Lloyd claims double win at Oulton Park
F3 Cup’s only one-day event of the year took place this weekend at Oulton Park...
F3 Cup's only one-day event of the year took place this weekend at Cheshire's Oulton Park circuit. A firm favourite with drivers, the circuit has a long history with Formula 3 racing and always provides exciting racing.
A damp morning provided tricky conditions for the qualifying session; rain overnight failed to clear - and indeed, returned during the session. Only UWR's Shane Kelly opted to start the session on the control Pirelli slick tyres with the other drivers choosing for the wet option. It wasn't long before Kelly returned to the pits to put his team to work on an impromptu pit stop to switch to the other rubber, however.
Hywel Lloyd was quick to make his mark on his return to the championship, posting quick times early on ahead of championship leader Kelly and Robbie Watts. The rest of the pack quickly settled into the rhythm however, with George Line and James Heffernan both moving up the order. As the times began to fall they also began to close up, with most of the pack separated by less than 1.5s. Jacopo Sebastiani and Tony Bishop both made late attempts to move up the grid, before the chequered flag confirmed Lloyd's pole position ahead of Kelly and Line.
The weather conditions failed to improve for the first race after the lunch break, as the Clerk of the Course declared a wet race to enable the choice of the Pirelli wets. As the lights went out, Lloyd struggled to launch his CF Racing Dallara in the tricky conditions and Kelly was able to snatch the lead as they turned into Old Hall. Behind them a battle developed between Line and Sebastiani as they headed into Cascades. Lloyd refused to give up however, chasing Kelly hard through Knickerbrook but was unable to pass before the Safety Car was deployed for a stranded Mark Harrison. The Omicron driver had found himself running out of space while avoiding another spun car, and had to be recovered from Deer Leap.
The Safety Car was called back in with just under eight minutes remaining on the clock, and though Lloyd forced one or two errors from Kelly, he had to keep the pressure on a bit longer until he was finally able to capitalise and get past the UWR driver for the lead. In the worsening conditions, the spray from Lloyd's car meant Kelly was unable to stay close and had to settle for second. In the clear air Lloyd was able to set the fastest lap of the race before claiming the win.
The weather improved over the course of the afternoon, with the track still damp but drying as the cars lined up for race two. Lloyd was able to make the most of his pole position this time, and it was Line who managed to get past Kelly to grab second place. Mark Harrison enjoyed a much better start to this race too, which would lead to a thrilling race-long battle with Jacopo Sebastiani after challenging James Heffernan for fourth.
A dry line began to form around the track but only one driver had gambled on slicks - Team Fox's Robbie Watts. Sadly the track didn't dry out fast enough for the strategy to pay off, although Watts was lapping much faster than the cars in front by the end.
As the podium tussle developed, Heffernan found himself on his own ahead of the Harrison/Sebastiani battle, and even when Sebastiani finally got past he was far enough ahead to not be hassled by the Omicron driver. Heffernan would ultimately manage to pass Kelly as the UWR driver made a small mistake - he soon posted the fastest lap of the race trying to make up for it but a costly error on the final lap would force him into retirement at the last second, leaving Lloyd to claim a second victory ahead of George Line and James Heffernan.
The IWI Watches Fastest Lap Award was claimed by Kelly for the 1:38.159 in race two before his retirement, and the Sunoco Driver of the Weekend Award was presented to Mark Harrison for his fantastic battle with Jacopo Sebastiani after an unfortunate DNF in race one.