Sensational Maiden British F3 Podium For Chaimongkol At Sunny Snetterton
Hillspeed celebrated a richly deserved BRDC British Formula 3 Championship podium return in round eight of the 2018 season at Snetterton 300 Circuit on Sunday, 27th May, where Thailand’s Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol starred to claim his first silverware in F3 racing.
Richard Ollerenshaw’s front-running Hathersage squad, which last visited the F3 podium at Donington Park during the 2017 season finale last September, enjoyed a particularly strong weekend with Chaimongkol also finishing inside the top 10 in round nine.
German rookie Jusuf Owega, making only his second outing of the year after having to miss the opening rounds at Oulton Park due to the category’s minimum age limit, took a season-best with sixth in round eight. On an all-round superb weekend for Hillspeed, Canada’s Ben Hurst raced to a best-yet eighth place in race two to better the top 10 result the rookie achieved at Rockingham.
“Overall I’m very happy indeed with the results we achieved at Snetterton and it’s fantastic to be back on the podium”, said elated team principal Ollerenshaw, “Cutter did a great job all weekend, the pace was there on Thursday and Friday, he qualified strongly and proved his pace in the races. Jusuf, too, was very strong again and he acquitted himself well in the races with a maiden top six.
“Snetterton is the first circuit Cutter has been to where he’s already had some reasonable running, all of the others we go to now will be new to him so we knew this would be an opportunity. Jusuf ran there last August too so, again, that experience helped. Ben’s top eight will really help him going forward, he performed strongly and is improving all the time in, what is, a very competitive field.”
Chaimongkol makes breakthrough in Snetterton sunshine
During two days of pre-event testing prior to the Snetterton weekend, the Hillspeed trio enjoyed strong preparation with Chaimongkol, in particular, impressing. On day two, he was quickest in the final session and fifth fastest on combined times while 16-year-old team-mate Owega ended Friday just outside the overall top 10, having been sixth in session three and fourth in the final run.
Qualifying on Saturday morning produced a continuation of Chaimongkol’s superb Snetterton pace, the Thai youngster securing an excellent fourth on the grid just 0.3 seconds shy of the front row and just half a second away from pole position. Owega made it two Hillspeed cars inside the top 10, on only his second British F3 qualifying outing, with Hurst ending the session 17th on the timesheets.
Frustratingly for Chaimongkol, he wasn’t able to convert his second row starting slot when a sluggish getaway dropped him down to 14th and with a lot of work to do. Owega, therefore, took over the mantle of lead Hillspeed driver in ninth position with Hurst ending the first tour still in 17th spot.
Owega ran in the train of cars queuing up behind fourth place, but after running wide at Hamilton on the fourth tour he slipped back outside the top 12. Both Chaimongkol and Owega, though, battled back well during the second half of the contest to finish the race in 11th and 12th respectively.
Canadian driver Hurst stayed in touch with the cars immediately ahead throughout but looked set to end the encounter in 17th spot until the penultimate tour. Problems for Manuel Maldonado meant the Venezuelan fell to 16th place and Hurst then swept past on the final lap to grab the position.
For round eight on Sunday morning, Hurst began the ‘reverse grid’ encounter from second, Owega was sixth and Chaimongkol seventh. While Hurst and Owega both unfortunately lost ground on the opening lap, edged back to 13th and 12th respectively, Chaimongkol moved up into sixth spot.
Although shuffled back to seventh on lap two, the Thai driver profited on a dramatic third tour to slice his way into fourth place as a couple of rivals ahead tangled and the incident also elevated Owega into ninth and Hurst into the coveted top 10. Into lap five Chaimongkol was three seconds shy of the podium, but during the second half of the race the Hillspeed driver closed the gap impressively.
Setting a best race lap quicker than the eventual winner, while also fending off the attentions of title contender Linus Lundqvist, on the penultimate tour Chaimongkol made his move to grab third from Arvin Esmaeili and he brilliantly kept Lundqvist at bay to celebrate a fabulous result.
“It’s my first full season, only my third race weekend, and to come through from towards the back in the first race to get a podium [in race two] is a really good feeling”, said ‘Cutter’, “I saw Linus was coming in behind me and he was definitely faster, I just had to be careful. I made a good move on Esmaeili and then just tried to get away and defend for the last two laps.”
Owega and Hurst also made up ground as they battled back through, climbing into seventh and eighth with three laps to run, and then, on the 10th and final lap, Owega grabbed sixth from Pavan Ravishankar to seal a very strong recovery drive. Eighth for Hurst, of course, marked another big step forward and, notably, he managed to keep much more experienced drivers behind him.
Race three, round nine, began with Chaimongkol and Owega sharing the sixth row of the grid with Hurst lining-up in 17th position. The lead Hillspeed duo made good progress on lap one to climb into ninth and 10th respectively while Hurst also gained ground to move into the top 15.
Owega passed Chaimongkol on lap two to take ninth before they both closed up behind the group ahead. On the fifth tour Chaimongkol hit back against his team-mate to regain ninth and they stayed in those positions to the finish hot on the heels of the top eight – the Thai just 0.2 seconds shy and Owega right behind. Hurst, meanwhile, held 15th to the flag on lap 10 for another strong finish.
Once again, the pace of the Hillspeed cars was very strong indeed with Chaimongkol lapping a mere 0.1 seconds shy of the fastest lap of the contest and German teenager Owega was only 0.2 seconds outside the ultimate best.
Rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the BRDC British F3 season will take place just a fortnight from now, over the weekend 9th/10th June at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in Northamptonshire.
2018 BRDC British F3 Driver Standings (after Rd9)
11th Sasakorn Chaimongkol, 89pts; 13th Ben Hurst, 56pts; 18th Jusuf Owega, 43pts