Season Review 2020
When respected motor racing team Hillspeed revved-up its preparations for the squad’s 50th Anniversary year back in January, little did anybody know how the landmark campaign would become just as prominent for another reason – the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Looking forward to a true celebratory year for the team’s Golden Anniversary, as the new BRDC British Formula 3 Championship season neared its start the full devastation of the coronavirus worldwide became clear.
Resulting in motor racing being mothballed around the globe as the lockdown came into force, the British F3 season – and as a result the true beginning of Hillspeed’s 50th anniversary year – was rescheduled to begin in early August.
The team’s 2020 line-up, race-winning F3 driver Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol and young British F3 rookie Oliver Clarke, started the season somewhat on the back foot with the Thai racer having been out of a car for almost a full year and Clarke having minimal testing ahead of his debut.
Even so, both impressed during the compacted 24-race campaign with Clarke belying his limited experience in his first full season in cars with two podium finishes en-route to an impressive eighth in the driver standings. Chaimongkol, who was limited to a single podium in a season which was only assured for him a week before the opening event, finished the championship seventh in the points.
“Overall, taking everything into consideration, I think everyone at Hillspeed was satisfied with our 50th anniversary season”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “Yes, we would have liked to have been back on the top step of the podium as we know we had the capability to do that. We certainly had the car to achieve it, but a few things did go against Ollie and Cutter at times.
“I was very impressed with Ollie’s performances right from the start of the championship, even more so when you consider the lack of testing he had with a tight budget. To claim two podiums in his rookie year at this level, and to end the season just 10 points behind Cutter in the standings, was a superb achievement. He is very much one to watch for the future.”
Ollerenshaw added: “With only a couple of weeks to go before the start of the rescheduled season, we still weren’t sure if Cutter would be racing but we managed to put a very late deal together with a lot of hard work. Having been out of a car for a full year, with no testing at all, he did a good job and was certainly very unlucky to miss out on more podiums.”
Multiple trophies for Hillspeed in 50th Anniversary year
Having moved into brand new premises at Markham Vale in Derbyshire ahead of the 2020 season, Hillspeed had high hopes and during the rescheduled championship curtain-raiser at Oulton Park in Cheshire there was an impressive top five best for Chaimongkol in round one while Clarke starred on his maiden weekend with a best of sixth place in round three.
Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit, the team’s ‘home’ track, was next a fortnight later and Clarke continued his magnificent start to life in British F3 with his maiden podium – finishing third in round six in wet conditions, having run as high as second. Chaimongkol, meanwhile, took an event best of seventh place in round five.
At Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent, both Hillspeed racers only just missed out on podiums with top four results to underline the team’s package. Round 10 was frustrating for Chaimongkol, an electric start from third on the grid set him up for a victory challenge but the race was red flagged on lap two. Getting a less favourable launch at the re-start, he ended the race fourth.
The second of three visits to Donington came next in mid-September and Chaimongkol challenged hard again for silverware, but ultimately had to settle for a top five best in round 14. Clarke wasn’t able to repeat his heroics from the previous trip to Leicestershire, but did rack up a good points haul.
Clarke’s local circuit followed, Snetterton 300, and he delivered a memorable weekend with a brace of excellent top four finishes at the rain-hit Norfolk track, tantalisingly close to another podium. Chaimongkol experienced a luckless event, coming away with a best of sixth place, which enabled Clarke to leap-frog his team-mate in the championship.
The final Donington race meeting of the year was by far the most successful of 2020 for Hillspeed, with both drivers climbing the podium. Clarke’s second career rostrum came in round 19 and he was all-set to add a season-best second position in round 21, until a damaged tyre sidewall forced him to frustratingly retire.
In the sister red and gold car, Chaimongkol was able to profit from Clarke’s bad luck by moving up into the top three and so securing his first visit to the podium of the year. In qualifying too, the team-mates had been rapid with Clarke second fastest and Chaimongkol third quickest.
“The penultimate weekend at Donington really was fantastic for the whole team, we had the pace from the start of testing and all the way through qualifying and the races”, reflected Ollerenshaw, “When you’re slightly disappointed to have come away with a podium for each driver, it shows how strong and competitive the package was.
“From being in the fight for pole position in qualifying, through to challenging for the podium with Ollie and Cutter, we delivered a fantastic car. It would have been a dream result to win at our home track in such an important year for the team, but we couldn’t be too disappointed.”
Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit hosted the season finale in early November and the Hillspeed duo were very evenly matched once more. Chaimongkol raced to a best result of fifth place from the final three races, securing seventh in the standings, while Clarke secured a hat-trick of top sixes and a best finish of fourth to end the year eighth in the championship.
All focus now, of course, is on 2021 and Hillspeed’s aim of mounting a major challenge for the new Teams’ Championship in British F3 as well as the Drivers’ title – which now carries with it a prize of a test in an FIA Formula 3 Championship car. Cheshire’s Oulton Park is provisionally scheduled to host the first British F3 event of the year on Saturday, 3rd April and Easter Monday, 5th April.
Drivers looking to join the British F3 grid with a race-winning team, offering one of the most competitive and value-for-money packages, are invited to contact Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw on 07966 650400 or by email to [email protected]