Ahmed edges closer to title
Enaam Ahmed edged closer to claiming the 2017 BRDC British F3 Championship as he converted the pole position to his 11th win of the season in the opening race of the weekend at Snetterton, with Lanan Racing’s Toby Sowery challenging throughout and finishing just behind, while James Pull secured another podium finish with third. Ahmed now only needs two strong results tomorrow to clinch this year’s title.
Ahmed had been in imperious form in pre-event testing, topping every session on Friday, and he continued his excellent showing with a superb display to claim pole position in qualifying on Saturday morning. His time of 1:43.202, set just as the chequered flag came out, was 0.339 seconds clear of the field, with Sowery clinching a front row slot in second place, while a late effort from Krishnaraaj Mahadik put him third fastest for Double R Racing, only 0.068 seconds off Sowery’s effort. Carlin duo Pull and Cameron Das were fourth and fifth fastest with Jordan Cane sixth for Douglas Motorsport. Ben Hingeley was seventh for Fortec with Chase Owen (Hillspeed with Cliff Dempsey Racing) eighth, Double R Racing’s Guilherme Samaia ninth and Douglas Motorsport’s Callan O’Keeffe 10th, with the top-10 covered by less than eight tenths of a second.
Morning rain complicated any pre-qualifying plans, with most of the field opting for dry tyres at the start of the session, while Fortec drivers Hingeley and Manuel Maldonado, as well as Sowery opted for wets in the early stages. But with immediate lap times not far off yesterday’s testing results, the trio were quickly back into the pits to change onto dry weather Pirellis. All three Carlin drivers took turns to occupy top spot in the first half of the session, but improving conditions meant that lap times quickly tumbled, and it was only at the midway point that Ahmed began to stamp his authority. His effort of 1:43.453 with 12 minutes remaining would have been quick enough to secure pole anyway, but the championship leader was determined to show his credentials, and set a further three laps that were all improvements, each time shaving fractions of a second off in a brilliant display of consistency, his best overall time of 1m43.202s coming as the chequered flag dropped. Behind him was wide open though, with Sowery popping up to second place with just over five minutes to go, with the top three having been occupied by the Carlin drivers for much of the session. Mahadik’s effort with around a minute remaining was well deserved after a session in which he showed constant improvement. Pull and Das had to settle for fourth and fifth, having been challengers for pole in the early stages, but both less than a tenth of a second off Mahadik in a very close session, with Douglas Motorsport’s Cane just a tenth further adrift.
In race one Ahmed made a good start to lead the field down to Riches on the first lap, with Sowery maintaining second place off the line, while Mahadik slipped from third to fifth. Ahmed led by 1.4 seconds at the end of the opening lap, but that was as big as his lead ever got, as a determined Sowery looked to close the gap. Sowery trimmed the lead to a second at the end of lap two, and although Ahmed was able to re-stretch it a lap later, Sowery wasn’t done and by the end of lap six the lead was just half a second. The pair then lapped at almost identical speed, with the gap remaining at 0.6 seconds until the final lap when Ahmed extended the gap to just under a second, clinching his 11th win of the season in the process.
Behind the duo at the front, Pull and Hingeley remained ahead of Mahadik for the duration of the race, although the Indian driver was just 0.296s behind Hingeley at the flag, Hingeley the big gainer on the opening lap, rising from seventh on the grid to fourth, which he kept for the whole race. Das in sixth was a second clear of Cane while Samaia improved one place on his grid position to take eighth. Jamie Chadwick enjoyed a strong race, climbing from 11th on the grid to finish ninth, with O’Keeffe just under half a second behind.
Omar Ismail gained a place on his grid position to take 11th, while Hillspeed with Cliff Dempsey Racing’s Nick Worm headed an entertaining battle with Owen and Maldonado, with Nicolai Kjaergaard completing the finishers.
Ahmed’s title lead is up to 117 points, and now only needs to score 13 more points than his nearest rival Pull in tomorrow’s second race of the weekend to claim the title with four races to spare. With the top-eight finishers on the grid reversed for race two however, and Pull starting from sixth place, Ahmed will have his work cut-out, but even so, it’s likely he will be crowned after race three.
“I got a really good start but track conditions had changed a bit so I was struggling with my car a little bit and I felt really loose. Toby was catching me and it was really hard to be able to up my pace because I was really struggling, but I adapted my driving style a little bit to the conditions I had and the car I had and I was able to keep the gap and win the race. I was worried a little bit because he was catching me quite a lot and there was not much I could do as the car was difficult to drive. I thought he was going to be able to easily overtake me but once I adapted my style I was able to keep the gap which was a relief. Tomorrow I’m just going to go for it and hopefully get the title sorted”, Ahmed commented.