Sebastiani Breaks Kelly's Stranglehold
Reigning champion Jacopo Sebastiani took the first win of the 2018 season today at Donington Park
Jacopo Sebastiani reasserted his dominance on the F3 Cup championship this afternoon at Donington Park, as he claimed the first victory of the year.
After rain showers earlier in the afternoon, the sun made a reappearance just in time for F3 Cup's 2018 opener. After an intriguing qualifying session this morning in which newcomer Stephen Daly claimed pole position, the cars lined up ready for the start. As the lights went out, Daly struggled to get his car away and Sebastiani jumped on the chance to grab the lead, heading the pack into the first corner.
Kelly, who had qualified third, crossed the line in second place after the first lap and set about trying to catch the Champion. During that first lap, Daly had a spin which dropped him down to fifth place, but allowed Tony Bishop to climb up to third from fifth on the grid.
Within three laps, Daly was back up to third, ahead of George Line and Bishop. Cian Carey was having a miserable race, and after returning to the pits was forced to retire as his Chris Dittmann Racing squad removed the Dallara's engine cover to investigate the problem.
Daly was without doubt the fastest man on track, setting consistently faster lap times, and yet couldn't make enough of a dent in the gap to Kelly ahead; that gap varied lap by lap but Kelly remained out of reach.
Further back, a three way battle developed between Line, Stuart Wiltshire and Bishop for fourth place, Line defending brilliantly until the very end when a brave move by Wiltshire to out-brake the 2016 Champion paid off, as he passed him at Redgate to take the place.
At the chequered flag, Sebastiani took the win, and Kelly's unbroken F3 Cup record at Donington Park with it. The University of Wolverhampton Racing (UWR) driver came home a fine second ahead of Stephen Daly who claimed a podium finish in his first F3 race.
On the podium, Sebastiani said, "It's started well. It's a new car altogether, a new challenge. Many thought the '12 car was not quick enough, but I think it is - so far, so good!"
Kelly commented, "We didn't go out to keep the record today, and testing was a little sketchy due to wet weather so we didn't really know where anyone was. We actually had more pace than I thought in the race, so I think we can battle for wins tomorrow. 70% of the [UWR] team is brand new, and they've done a mega job to get the car ready for their first ever race."
Daly said, "I'd like to thank the team first, for everything, the car was fantastic. As my debut race in F3 Cup and in an F3 car, it's quite a challenge. It's awesome - I was delighted to get off the line at the start after stalling it twice on the warm up lap! It was frustrating to spin the car, we caught some standing water on the kerb coming out of the last corner. I thought it would have been alright, but no, a full 360, but it was great to recover from there back up to the leading pack."
F3 Cup's second race of the weekend is tomorrow (22 April) at 11:10. Stephen Daly starts on pole position again and will be hungry for that first win - head to www.f3cup.co.uk/LIVE for live timing and real time Twitter updates throughout the session.