Brands Hatch - Weekend Preview
F3 Cup heads to Kent this weekend with some familiar faces rejoining the fray
F3 Cup heads into the pressure-bowl that is the Brands Hatch Indy circuit this weekend with championship leader Aaron Steele looking to extend his points lead in the Grays Motorsport Dallara. He took a solid brace of second places at Donington despite clutch difficulties which saw him start the last race from the pit lane.
Behind him in the points table is a group of three drivers all successfully climbing the F3 learning curve. Stuart Wiltshire has a newly acquired Dallara F308 which he is finding more and more to his liking. His climb up the leader board in his Chris Dittmann Racing (CDR)-run car has already set one of the landmarks for the season. Close on his heels Jacopo Sebastiani is also making good progress with his Omicron Motorsport Dallara F311. He had a taste of a podium finish at Oulton and it's possible that Brands Hatch will also suit him well. The third man in this group is Daniel Tapinos, who is also learning all the UK circuits in his CF Racing Dallara F311. He dealt with the fact that he was unable to test before the Donington round with such determination that he earned the Sunoco "Driver of the Weekend" award. He is scheduled to test at Brands before this weekend so should be even closer to podium pace over the weekend.
Louis Hamilton-Smith should be a front runner here, having been forced to miss Donington after a mechanical failure in the team's transporter. His season has stuttered so far as the car had hub problems at Oulton but he is likely to offer perhaps the strongest challenge to Aaron Steele this weekend.
Tony Bishop also returns having missed Donington and will have a very busy weekend as alongside his CDR Dallara as he is also campaigning his Mono-spec machine in the Monoposto Championship. He'll be facing eight intense track sessions over two days, which is a big sporting commitment and a real test of fitness on a circuit like Brands Hatch Indy; F3 cars are a very physical drive, generating high G-force through the corners.
F3 Cup welcomes back two returnees from last year this weekend: Belgium-based Frank Thomas will drive his Gale Force Racing tended Dallara F305, bringing another international flavour to the entry list. From a little closer to home Lee McCrumlish brings out a newly acquired Dallara F301, run by Stanbridge Motorsport. The team, run by F3 Cup veteran James Simons, is settling down after moving to a new base in Norfolk over the winter and expect to run a couple more cars in F3 Cup as the season progresses.
F3 Cup now has a triple header format for most of its events, including Brands Hatch. Competitors' first and second-fastest qualifying laps set their grid positions for the first two races, with starting position for the final, longer race being set by finishing positions in Race 2. This system is intended to reward both speed and consistency. With start position being crucial at Brands, expect to see action right from the beginning of qualifying on Saturday!
F3 Cup will have qualifying and Race One on Saturday, with Races Two and Three on Sunday. You can follow the action via live timing on the F3 Cup website, with live updates also available on Twitter.
Words: Simon Davey