Steele back on top after thrilling F3 Cup Brands Hatch battle

17/07/2011 - Aaron Steele made a return to the top step of the podium with a commanding drive at Brands Hatch.

17/07/2011 - Aaron Steele made a return to the top step of the podium with a commanding drive to the chequered flag in tricky damp conditions in the F3 Cup at Brands Hatch.

After missing out on what looked to be a certain victory yesterday (Saturday), Steele was determined to end the weekend on a high. The Kent man, who hit a patch of oil and slid off from the lead on Saturday, produced a lights to flag drive. Matt Draper came home in second with Louis Hamilton-Smith securing the final place on the podium.

Steele made a good getaway from the start and he was followed into Paddock Hill Bend by Chris Needham and Louis Hamilton-Smith. Mark Terry slotted into fourth position ahead of Dave Karaskas, the slow starting Matt Draper and Kat Impey.

While the top three remained unchanged in the opening exchanges, Draper was the man on the move, as he set about making up for lost ground at the start. On lap six he found a way past Karaskas for fifth place and Impey soon filled Karaskas' mirrors.

Impey looked to have better pace than Karaskas in the damp track conditions and she tried to overtake him around the outside of Paddock Hill Bend a lap later. However, the pair tangled mid corner and they both ended up in the gravel trap.

Steele established a commanding lead at the front and once again showed his class behind the wheel of an F3 car. Behind the local man, Draper continued his charge, as he snatched fourth place overtaking Terry at Graham Hill Bend. Hamilton-Smith began to close on Needham for second place leaving the podium positions far from certain. But while he was catching Needham, the hard charging Draper found a way down the inside of Hamilton-Smith for third.

With two laps remaining Needham's car began to fail and he was eventually forced into retirement, allowing Draper and Hamilton-Smith to move into the podium positions. Steele was untroubled at the front and he took chequered flag, finishing ahead of Draper by 26 seconds. Hamilton-Smith came home in third with Terry in fourth and Stuart Wiltshire fifth. Debutant Robbie Watts finished in sixth.

After the disappointment of Saturday, Steele described today's (Sunday) victory as an important one for his seaosn, he said: "It feels very good to win again and it makes up for yesterday. The conditions were very challenging and it was difficult to keep the car on the road with some corners dry and others wet. It was an important win. It was difficult I didn't take too many risks but the strange lines for some of the corners worked for me."

Matt Draper was pleased with his fightback to second place, he said: "I started terribly and lost quite a few places and spent the rest of the race fighting my way back up the order. The last quarter of the race I got behind Chris Needham but unfortunately I couldn't find a way past. Lucky for me and unlucky for him, he retired which gave me second but up to that point the race was a lot of fun."

With Needham's late retirement Hamilton-Smith was promoted to third and he enjoyed being back on the podium,:"It was an ok race", he said. "It was nice to be back on the podium. I've had a few problems with the car technically which has made it a bit frustrating but I've brought the car home in one piece."

Brands Hatch Race Two Results:

1. A Steele, Dallara F302, 23 laps
2. M Draper, Dallara F304, +26.303s
3. L Hamilton-Smith, Dallara F301, +30.200s
4. M Terry, Dallara F302, +35.766s
5. S Wiltshire, Dallara F302, +1 lap
6. R Watts, Lola F106/03, + 1 lap
7. M Payne, Dallara F300, + 1 lap
8. N Harrison, Dallara F302/4, +1 lap
9. N Robinson, Dallara F302, +1 lap