Team manager showdown on day one at Rockingham
A battle of team managers took place today as F3 Cup arrived at Rockingham Motor Speedway
F3 Cup arrived at Rockingham today for the final time, as the Corby venue closes its doors for the final time at the end of the year. A couple of amendments to the published entry list saw the two leading team managers squaring up as Chris Dittmann filled in for Phillip Jeans, and Hywel Lloyd took to the wheel of Jacopo Sebastiani's car.
As qualifying got underway, championship leader Cian Carey was the early pace setter, but it didn't take long for Dittman and championship rival Shane Kelly to find their form. Baptiste Leonard briefly appeared in the top three, before Lloyd got his foot down and jumped to the top of the times. Dittmann and Lloyd traded times for the majority of the session, with Kelly and Carey also getting involved as the times fell. At the flag, it was the two team managers at the top, with Kelly and Carey on row two. Dittmann secured pole position for race one by just 0.42 seconds.
The first race of the weekend lined up on Saturday afternoon, and despite a clean start for all, the drama was not long in coming. As the leaders approached turn three, Lloyd and Carey ran out of space, with Lloyd ending up in the gravel on the outside of the corner, his retirement causing the Safety Car to be deployed. The pack up closed up behind Dittmann, helping Kelly and Jeans to close the gap to the leader and allowing Carey to catch up to the pack.
Dittmann made a strong restart when the Safety Car returned to the pit lane, but Kelly was in hot pursuit. Carey began to pick his way through the field, working his way all the way up to fourth before lining up Patrick Jeans for third place. Slipping past as turn two, as he had a lap earlier to pass Wiltshire, he placed himself in the podium spots.
He tried the same move he had before on Kelly, but left his braking too late into the hairpin and the pair came together, allowing Leonard and Wiltshire to take up the remaining podium positions. Carey managed to get his car going again but was forced to limp around to the pit lane.
Speaking after the race Dittmann said, "Cian got a mega start as well, but he was alongside Hywel into turn one. I went quite deep into turn two but then there was the contact at turn three and I had a gap behind me. I got a good restart [after the Safety Car] and then just got my head down. I knew Hywel was going to be tough to beat here so that [contact] made things a bit easier for me."