• Runner-up spot for Ben Hurst in treacherous rain-hit Rd23
• Canadian celebrates maiden podium in penultimate race of 2018
• More silverware for Derbyshire’s Hillspeed to round-off F3 season
Rain-lashed Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit delivered a first ever BRDC British Formula 3 Championship podium for series rookie Ben Hurst on Sunday, 14th October, as the season ended in celebratory style for leading team Hillspeed.
Taking the runner-up position in a red-flagged round 23 on Sunday morning, which was badly impacted by heavy and persistent rain from ‘Storm Callum’, Canadian driver Hurst in the No.3 Wolfe Co. Apparel & Goods-backed car added his name to that of Hillspeed team-mate Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol as a British F3 podium finisher in 2018.
Thai racer Chaimongkol, who was seventh in the encounter after finishing 10th in the dry weekend opener on Saturday, 13th October, concluded the year as the highest placed Hillspeed driver in the championship with ninth in the standings.
Germany’s Jusuf Owega ended a strong rookie year – which only started for him during the second event of the season at Rockingham shortly after his 16th birthday – just outside the championship top 10 in 11th place having raced to seventh in round 22 and 10th in round 23. Hurst, who was 15th in the weekend’s opener, secured 16th in the championship thanks to his race two podium.
With the weather showing no sign of improvement following Sunday morning’s contest, and with track conditions every bit as poor some three hours later, officials decided to abandon the race meeting and, therefore, the final race of the British F3 season too.
“You always take a podium any way they come, and we’re delighted for Ben he was able to finish the season with some silverware”, said Richard Ollerenshaw, team principal of Hillspeed, “He’s improved his racecraft and picked up his pace throughout the season, it’s a great reward to end the year with and hopefully something he can build on for 2019.
“We all really feel for Jusuf as he has had the speed and the ability to be a multiple podium finisher in F3 this year which, in his first ever season in cars, speaks volumes for the way he has developed with the team. He was taken out at Spa and Donington when he was super quick, so it’s a shame he didn’t have the luck on his side. Even so, it’s been a very strong and impressive campaign for him.”
Ollerenshaw added: “Cutter has obviously visited the podium a couple of times this year, again impressive stuff in his rookie season, and he really wasn’t far away from the championship top eight in the end. Hillspeed always prides itself on the driver development we offer, and all three of our racers this season have certainly made very strong progress.”
Podium cheer for Hillspeed on final weekend of F3 season
Owega was the fastest of the Hillspeed drivers in qualifying on Saturday morning, setting the 12th best time 0.4 seconds ahead of Chaimongkol in 13th position. Hurst, meanwhile, set the 17th fastest lap to outpace Josh Mason by 0.3 seconds.
On a busy opening lap to round 22 later in the day, German youngster Owega starred by gaining no fewer than five positions to rise into seventh place where he stayed for the 10-lap duration on the full 3.66-mile Grand Prix layout. Pressuring series race winner Krish Mahadik for sixth throughout, Owega tried everything he could but ultimately took the flag just 0.2 seconds shy of the Indian.
Chaimongkol too gained places on the first lap, moving up into 11th spot, and although edged back to 12th on the second tour he quickly responded to reclaim the position. After pressuring Kush Maini lap after lap, the Thai then passed Maini for 10th on the penultimate tour to cap a strong drive.
Canadian racer Hurst enjoyed a good opening to the race like his Hillspeed team-mates, moving up into 16th place at the expense of title contender Nicolai Kjaergaard who crashed out, and then set about hustling Pavan Ravishankar.
On lap three, though, a spin for the Singaporean driver enabled Mason to pounce as the three drivers ran in close company and so Hurst remained in 16th spot. Pressuring Mason and closing to within 0.3 seconds of him into the penultimate lap, Hurst duly moved into the top 15 which he maintained to the chequered flag.
For round 23 on Sunday, Hurst was set to start second on the ‘reverse grid’ with Chaimongkol seventh and Owega completing the top 10. Heavy and persistent rain overnight and throughout the morning resulted in a potentially dangerous track surface but, following a delay of around half an hour to the day’s timetable, race two of the weekend got underway behind the Safety Car.
Soon enough, though, conditions were deemed so bad – with horrendous spray and lots of standing water – officials chose to bring out the red flags with Hurst crossing the line in second position to secure his maiden British F3 podium. Chaimongkol was awarded seventh and Owega 10th place.
Then, around three hours later, officials took the decision to abandon the entire race meeting with no let-up in the weather and track conditions remaining treacherous. Chaimongkol, therefore, missed the chance to try and end his maiden season in the championship top eight by just 18 points.
Final 2018 BRDC British F3 Driver Standings
9th Sasakorn Chaimongkol, 242pts
11th Jusuf Owega, 187pts
16th Ben Hurst, 137pts