F3 Cup title race wide open after Stutely's Donington double

30/04/2012 - The F3 Cup championship is wide open with just 10 points covering the top-three as Tristan Cliffe became the new leader.

30/04/2012 - The F3 Cup championship is wide open with just 10 points covering the top-three as Tristan Cliffe became the new leader despite Linton Stutely winning both races in wet conditions at Donington Park (29 April).

The championship welcomed its largest grid since its inception with 21 drivers taking to the Leicestershire circuit all hoping they could boost their championship chances and dreams of an FIA Formula Two test drive. Heavy rain and high winds tested the field to their limits and it was Enigma Motorsport's Stutely who shone through producing two impressive drives to take a thoroughly deserved double win. But leaving the weekend the happiest was Norwich-based Cliffe who took the outright lead in the championship.

Sunday morning's qualifying certainly challenged the drivers. Chris Dittmann set the early pace from Grays Motorsport's Gino Ussi and Cliffe. But it didn't take long for the order to change as Stutely defied the conditions to set a blistering lap time which was good enough for pole. Ussi was second quickest with Mark Harrison third.

Cambridgeshire's Stutely made the most of his pole position and despite a spin losing him the lead for a brief moment he came through to take the chequered flag. Kidderminster's Mark Harrison briefly held the lead in the final quarter of the race but a spin at the Goddards saw him retire. Dittmann showed the Trophy Class cars (1996-2001) had genuine pace by holding off Cliffe for second. Italian Ussi kick-started his campaign with fourth ahead of Benjamin Harvey, Dave Karaskas, James Cross, James Abbott, Stuart Wiltshire and Chris Needham, who recovered from a trip to the gravel early on.

The rain failed to clear for race two and once again Stutely showed his skills as he dominated proceedings winning by almost a minute. Current Monoposto 2000 champion Cliffe and Ussi were the best of the rest battling over the podium positions for the entire race. There was plenty of action outside the top-three with positions changing on a lap by lap basis. But it was Dittmann, who came home in fourth ahead of Mark Harrison, Harvey, Karaskas, reigning Toyota MR2 champion Cross, 2011 Radical Clubman's Cup champion Abbott and Neil Harrison.

Double race winner Stutely said: "It was an excellent weekend for us and I'm pleased with the result after all the problems we've had. It was really tricky especially halfway round the circuit and it's never easy but it wasn't too difficult to maintain the pace." 

With Oulton Park double winner Jamie Stanley electing not to take part, the two class victories for Cliffe proved enough for him to take a four point lead in the championship from top Trophy class runner Dittmann, with Karaskas just six points further back in third. It is even closer in the Teams Championship with three points covering the top three. Omicron Motorsport are the new leaders from Mark Bailey Racing and Magic Motorsport.

Championship leader Cliffe said: "I certainly didn't expect to be leading the championship at this point after seeing all the names joining the F3 Cup over the winter. Winning the championship is the target so it's a great start to the season." 

The F3 Cup moves to the Silverstone National circuit for rounds five and six with yet more points up for grabs on 12/13 May.        

F3 Cup Race 1 Top 10

1. Linton Stutely, (Trophy), Laps 9
2. Chris Dittmann, (Trophy), +6.561s
3. Tristan Cliffe (Cup) +7.108s
4. Gino Ussi (Cup) +9.760s
5. Benjamin Harvey, (Cup) +15.159s
6. Dave Karaskas (Trophy) +21.024s
7. James Cross, (Cup) +21.568s
8. James Abbott, (Cup) +23.375s
9. Stuart Wiltshire, (Cup) +24.175s
10. Chris Needham, (Cup) +24.803s

F3 Cup Race 2 Top 10

1. Linton Stutely (Trophy) 15 laps
2. Tristan Cliffe (Cup) +53.863s
3. Gino Ussi (Cup) +58.798s
4. Chris Dittmann (Trophy) +1.02.314s
5. Mark Harrison (Cup) +1 lap
6. Benjamin Harvey(Cup) +1 lap
7. Dave Karaskas (Trophy) +1 lap
8. James Cross (Cup) +1 lap
9. James Abbott (Cup) + 1 lap
10. Neil Harrison (Cup) + 1 lap

Drivers and teams interested in joining the 2012 F3 Cup should contact championship co-ordinator Simon Davey on 07770 368648, email f3cup@msvracing.co.uk. For all the latest news and further announcements visit www.f3cup.co.uk. Follow F3 Cup on twitter at www.twitter.com/f3cup.