Strong Season Finale For Hillspeed At Donington Ensures Top Eight Championship Finish For Chaimongkol
Hillspeed enjoyed a consistently strong conclusion to the 2019 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship season at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 14th/15th September, with Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol chalking up a weekend best of fourth place and two further top five results.
Taking away a big haul of points from the final three races of the season, Chaimongkol ends the championship campaign an excellent eighth in the driver standings and is one of only two drivers to chalk-up points finishes in all 24 races this year – the Thai having also done the same in 2018.
Impressively, the just-concluded season is only the Thai 20-year-old's second in car racing at any level and having become a British F3 race winner during the previous event at Silverstone last month he will certainly be a major title threat if he returns with Hathersage-based Hillspeed in 2020.
“This has been, by far, Cutter’s strongest weekend overall – three very good finishes, great pace and some excellent racecraft”, said Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “There’s still work to do in qualifying, that’s the only thing which realistically stopped us from taking away one or perhaps two podiums at Donington.
“Cutter has adapted very strongly in only his second season in cars, it’s important to stress the lack of experience he has in racing compared to the competition at the front. When that’s taken into account, alongside his great progress and development with us this year to become a British F3 race winner, it’s clear to see Cutter can be a major contender if he returns in 2020.”
Fresh from his maiden British F3 victory last time out, Chaimongkol got the Donington weekend off to a good start with the seventh fastest time overall on the first day of testing on Thursday, 12th September, and then improved to be a very competitive third quickest on Friday, 13th September.
During qualifying on Saturday morning, another closely contested session concluded with the Thai driver just half a second shy of pole position but having to settle for seventh fastest – losing one lap as a result of a perceived track limits infringement.
Determined to make as much headway as possible at the beginning of round 22 later in the day, Chaimongkol climbed into sixth position and ran tight behind the car of Ulysse De Pauw lap after lap with mere tenths between them. Try as he might, the Hillspeed racer couldn’t quite find the gap he needed for a pass but, post-race, a penalty for De Pauw elevated Chaimongkol into fifth position.
Starting the penultimate race of the season on Sunday morning from 10th on the grid, he produced a tremendous performance and despite a potentially hairy moment at the Old Hairpin on lap one, when several cars banged wheels, he survived intact and duly gained two places.
Holding eighth into lap two, Chaimongkol passed Hampus Ericsson for seventh out of the Old Hairpin and swiftly grabbed sixth too after Pavan Ravishankar ran wide a split second later. Running close behind the car of Neil Verhagen, when the American passed by Kris Wright on lap four the latter became Chaimongkol’s new target.
Serving up a terrific pass on lap five into the braking zone for Melbourne Hairpin, the Hillspeed ace quickly re-attached himself to the rear wing of fourth placed Verhagen and a titanic battle unfolded during the second half of the race.
Delivering fastest lap pace, Chaimongkol swarmed behind Verhagen over the final few laps and at the chequered flag on lap 12 he was just 0.193 seconds shy of fourth at the line. Post-race, though, a penalty for Lucas Petersson lifted Chaimongkol into the revised top four.
For the final race of the season, round 24, the Hillspeed star lined-up seventh on the grid and quickly moved into the top six through Redgate. Running very closely behind Manuel Maldonado’s car lap after lap, Chaimongkol applied as much pressure as possible but a suitable gap didn’t present itself.
Both did move up a place when De Pauw pitted on lap five and Chaimongkol tried all he could but, in the end, he had to settle for a still strong fifth place finish a mere 0.2 seconds behind Maldonado on lap 12 at the chequered flag.
With the BRDC British F3 season now complete, Hillspeed heads into an extensive winter testing programme in preparation for the 2020 motor racing campaign – a landmark year for the team as it will mark Hillspeed’s 50th anniversary.
“It’s always good to end a season strongly and positively”, added Ollerenshaw, “It’s a shame Nico [Varrone] couldn’t be back with us this weekend for the final three races but, like Cutter, we’d love to work with him again next season if he can get the budget together for a full campaign. The work starts now on our preparations for 2020.”
Final 2019 British F3 Championship Standings
8th Sasakorn Chaimongkol, 314pts; 17th Nico Varrone, 109pts