Birthday Boy Chaimongkol Takes Another Deserved Top Four For Hillspeed At Donington GP
Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol added another top four finish to his season’s tally for Hillspeed during the penultimate event of the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship season at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 23rd September – the Thai driver’s 19th birthday.
Celebrating an excellent drive in the second of three British F3 encounters at the Hathersage team’s ‘home’ track on the penultimate weekend of the 2018 season, Chaimongkol also posted a top 10 result in round 21 later in the day to consolidate ninth in the championship standings.
German team-mate Jusuf Owega started the event with an exceptional performance in the wet qualifying session on Saturday, 22nd September, where he posted the fourth fastest time and only missed out on a maiden pole position by 0.2 seconds.
Unfortunately, Owega couldn’t capitalise on the second row start in the opening encounter on Saturday afternoon and had to settle for ninth position. After a luckless retirement at the start of round 20 on Sunday, the result of a multi-car tangle, he went on to finish 12th in race three.
Ben Hurst, meanwhile, chalked-up three race finishes to continue his development in his maiden season in British F3, the Canadian’s highest result coming in round 20 with a 13th place finish after a strong and solid drive.
“It’s been a mixed weekend at our home track, with a few missed opportunities”, said Hillspeed team boss Richard Ollerenshaw, “Obviously, Cutter’s top four in race two was a highlight, especially on his birthday, and Jusuf’s pace in the wet qualifying was outstanding – to be only 0.2 seconds away from pole was impressive and confirmed the capability of the car.
“Race one didn’t go to plan and then the red flag stoppage in race two didn’t work in our favour at all, Cutter and Jusuf both had good pace before the re-start and things were looking positive. I really do think a podium was possible. Ben continued his development and chalked-up three more finishes which was good, but all in all it was a more frustrating weekend than expected at the start.”
Saturday morning’s qualifying session began frustratingly for Hillspeed with a luckless excursion into the gravel for Hurst bringing out the red flags just a few minutes into the run. When the action resumed, minus the Canadian who subsequently had to start race one from 20th on the grid, Owega starred and lit-up the timesheets with a stunning fourth fastest time.
Lapping within just 0.2 seconds of pole position, Owega made a big impression for the Derbyshire squad. Chaimongkol, meanwhile, was less than a tenth of a second shy of the top six but had to settle for ninth on the grid for round 19 – an indication of how competitive the races should be.
Well placed to challenge for his first British F3 podium in the wet race one, Owega’s hopes were dashed on the first lap when he slipped out of the top four into eighth position. Staying there past mid-distance, he lost another spot on lap eight and eventually finished ninth.
Opening lap dramas for Chaimongkol meant the Thai racer plummeted to 20th and last, heading into the second tour well over 15 seconds shy of the next car and with an absolute mountain to climb to try and salvage any kind of result.
Lapping strongly to eradicate the deficit, the Hillspeed driver caught and then passed Hurst on the ninth tour, the latter having climbed into 17th on lap one before dropping back a place soon after. The next time around, though, another drama for Chaimongkol meant Hurst took 17th ahead of his team-mate at the flag.
For the second race of the weekend on Sunday morning, which started on a damp track, Chaimongkol lined-up in seventh place, after incurring a grid penalty following an incident in race one, with Owega starting in 11th and Hurst in 19th position.
Due to an incident involving Manuel Maldonado on the first lap, though, the Safety Car was deployed and red flags then duly followed to allow the car to be recovered. As a result of the delay, the re-started encounter was scheduled for a maximum duration of just 10 minutes.
At the second time of asking things were no less dramatic as Owega, who had launched from the line well in the original start to gain two places, was caught-up in a luckless multi-car tangle at Redgate which resulted in the Hillspeed driver ending his involvement in the gravel with damage.
Again leading to the appearance of the Safety Car, when racing resumed on lap five Chaimongkol held seventh with Hurst in an elevated 12th place. Chaimongkol gained one spot at the re-start to break into the top six, which he held to the conclusion, but he was then moved up into the top four due to post-race penalties.
Hurst did slip back a couple of places to 14th before the finish as some recovering front-runners made their way back through the order, but he moved up into 13th due a rival's penalty.
Round 21 on Sunday evening looked set to be a challenging encounter for Hillspeed’s trio with Chaimongkol ninth on the grid, Hurst 14th and Owega in 19th place. With the grid placings determined by the fastest lap time of each driver from either of the previous two contests, Owega was adversely affected due to his enforced early retirement in the drier round 20.
Initially, Chaimongkol made progress to climb into the top eight but on lap two he was shuffled back to the tail of the top 10. Following an excursion for Jamie Caroline at the Fogarty Esses on lap three, the Thai moved up into ninth but was edged back to 10th once again where he ended the contest.
While Hurst slipped to 18th position on the opening tour, Owega gained three places on lap one and moved up into 14th place prior to a Safety Car period from lap four. He was then able to gain one more position before the chequered flag on lap 11 but was then elevated into 12th post race due to a penalty for a rival. Hurst, meanwhile, did move into 16th spot midway through but ultimately had to settle for 17th place.
There is now a three week break in the British F3 calendar ahead of the season finale, which will take place over the weekend 13th/14th October, at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in Northamptonshire.
2018 BRDC British F3 Driver Standings (after Rd21)
9th Sasakorn Chaimongkol, 222pts
12th Jusuf Owega, 166pts
16th Ben Hurst, 114pts