Grand Prix circuit battles in store this weekend
F3 Cup heads to Kent and into the second half of the 2016 Championship
With three events at "big lap" circuits remaining in the 2016 Championship, F3 Cup arrives at the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit with almost no separation between the top three drivers in the points table. Confirmation of continued championship status for 2017 has already been received from the MSA - the UK's motorsport governing body - but the current crop of drivers have their eyes fixed firmly on this year's prize, with it all still to play for.
Season-long points leader Shane Kelly, in the University of Wolverhampton Race Team Dallara has seen his lead closed down to a two point margin after the previous F3 Cup round at Oulton. However Shane is quick around Brands and his team will pull out all the stops this weekend. The competitiveness of the UWR Team in F3 Cup racing has been a revelation this season, and sets a high benchmark for other college/university racing teams. Second place in the table, George Line, supported by Wales-based CF Racing, has an enviable record of podium finishes this year and is overdue for a race win, but with seven races to go he is going to have to balance this aim against the need to consistently score top three points finishes. George's team mate at CF Racing James Heffernan is an ex Formula Renault racer who has really got grips with F3 and is posting excellent mid season results. At Spa he was pipped to the race win by the a tiny split second margin, and then at the last round at Oulton he joined team boss Hywel Lloyd and George Line on the podium for a memorable 1-2-3 for CF Racing. CF are currently leading a tense Team Championship contest with Team Fox Racing so points this weekend will be crucial. Daryl Jones, third in the table, has already shown himself to be an F3 Cup race winner at Brands Hatch. He only needs to close a small gap to the top two in his Team Fox Racing car, but consistency is going to be crucial for him as well.
Stuart Wiltshire holds fourth spot in the standings, and with more than 200 points on offer in the last seven rounds he is very much able to take his Chris Dittmann Racing-run Dallara into a top Championship placing. He is also a previous race winner this year, at Spa, and is certainly one of the most committed drivers out there! Speaking of committed drivers, it's great to see his CDR team-mate Tony Bishop here racing again on the Brands GP circuit only a few weeks after a frantic Monoposto race which saw him stretchered away from his wrecked car when a last corner dice for the lead went wrong. He made a strong recovery from this misfortune and has already made the podium last week in Monoposto with a very impressive mid-season come-back.
Omicron Motorsport's lead driver, Jacopo Sebastiani, also won at Spa, and like Stuart Wiltshire has a top three final Championship placing well in view. He is joined this weekend by F3 Cup returnee Wade Eastwood. In the past Wade has shown himself well-able to pedal an F3 car and hopefully his work commitments will allow him more outings during the remainder of season.
Three more very experienced and quick drivers round-out the most modern Cup Class cars. In the second Team Fox Racing entry, Brands Hatch is Robbie Watts' home circuit. He had a frustrating outing at the previous Brands rounds on the Indy circuit and is certainly more than capable of taking top places this weekend in his beautifully turned-out car. He's joined by team-mate Mark Harrison, another very experienced and successful F3 driver who has been on the podium several times this season and is also looking for a top result this weekend. Likewise Malcolm Scott is a proven race winner, and another driver for whom Brands is his home track. He's got a reputation as a master on-track tactician, and he is going to be looking to get onto the podium here.
The entry is rounded off by Geoffrey Hoodless in his lovely Masters Class March 813, rejoining the Championship after a summer break.
Words: Simon Davey
Live timing and updates will be available across the weekend at www.F3Cup.co.uk/live