Top two expecting Oulton Park duel

An enthralling battle between the top two drivers in F3 Cup, Toby Sowery and Tristan Cliffe, could be in store at Oulton Park next weekend.

An enthralling battle between the top two drivers in F3 Cup, Toby Sowery and Tristan Cliffe, could be in store at Oulton Park next weekend, judging by their form in round eight at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.

Points leader Sowery won twice at Spa, beating Carlin's sole British F3 racer Peter Li Zhi Cong, who was racing in F3 Cup's Invitation Class in a Dallara three years newer than Sowery's. While Sowery and Lanan Racing beating F3 super team Carlin is a notable milestone in Sowery's developing racing career, he admits he was growing increasingly aware of Cliffe closing in on him.

"Tristan has quite a luminous car, so I couldn't miss him gaining on me," said Sowery. "We'd been expecting it, but it caught me on edge a bit."

Traffic played its part in Sowery passing Li in the earlier round seven at Spa. Cliffe says this also denied him the chance to catch the leading pair.

Cliffe said: "I chose the right time to swap onto the dry line in the right corners and I was closing on them. Then the traffic got in the way and I lost a chunk of time. If I hadn't lost that I would have probably been right with them by the end.

"They said they weren't really holding themselves up for the first half of the race before Toby made the clean move in traffic. That gives me confidence because Toby's driven superbly all year."

Sowery insists that fighting in Belgium, and his tussle with Alice Powell at Rockingham where he was beaten for the first time in 2014, have prepared him for what could be coming next.

"There were quite a few laps at Spa where I had a look [to try overtaking Li]. With Tristan catching us I thought I had to try it. At Rockingham there wasn't really the chance to get past but with Peter I managed to find it in both races because Spa is a bit of a more open track. It's giving me experience and a few races of good battling so we're ready for Tristan."  

The racecraft honed by Sowery in recent rounds could be set for its sternest test yet. Cliffe will have to keep an eye on his own mirrors though, as Enigma Motorsport's Henry Chart should feature at Oulton Park next weekend. He missed Spa due to university commitments but was on Sowery's pace in testing at Snetterton at the start of the season. Bad luck has denied him the chance to show that pace and he's yet to race his new Dallara F305.

Another driver returning after missing Spa is the consistent Louis Hamilton-Smith, who's finished in the Cup 07 Class top three in all of his four races of 2014.

Oulton Park hosts F3 Cup on Saturday 12 July. Click here for more details.

Photo credit Jonathan Hatfield/JDH Motorsport Photography