Clean start helps Cliffe conquer tough conditions

A win in the first race of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix round ensured Tristan Cliffe’s run of good form continued and notched up his second win of the season. Starting from pole he lead the closely chasing pair of Louis Hamilton-Smith and Alice Powell to the flag.

A win in the first race of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix round ensured Tristan Cliffe's run of good form continued, notching up his second win of the season. Starting from pole he led the closely chasing pair of Louis Hamilton-Smith and Alice Powell to the flag.

A downpour before the start changed the conditions drastically, but Cliffe managed to getaway cleanly and keep the Dallara on the road.

"Even if I had been on my own out there, if it was qualifying and just trying to set a time, it was difficult." Admitted Cliffe. "The track was evolving and the water was drying up but people were bringing muck onto the circuit in places. And, grease was coming up through the circuit on line but the typical wet line was drying which didn't make it easy. Surtees, Clearways and Druids were just so difficult trying to cancel the oversteer with the throttle."

A good start is especially important at Brands Hatch in an F3 car, and Cliffe's last pole position back in June went awry, first getting too much wheelspin before bogging down. The timing of the downpour, forcing the race to be declared wet when the cars were ready to start their green flag lap, and a sticking clutch couldn't stop him getting a perfect start.

"Going into the assembly area the clutch was really badly dragging. Every time I used the clutch I had to pull it up with my foot because the pedal would stay down. That was a concern, especially when we had the extra laps and extra stops in the pitlane. I've never started this car in the wet so I did all right actually and had a good start. I try and look forwards, so I had put that start behind me."

The damp conditions didn't seem to faze Cliffe and fellow front-runners Hamilton-Smith and Powell. The trio sped off, seeming to be faster in different parts of the track, neutralising the fight.

"Louis and I were conscious of Alice, but I'd pull a gap of half a second maybe and then in the quick bits he would catch me. He'd catch up, I would pull away and my saving grace was that he had to concentrate on Alice. I only had to concentrate on one person and so did Alice so Louis had it harder. He got one run on me on the back straight out of Surtees, better exit, better line but there was no way he was going to get past. By the time we got to the next corner I'd pulled out a second again.

"It certainly wasn't easy and I'm glad we're finished. The points are great and it's good to take some points off Alice, that really helps my championship. I was very conscious that it wasn't about setting fastest lap for race two, it was about staying ahead and winning the race. That may be the wrong attitude at times, but it's better to be third or fourth on the grid and not have to repair my car."

Cliffe set his and the race's fastest lap on the final lap, securing yet another pole position. The race starts at  12.35 on Sunday, and he'll be alongside Louis Hamilton-Smith with Alice Powell just behind in third.