Newcomer Daly Dominates at Donington
Championship debutant Stephen Daly left an impression as he claimed pole position for his first race
F3 Cup's 2018 Championship roared into life this morning, at the newly revamped Donington Park circuit.
A large number of last year's contenders are back for a fresh campaign, while new faces and returning friends combine for a tantalising mix, with exciting racing guaranteed this season.
A change to qualifying regulations will see the cars start in a predetermined order, which today was the order in which the drivers registered. This meant championship stalwart Stuart Wiltshire was first to hit the tarmac, ahead of newcomer Stephen Daly.
The conditions for qualifying were perfect - the East Midlands circuit looking glorious in the bright spring sunshine - and the warm track temperature and cooler air temperature produced the ideal conditions for fast Formula 3 lap times.
The University of Wolverhampton Racing's Shane Kelly was the early pace setter. After clean sweeps of wins at Donington in both 2016 and 2017, Kelly is a firm favourite this weekend. Tony Bishop was forced to return to the pit lane early on with a tyre puncture, but his CF Racing team got straight to work on an impromptu pit stop and had him back on his way.
Within a few laps, newcomer Stephen Daly showed his stripes, jumping to the top of the table with a 1:02.519. Reigning champion Jacopo Sebastiani, tackling a fresh challenge this year in the shape of a new F312, wasted no time in making his presence felt and secured a solid second spot ahead of Kelly and Cian Carey.
Wiltshire, not content with his mid-table position, put his foot down and jumped up to fourth place in the closing five minutes. Daly however wasn't done - dropping into the 1:01 zone, he remained the only driver to manage that until Sebastiani's final lap.
At the chequered flag, pole position was confirmed as Daly's, and he will line up alongside Sebastiani for race one. Kelly and Wiltshire make up the second row, with Bishop and Carey behind. George Line, Patrick Jeans, Philip Jeans, Roberto Tirone and James Simons complete the grid.
F3 Cup's first race of 2018 takes place at 17:20 this afternoon. Head to www.f3cup.co.uk/LIVE for live timing and real time Twitter updates throughout the session.