Gearbox gremlins halt impressive Steele Daytona debut

27/01/12 - Gearbox failure cut short F3 Cup driver Aaron Steele’s prize drive in the prestigious GRAND-AM 200 race after an impressive showing in tricky conditions.

27/01/12 - Gearbox failure cut short F3 Cup driver Aaron Steele's prize drive in the prestigious GRAND-AM 200 race after an impressive showing in tricky conditions at the famous Daytona International Speedway today (Friday 27 January).

The 23-year-old, who won an impressive 14 of 18 races in the 2011 MSVR-run F3 Cup to secure the Sunoco GRAND-AM 200 Challenge and a fully funded drive at Daytona, made a head turning start to the race in treacherous wet conditions. Steele ran as high as 22nd place before gearbox gremlins curtailed what looked to be strong performance for the Kent-born racer in the biggest race of his career to date.

Steele said: "The race started well. I kept it on the track which was the priority. It was a great first lap and I was very happy with my progress. Its annoying that I did all the hard work and then the car breaks, but that is motorsport. It doesn't matter if you are at Daytona or Donington Park, this could happen anywhere. The Sunoco GRAND-AM 200 Challenge is a fantastic prize and to get this opportunity to come out and to do this. It is hard to contemplate until you get here."

Steele's hopes for a top-10 finish were hampered in qualifying when engine problems limited him to a handful of laps. The issues meant he could only secure 54th place on the 82 car grid, but this failed to stop him from charging up the field in the race. The Rochester-born driver produced a strong performance in Friday morning free practice after his Mitchum Motorsport team changed the engine in the the Chevrolet Camaro, which bode well for the race.

However, just hours before the race the heavens opened making driving conditions desperately difficult and wet tyres became essential for the entire field. Steele adapted well to the conditions and he stormed through the field on the opening lap of the 3.6-mile Daytona circuit crossing the finish line in 22nd place at the end of the first lap. The F3 Cup star continued to impress with laps consistently on the pace of the race leaders and at one point he was the second fastest man on the track.

With the track beginning to dry out, slick tyres soon became the most valuable commodity and he came into the pits for a new set of rubber. However, drama struck shortly after returning to the track on lap 12 when smoke began to bellow from the Chevrolet. Steele continued but after a couple of laps he was forced to retire the car due to a gearbox failure. Despite the retirement, Steele believes there are positives to take from the opportunity to shine on the world stage.

He added:"Unfortunately you just have to get on with it I can take the confidence that I drove the car well and a new type of car. This has given me confidence that I can jump into any car and drive it."

F3 Cup drivers will be able to contest for a prize drive at Daytona courtesy of the 2012 Sunoco GRAND-AM 200 Challenge.

Drivers and teams interested in joining the 2012 F3 Cup should contact championship co-ordinator Simon Davey on 07770 368648, email For all the latest news and further announcements visit Follow F3 Cup on twitter @F3Cup.

Photos by Jakob Ebrey