Ahmed leads Carlin one-two
Enaam Ahmed held off his hard-charging Carlin team-mate James Pull to take his ninth win of the 2017 BRDC British F3 season, as a mid-race downpour caused chaos throughout the field in race one of the weekend (5/6 August) at Brands Hatch. Lanan Racing’s Toby Sowery completed the podium in third but there was no shortage of action as heavy rain made the full Grand Prix circuit treacherous for the slick-shod Tatuus-Cosworth single-seaters, with a number of drivers coming to grief before the encounter was red flagged to end the race prematurely.
Qualifying. After a brief 20-minute practice session to open the day, the BRDC British F3 field returned for the 30-minute qualifying session in changeable conditions. A number of cars chose to diversify their strategy by remaining in the pit lane as the session began but were forced to change plans as drizzle began to fall around the circuit. The intial pace-setter was James Pull, with Fortec Motorsports’ Ben Hingeley slotting into second just 0.001s shy of the Carlin man in the early stages with Ahmed third and Sowery fourth. The session began to hot up with 15 minutes remaining, with Ahmed lapping the full GP circuit in a time of 1m21.283s, which saw him go quickest. Only a few hundred metres behind him, Sowery improved too and he claimed top spot before he was also knocked off provisional P1 as James Pull came through to break the timing beam with a 1m21.091s.
After a handful of laps where the pace dropped, the drivers were soon back on it and as the session headed into its final 10 minutes, championship leader Ahmed made his move to the head of the timing screens with a time of 1m20.746s. Toby Sowery improved his best lap in second but Ben Hingeley came through to take a provisional spot on the front-row with a 1m20.880s, demoting Sowery to third. The improvements weren’t finished there though and Ahmed’s Carlin team-mate James Pull made it a 1-2 for his team as he slotted in behind the championship leader, going just 0.131s slower, pushing Hingeley to third and Sowery to fourth. No improvements were forthcoming from the leading bunch and as the chequered flag came out, it was Ahmed who claimed his fifth pole position of the season, ahead of Pull, Hingeley and Sowery. Outside of the top-four, Callan O’Keeffe moved up to fifth ahead of Douglas Motorsport team-mate Jordan Cane, with the third Carlin car of Cameron Das seventh, just ahead of Nicolai Kjaergaard in eighth. The top-10 was rounded out by Hillspeed with Cliff Dempsey Racing’s Chase Owen and Chris Dittmann Racing’s Jeremy Wahome.
Race One. As the lights went out to start race one, Ahmed led comfortably into Paddock Hill. His fellow front-row starter Pull was slower away though which allowed third placed man, Fortec Motorsports’ Ben Hingeley, to vault him into the first corner. The rest of the field filtered through the opening corners without incident whilst Pull was busy harrying Hingeley in an attempt to regain his second place. That let championship leader Ahmed open up a lead of 1.458s after the opening lap, an advantage that would prove crucial later in the race. On lap two, Pull took his opportunity as he got a brilliant run on his rival Hingeley down Hawthorn Hill and hung his Tatuus-Cosworth machine around the outside of the Fortec man through Hawthorns. He then edged ahead and completed the stunning move to retake the position through the right-hander Westfield. Further back, Douglas Motorsport’s Callan O’Keeffe dropped two positions to sixth as Toby Sowery and Nicolai Kjaergaard moved up to fourth and fifth respectively. That released Sowery who was soon onto the back of Hingeley and through to third as he made a clean move into Paddock Hill.
The order began to settle down and as the race approached its halfway point it looked like Ahmed would cruise to a comfortable ninth win of the season. Approaching rain clouds looked menacing though and spits and spots of water soon morphed into heavy rain, making conditions treacherous. The Fortec Motorsports’ duo of Hingeley and Kjaergaard misjudged the grip levels into Paddock Hill and both skated off into the gravel, with barrier contact leading to Hingeley’s retirement as Kjaergaard was fortunate to escape. The next car through was Cameron Das and he also skated straight on and into the barrier, ending his race on the spot.
Race leader Ahmed was cautious as he continued around the lap and that enabled Pull to close right up on the back of his team-mate as the pair exited Clark Curve. Owing to the cars off at Paddock Hill though the Safety Car was deployed, neutralising the field with Ahmed holding on to the lead. As the rain began to fall even harder, the only decision available was to red flag the race and declare the result after 8 laps. That ensured that Ahmed extended his championship advantage to 93 points over Toby Sowery with his ninth win of the year, as Pull claimed his 10th podium finish of the season in second. Sowery took third with Douglas Motorsport’s Callan O’Keeffe and Jordan Cane keeping their noses clean to finish fourth and fifth. Sixth went to Chris Dittmann Racing’s Jeremy Wahome whilst the front-row for the partially-reversed grid race two will be made up of seventh and eight-placed finishers Nicolai Kjaergaard and Krishnaraaj Mahadik.
Ahmed said: “It feels really good! I was really worried when the rain came down, as it’s especially difficult on this track. James had nothing to lose so he was catching me all the time and to be honest, in these conditions, I don’t know if I would have been able to hold him off. I might have even been happy to let him by as I was just concentrating on getting as many points as I could. Luckily the Safety Car came out and they red flagged the race so I was happy about that. Being in the lead is the hardest thing in these conditions as you are the first to test each corner out. I had a moment at turn one as it started to rain really heavily and I had a big slide down the hill. We’ve 100 per cent got the pace in the dry too so we shall see how it goes tomorrow.”
Race two gets underway at 10:55 tomorrow (Sunday) and you can follow all the action through live timing and updates on the official BRDC British F3 website.