British F3 Debutant Owega Impresses With Top Eight For Hillspeed On Series Bow
Car racing rookie Jusuf Owega produced a sparkling performance on his debut in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship at Rockingham in Northamptonshire over the weekend, 28th/29th April, to secure an excellent top eight best for Hillspeed on his first competitive outing in single-seaters.
Cologne driver Owega, who wasn’t eligible to race in the championship curtain-raiser at Oulton Park earlier this month as he was below the age limit of 16 at that point, delivered a very strong account of himself for the Hathersage team which is now looking forward to the next rounds at Snetterton.
Team-mate Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol also posted a top eight result, his coming in a Safety Car affected race three of the weekend, while Canadian driver Ben Hurst made his first appearance in the top 10 during the same contest. Notably, all three Hillspeed competitors had never lapped Rockingham in the dry prior to the second race of the weekend on Sunday.
“We’ve all been very impressed with Jusuf on his first race weekend in British F3, he’s done an exceptional job and to come away with a top eight result is very strong indeed”, said Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “There’s clearly a lot of potential and a lot to build on, the aim now is to continue making big strides forward against the much more experienced competition.
“Cutter also took his best result yet with eighth in the last race, there was a lot to learn this weekend and hopefully he can take that forward to Snetterton and make more progress. Ben racked up three more important finishes, he’s getting quicker and more rounded as an F3 driver with each outing, and that’s obviously what we want to see as he adapts to the championship.”
Ollerenshaw added: “The most impressive aspect for me was the fact all three drivers had never experienced Rockingham in the dry prior to race two. Cutter didn’t even see the track until Friday, Jusuf only had one test in mixed conditions in November and Ben didn’t have any dry experience either. I’m very pleased with the progress, we hope to get some testing in now before Snetterton.”
Car racing debutant Owega made a serious impression from the outset at Rockingham, qualifying with the 10th fastest time for race one of the weekend in a rain affected session and going on to deliver a superb performance in round four later in the day.
Despite the very challenging conditions in race one, with rooster tails of spray making vision very difficult, Owega put together a terrific opening lap to gain four places and climb into the top six prior to the appearance of the Safety Car on the second tour.
When racing resumed on lap five, the 16-year-old pressed on for even more and piled significant pressure on Manuel Maldonado lap after lap. As the race neared the conclusion, Owega himself had to contend with pressure but held onto sixth place until the 12th and final lap when a late challenge from a rival resulted in the Hillspeed racer slipping to, a nonetheless terrific, eighth at the finish.
Chaimongkol and Hurst, who qualified 14th and 19th on the grid respectively, concluded the race with a fantastic inter-team battle, the Canadian just shading the Thai racer by 0.6 seconds at the chequered flag.
Although avoiding a multi-car incident at the exit of Deene Hairpin on lap one, an unfortunate excursion for Chaimongkol into the gravel at Tarzan meant he ended the opening tour in 13th place, behind Hurst who moved up into the top 12.
After the early Safety Car period, Hurst was shuffled back to 14th position following the resumption but a moment for Chaimongkol meant the Hillspeed cars switched around once again with Hurst moving into 13th spot. Chaimongkol quickly made up the lost ground and over the final four laps the team-mates circulated nose-to-tail, with Hurst defending well to just hold on to the top 12.
For Sunday morning’s fifth round, featuring a fully reversed grid, the Thai racer started on pole position for the first time with Owega fourth on the grid and Hurst 18th – the Canadian would have been at the front of the reverse grid but his best lap time from race one wasn’t within 3% of the quickest lap of the contest, meaning he had to begin round five from the back.
Making a good start from pole, Chaimongkol led the field through Turn One of the Oval banking and through the infield but at Tarzan Hairpin he was edged back to second by Kush Maini. Holding second into lap two, the Hillspeed racer was then unfortunately bundled back outside the top 10 before eventually ending the race in a frustrating 15th position.
From the second row, Owega was elbowed back to 13th place on a tough opening lap and things got worse on the third tour when an excursion dropped the German to the tail of the field. Recovering as well as he could, producing good pace in the process, Owega eventually worked his way back into 16th position before the finish. Hurst, meanwhile, gained more experience with a 19th place result.
In the weekend finale, round six, Owega lined-up 13th on the grid with Chaimongkol alongside in 14th place and Hurst started in 19th position. Owega climbed into 11th on lap one before the Safety Car put in an appearance and he stayed there after the re-start until an unfortunate moment led to retirement on the eighth tour.
From row seven on the grid, Chaimongkol didn’t make any headway prior to the Safety Car but after the action resumed on lap four he made progress. Taking 13th on lap seven, he then gained two places to move into 11th before the Safety Car was required a second time.
After the second resumption on lap 12, the Thai driver moved into the top 10 but as a result of a couple of rivals being disqualified from the race he was ultimately classified in eighth. Hurst also benefitted from the post-race judicial decisions, elevating him from 13th at the chequered flag into the top 10 – his highest finish of the season.
Hillspeed now has a four week break from competitive action with rounds seven, eight and nine of the BRDC British F3 season taking place over the weekend 26th/27th May at Snetterton 300 Circuit in Norfolk.
2018 BRDC British F3 Driver Standings (after Rd6)
13th Sasakorn Chaimongkol, 48pts; 14th Ben Hurst, 37pts; 18th Jusuf Owega, 13pts