Changing conditions provide exciting start to Silverstone weekend
F3 Cup’s visit to Silverstone GP this weekend got off to a rather wet start but the weather improved for the first race
F3 Cup's visit to Silverstone GP this weekend got off to a rather wet start, as the drivers took to the hallowed tarmac on Saturday afternoon amidst clouds of spray after constant rain all day.
Although the rain finally stopped as the cars were due out, the track remained wet and all drivers opted for the Pirelli wet tyres. A couple of new faces looked set to mix up the pack this weekend, with Tim Buckley, returning in his Invitation class car, and newcomer Matt Bell who was runner-up in the 2013 British GT Championship.
Indeed, it was Bell who topped the table first, but George Line was quick to set chase, this weekend being vital for him to keep his hopes of the championship title alive. Also keen to continue their strong forms from Brands Hatch were Jacopo Sebastiani and James Heffernan, but other front-runners this year were not going to let them have it their own way, namely Daryl Jones, Robbie Watts and of course championship leader Shane Kelly.
After three laps Line was maintaining his lead ahead of Bell, Jones and Watts. He was clearly not satisfied with this however as his times continued to fall from the 2:21s to ultimately post a 2:18.962 claiming pole position for the first race of the weekend.
Race 1 beckoned on Sunday morning in much better conditions - a dry track and bright blue skies welcomed the drivers. Although Matt Bell was forced to miss this first race due to GT Cup commitments, Malcolm Scott joined the grid in his Omicron Motorsport prepared car. As the lights changed it looked a clean start for all, but within a few moments George Line was handed a 10 second penalty for a false start, the pole sitter just slightly too keen to make the most of his advantage. Robbie Watts had a particularly good start, making up some positions through the Copse/Maggots/Becketts complex.
James Heffernan soon found himself under pressure from Watts, as behind them Sebastiani began to challenge Jones for fourth place. The top three soon caught up to Line, and as they tussled Sebastiani and Jones caught them too, leading to a five-way battle for the lead!
There were more penalties to come however, as Heffernan and later Bishop picked up time penalties for exceeding track limits. Sebastiani pulled off an exceptional move through Maggots and Becketts to grab fourth place, and championship leader Kelly staged something of a comeback to grab fourth. As the timekeepers applied these in real time, the positions began to shift and when Sebastiani suffered technical issues, Kelly found himself in a podium spot. Line and Watts continued to dice for position on the road, though in reality Line's penalty had cost him dearly.
Further back, Stuart Wiltshire was running well but clearly struggling with a foot injury incurred earlier in the week, while Tim Buckley was forced to retire to the pit lane before the end of the race. As the chequered flag fell, it was Robbie Watts who claimed the win, his third in a row, ahead of Daryl Jones and Shane Kelly, who manages to extend his lead at the top of the points table. Speaking after the race, Watts said, "We had a fantastic race, he [Line] blocked me quite hard but brilliant to get the win - that's three in a row. In the dirty air behind someone it's really hard, you lose so much downforce."
The second race of the weekend is at 16:20 this afternoon - follow live updates and timing at www.f3cup.co.uk/live
Photo credit: Norwich Photo