Chaimongkol & Clarke Just Miss Podium At Brands Hatch GP
Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol and Oliver Clarke were both tantalisingly close to podium finishes during the four-race BRDC British Formula 3 Championship outing at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 29th/30th August, with each Hillspeed driver posting a best result of fourth place.
Thailand’s Chaimongkol looked well on course for his maiden podium of 2020 in round 10 on Sunday morning after an electric start from third on the grid, but the race was red flagged on lap two. At the new race start, too much wheelspin dropped him to fifth but he fought back well to finish fourth.
British racer Clarke took his top four best in round nine on Saturday afternoon, an excellent drive from sixth on the grid. Grabbing fifth straight away, he moved into fourth on lap four and challenged hard for the podium during the remainder of the encounter on his debut at the legendary Kent track.
“We’ve got two very determined and capable drivers in Cutter and Ollie”, said Richard Ollerenshaw, team principal of Markham Vale’s Hillspeed, “They’re both prepared to fight hard and race for every place, and they were unfortunate not to be on the podium this weekend at Brands.
“Ollie clearly demonstrated again what a great racer he is, I’m really pleased with the fourth place he achieved and he’s one of the few drivers in the championship to race as hard. Cutter is very similar in his approach, you don’t often get a second opportunity at Brands and he absolutely fought for every chance when it was there. They undoubtedly had the pace to be back on the podium this weekend.”
Hillspeed duo show podium potential yet again
Benefitting from both dry and wet running during pre-event testing, qualifying on Saturday morning took place on a damp track and Chaimongkol progressively got quicker and quicker before leaping to second on the timing screens on his penultimate lap with a time of 1m31.507 seconds (95.72mph).
So close was the battle at the top, he ultimately ended the session seventh fastest but only 0.3 seconds away from pole position. For Clarke, the session was a very frustrating one when an early excursion into the gravel at Druids caused a red flag stoppage – limiting him to 16th quickest.
Round eight just over a couple of hours later started well for Chaimongkol as he held on to seventh over the course of the opening lap. Clarke, though, absolutely starred by gaining no fewer than five positions to move up into 11th place.
Due to an excursion for Kaylen Frederick at Surtees, the Safety Car was deployed in time for the start of lap two and racing didn’t resume until lap six. Chaimongkol pressured hard to try and find a way into the top six, staying within just 0.3 seconds of the car ahead, but had to settle for seventh.
Clarke took the chequered flag inside the top 10, moving up a place on lap eight when Bart Horsten slipped down the order. Post-race, though, Clarke was elevated into ninth when Piers Prior was excluded from the results.
Lining-up sixth on the ‘reverse grid’ for round nine later in the afternoon, Clarke made a great start and climbed into fifth position before pressuring Manaf Hijjawi for fourth place. Just 0.2 seconds behind into lap three, the Hillspeed racer challenged hard and on the fourth tour he went through.
Setting his sights on the podium, Clarke had two seconds to make up to Horsten in third but in the space of a single lap he sliced 0.8 seconds from the gap. Just 0.4 seconds behind into lap eight, Clarke gave his all but remained fourth to the chequered flag on lap 14 – his best lap of 1m22.020 seconds quicker than that managed by race winner Nazim Azman.
From eighth on the grid, Chaimongkol was shuffled back to 11th position on the opening lap and so was determined to break back into the top 10 as quickly as possible. Just a few tenths of a second behind Ulysse De Pauw, on lap five both drivers moved up the order when Hijjawi dropped back.
As the race entered its closing stages, at the start of lap 12 only six seconds separated Chaimongkol in 10th spot from the lead of the race – underlining how closely matched BRDC British F3 is. With no other gains possible, the Thai finished in 10th position.
For round 10 on Sunday morning, Chaimongkol started third on the grid thanks to his second best lap in Saturday’s qualifying session while Clarke faced a similar challenge to that of race one of the weekend, starting again from 16th place.
Chaimongkol aced the start, storming into second place on the run into Paddock Hill Bend, but an excursion at the end of lap one for De Pauw at Clearways led to the appearance of the Safety Car. Incredibly, three cars then made contact under Safety Car conditions at Graham Hill Bend, and this led to a red flag stoppage. Clarke, meanwhile, was up into 12th at the time of the stoppage.
At the re-start, Chaimongkol got too much wheelspin off the line and frustratingly slipped to fifth as a result into the cambered right-hander at Paddock. Hitting back to take fourth from Kiern Jewiss on the run into Graham Hill Bend, the Thai then tried to re-take third at Surtees but had to tuck back in.
Chaimongkol maintained fourth into lap two, right behind Kush Maini, while in the sister Hillspeed car Clarke climbed into 11th place after passing Josh Mason. Continuing to push, Chaimongkol set the fastest lap of the race on lap five and he piled on the pressure to Maini.
Into the 10th and final lap, Chaimongkol was only 0.3 seconds adrift but at the chequered flag he had to settle for fourth. Clarke pressured Azman for 10th place almost race-long, but wasn’t able to make the breakthrough.
Chaimongkol lined-up in seventh position on the grid for round 11, the weekend finale, with Clarke starting in 10th place. Making a good launch, Chaimongkol climbed into sixth and looked to make a bid for fifth into Druids. Clarke was shuffled back to 12th on a busy first lap before the Safety Car appeared ahead of the start of lap three.
Racing resumed on lap six and there were mere tenths of a second in it, but no opportunities to pass forthcoming. On lap 10, Clarke had positioned himself well and after taking a serious look at Frederick into Graham Hill Bend he did the same into Surtees. In the end, he had to settle for 12th.
Chaimongkol looked set to remain sixth to the chequered flag on lap 12, but just three corners from home he was able to slice through into an unexpected fifth position after a moment for Horsten at Sheene Curve.
British F3 will make the second of three visits to Donington Park next, with rounds 12, 13 and 14 of the season taking place over the weekend 19th/20th September.
2020 BRDC British F3 Driver Standings (after Rd11)
8th Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol, 141pts; 12th Oliver Clarke, 124pts