent qualifying it was Hillspeed’s Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol who took his first ever British F3 win at Silverstone and became the 12th different winner of the season so far.
The Thai driver coped well with pressure from pole sitter Kiern Jewiss, who took second, with championship challenger Johnathan Hoggard taking third and bagging some very important points.
Ayrton Simmons took fourth, keeping his hand in the championship race and championship leader Clement Novalak secured seventh for Carlin.
All this meant the pair were now separated by just 31 points going into Sunday’s racing.
Simmons had finished just a tenth behind Neil Verhagen but a penalty for the American for starting a few inches outside of his grid spot meant that Simmons was promoted up the order and Verhagen demoted to tenth.
On his race win Chaimongokol had this to say; “It’s been a long time! We’re always super quick in testing and it’s just been in qualifying, that one session where you need to be very quick and I couldn’t pull it together. But in the last few races I’ve been back on par with qualifying and it makes it so much easier. If you start up the front and get a good start and a good first lap and get out front, you get your head down and pick up a marker and then try not to look in the mirror!
On the first lap I got him down at Copse and was able to get a break on him. I had a lead of around a second and then nearly went off at Stowe because of the oil [dropped in an earlier support race] and Jewiss was right on my tail. After that I was just trying to keep my head down and to make as few mistakes as possible – if you’re making mistakes you’re not going to go forward. I had to be consistent with the lap times, it was the best I could do at that stage.
It’s taken me a bit too long to do this, we’ve been super quick and if we had that extra bit in the qualifying we could have been so much better earlier this season. But now I’m stood on the middle of the podium, and now we need to repeat this process and hopefully over the next five rounds we can try and do the same.”
With Sunday (18th) arriving so did race two of the weekend and Fortec Motorsport’s Manuel Maldonado became the 13th different winner of the season, with a dominant victory from lightout to finish.
Maldonado finished well clear of Hillspeed’s Nico Varrone, while championship leader Novalak took some very important points by claiming third having started ninth.
Simmons mounted a late charge to take fourth, finishing just 0.352 second behind Novalak while Fortec’s Kris Wright claimed his best result of the season with fifth.
Novalak’s strong drive means he has regained the initiative in the title race. Hoggard took nine points off his rival with his podium yesterday, but Novalak gained 19 points compared to his rival with his race two performance, meaning the gap between the two is now up to 50 points as we head into the final race of the weekend. Hoggard could only manage 14th in the race after an early incident at Club Corner that also impeded Neil Verhagen.
Speaking on his race win, Maldonado said; “Even though it’s not the way we want to do it, with a reverse grid, we had a pretty bad day yesterday, but nevertheless we made sure we got off the line, built a gap up and after that it was a matter of making sure the tyres didn’t go off at the end and that was pretty much it.
The most difficult part was making sure the tyres didn’t go off because you can’t predict which lap it’s going to go off and that was pretty much the hardest part of the race, making sure you cooled them off and didn’t take too much life out of the tyres.
We will try and make the most out of what’s left in the championship and hopefully get more podiums and wins if that is possible.”
As the weekend came to a close there was still the small matter of race three and important championship points up for grabs. Chris Dittmann Racing’s Ayrton Simmons claimed his third win of the year in the final race of the weekend. Simmons made a great start from second on the grid to pass pole sitter Kiern Jewiss at Copse and then held the position, with Jewiss taking second and Neil Verhagen third for Double R Racing.
Championship leader Clement Novalak increased his championship lead again by finishing fourth, a place ahead of main rival Johnathan Hoggard who was fifth having started third.
Simmons made a cracking start from second to squeeze past Jewiss on the run into Copse. From then on the British racer maintained the gap and took a dominant victory to put pressure on his fellow championship contenders.
Hoggard had the chance to cut Novalak’s championship advantage back down again, but a tricky opening lap saw him lose two positions and was left to chase Novalak for the rest of the race, finishing just over three tenths behind at the chequered flag.
The result means there will be a four way championship showdown at Donington Park next month (September). Based on a 17 car grid, there are 106 points available at Donington, with 103 points covering the top four of Novalak, Hoggard, Simmons and Jewiss. Novalak has a 52 point lead over Hoggard with three races remaining, while Simmons’ race three win puts him just nine points behind Hoggard. Jewiss sits a further 42 points behind Simmons.
On his race win, Simmons had this to say; “we always seem to go pretty well around here. Even in qualifying we had the pace, a bit of a messy first lap yesterday but we always knew we had the pace. I’m really enjoying life at the moment!
The new tarmac is quite complicated and the starts here are way different to any other track we’ve raced on. We studied hard overnight and we knew what procedures we needed to do today. We got it right and ended up getting P1 and leading the way from turn one.
“The championship is a bit of a long way away but all we can do is score as many points as we can. If we can get closer, brilliant, if not then it is what it is and we’ve had a fantastic season.”
Much like last year, the BRDC season has come down to the wire and Overtake will be there to bring you all the action!