28/10/12 - Red Bull F1 test driver Antonio Felix Da Costa won the opening race of the weekend at Snetterton 300 but it was Chris Dittmann who made history by becoming the first F3 Cup champion.
Dittmann was slow to get away from the line but he came through to clinch his class and win the championship, while Da Costa stormed to take the chequered flag. The race belonged to Da Costa as soon as the lights went out and in the end he took the victory from fellow Formula Renault 3.5 racer Kevin Korjus and Snetterton local Tristan Cliffe, who produced his best drive of the season.
The drama began on the formation lap when Louis Hamilton-Smith was slow away, luckily he managed to find a gear before the entire field passed him so he could start the race. His problems were nowhere near as bad as champonship leader Dittmann at the start. He fluffed his start and ended up way down the order behind Gino Ussi, who started from 11th, while Da Costa stormed into the lead. Korjus followed Da Costa with James Abbott in third, Chris Needham in fourth and Cliffe in fifth.
But the problems continued for Hamilton-Smith with him pulling off the circuit on the run down to Montreal with a broken wishbone. Meanwhile Dittmann soon got up to racing speed in pursuit of Ussi and Timms in 12th. At the front Carlin driver Da Costa gapped Korjus but all eyes were on the battle for third which was hotting up between Abbott, Needham, Cliffe, Stuart Wiltshire and Mark Harrison.
Further down the order Ussi and Dittmann were making up ground along with David Scott, who shot from the back of the grid to 12th by lap two. Ussi wasted little time in finding a way past Timms, Harrison and Wiltshire to slot into sixth. Shortly after Dittmann recovered to eighth and was all over the rear wing of Trophy class leader Timms.
Cliffe was enjoying a strong run in his Omicron Motorsport Dallara F307 and on lap four he tried to find his way past Needham at Riches. Needham shut the door but he moved into fourth spot later on during the lap. Cliffe, who was hoping to kep his title bid alive, continued to push hard and it wasn't long before he was looming large in Abbott's mirrors.
In the championship race, the title swung towards Dittmann when he passed Timms for the Trophy class lead leaving him only needing to finish there to pick up the title. Without knowing this, Cliffe kept pushing and he tried to pass Abbott at Coram but lost control in the process. He rejoined the track behind Needham and in front of Ussi. All the while this was going on Da Costa had built up a hugely impressive lead from Korjus.
Despite the spin, Cliffe found his pace again and surged passed Needham, who ran wide at Murrays two laps later. Such was his pace he was lapping faster than Double R racer and Lotus F1 test driver Korjus. His speed saw him reel in a six second deficit to Cup class leader Abbott in two laps, passing him on the final corner of the last lap to take the Cup Class victory.
However, it proved to be not enough to take the title race to the final encounter of the season, with Dittmann's seventh spot and Trophy class victory enough to become the inaugural F3 Cup champion. Da Costa claimed the win from Korjus and Cliffe. Abbott came home in fourth ahead of Needham, Ussi, Dittmann, Timms, Harrison and Prajesh Shah, who rounded out the top 10.
A delighted Antonio Felix Da Costa said: "I was having a lot of fun out there. In the wet it is always tricky. The most mileage I can get in an F3 car the better it is to reach my goals this weekend. This was the perfect situation to be in ahead of Macau. It has been great fun and I have to tell my father to come and race here becasue I think he will have the time of his life. Congratulations to Chris on winning the championship."
New champion said: "I fluffed the start but luckily nobody hit me. I got going again and Tristan (Cliffe) was pushing hard so I knew I had to push. I caught Jeremy and pass him which gave me the championship. It's a brilliant feeling it hasn't sunk in yet but it been a great year in the F3 Cup."
Class winner Tristan Cliffe said: "I thought it was game over
for the class win. But in three laps I managed to do it and I got a
way with it. It was my drive of the season. We guessed right with
the car and it was unbelievable. The results will be going up on my
F3 Cup Race 1 Snetterton 300 Full Results
1. Antonio Felix Da Costa, Carlin, (Inv) 10 laps
2. Kevin Korjus, Double R, (Inv) +54.827s
3. Tristan Cliffe, Omicron Motorsport (Cup) +1.13.211s
4. James Abbott, Lanan Racing (Cup) +1.13.480s
5. Chris Needham, (Cup) +1.24.132s
6. Gino Ussi, Grays Motorsport, (Cup) +1.26.397s
7. Chris Dittmann, Chris Dittmann Racing, (Trophy) +1.28.893s
8. Jeremy Timms, Chris Dittmann Racing (Trophy) +1.29.409s
9. Mark Harrison, Magic Motorsport (Cup) +1.44.307s
10. Prajesh Shah, Chris Dittmann Racing, (Cup) +1.55.491s
11. David Scott, Chris Dittmann Racing (Cup) +1 lap
12. Dave Karaskas, DKS Racing, (Trophy) +1 lap
13. Stuart Wiltshire, Mark Bailey Racing (Cup) +1 lap
14. Tony Bishop, Omicron Motorsport, (Cup) +1 lap
15. Nick Robinson, Mark Bailey Racing (Cup) +1 lap
16. Neil Harrison, Magic Motorsport (Cup) +1 lap
17. Frank Thomas, Mark Bailey Racing, (Cup) +1 lap
18. James Ledamun, (Trophy) +1 lap
19. Juan Serda, Techspeed Motorsport (Masters) +1 lap
DNF Philip Austin, (Trophy)
DNF Louis Hamilton-Smith, (Cup)
The final race of the 2012 season begins at 14.35pm.