Maiden successes for Das and Hingeley
Carlin’s Cameron Das and Fortec Motorsports’ Ben Hingeley claimed their maiden victories in BRDC British Formula 3 at Rockingham last weekend. Championship leader Enaam Ahmed had an eventful day but could only manage two eighth place finishes, and with American Das adding a podium finish in race three to his earlier success, the championship battle has closed right up following six races of the 2017 season.
By virtue of her eighth place finish in race one on Saturday, former British GT GT4 champion Jamie Chadwick lined up on pole position with Dane Nicolai Kjaergaard alongside on the front-row. As the lights went out, Omar Ismail made a brilliant getaway from third to take the lead through the first corner whilst Chadwick was forced into defending second from James Pull. At the Deene hairpin, Chadwick clipped Pull which result in him being turned around and collecting Kjaergaard. Pull retired with damage from the accident whilst Kjaergaard managed to limp back to the pits, with Chadwick continuing in second. Race one winner Ahmed was unlucky to get caught on the outside of the incident and he dropped to the back of the field after being forced into taking evasive action. After the race, Chadwick was handed a five-place grid penalty, applied to race three, for her part in the incident.
The main beneficiary of that was reigning US Formula 4 champion Das who made up four positions from his grid spot to run in third after the first two corners. He wasted little time in continuing his forward progress as he pulled off a superb move around the outside of Chadwick to take second at the Deene hairpin. The American soon closed on the leader Ismail and this time jinked to the inside at the hairpin to slide past the Chris Dittmann Racing man to take the lead. Further back, Lanan Racing’s Toby Sowery disposed of Samaia to take sixth position whilst up front, Das extended his lead to over two seconds as the race passed the halfway mark.
The action at the head of the pack settled into a rhythm with Das comfortable in the lead, as Ismail ran second and Chadwick third. Harry Hayek made a move on his Double R team-mate Samaia to claim seventh whilst just ahead, Callan O’Keeffe and Toby Sowery became involved in a brilliant battle for fifth. Five-time British F3 race winner Sowery closed on the South African and with three laps to go, moved to the outside of the Douglas Motorsport man at the Deene hairpin. O’Keeffe fended off the initial move but Sowery wouldn’t give up, and the pair managed to run side-by-side for almost half of the lap. O’Keeffe eventually managed to get his nose back in front and Sowery was forced to slot in behind his rival with Hayek and Samaia closing on the battling duo.
Das meanwhile saw out the closing stages of the race without incident to claim his first win in British Formula 3, with Ismail taking second and Chadwick coming home third. Speaking after the race, Das said: “I avoided some contact at the first corner and made a good decision to go to the inside. From there, I was just battling with Jamie and Omar for the first couple of laps. After that, I was just managing my tyres and making sure I maintained the gap at the front. Enaam has a big lead in the championship but I’m glad we could close it a little bit with this win.”
Having set the fastest lap from across the first two races of the meeting in Northamptonshire, Das started from pole position with Hingeley alongside him on the front-row. As the lights went out, the American made a good start and led through the first two turns. As the field approached the Deene hairpin, championship leader Enaam Ahmed tried to go around the outside of Pull for third but he ran out of road and had to take to the grass, rejoining at the back of the field. Lanan Racing’s Toby Sowery made a strong start and he made up three places on the opening lap to run in fifth, just behind Douglas Motorsport’s Callan O’Keeffe. On the next circuit, Double R Racing’s Harry Hayek made contact with Dane Nicolai Kjaergaard, with the Fortec Motorsports’ man ending up off the circuit at Chapman curve. Both drivers suffered suspension damage and retired from the race.
With Kjaergaard’s car in a dangerous position, the safety car was called for with Das leading from Hingeley and Pull. When the race got back underway, Das wasn’t able to break away from his rivals and he lost two positions in one corner as Hingeley dived down the inside at Deene hairpin to take the lead, whilst Pull went around the outside of his team-mate to claim second. Toby Sowery fought his way past South African O’Keeffe to take fourth but after just one lap of green flag racing, the safety car was called for once more after Omar Ismail was turned around at Tarzan after contact with Manuel Maldonado. The Venezuelan was later excluded from the results of the race for driving in a manner not compatible with safety.
At the restart, Hingeley defended his lead and was then able to eke out a small advantage from Pull and Das. As the race headed into its closing stages, the Fortec man drove a considered race and he saw out the final laps without trouble to claim his maiden BRDC British Formula 3 success. The Carlin duo of Pull and Das completed the top-three whilst the top-five was rounded out by Sowery and O’Keeffe.
Speaking on the podium after the race, Hingeley said: “It has been a difficult weekend even though I’ve had two good results. I had to battle really hard in the second race to get fourth and we went with a different strategy to most others by saving our tyres for the final race. It definitely paid off! I can’t thank the Fortec boys enough. You don’t see the work that goes in behind the scenes. Moving to Fortec for this year was 100 per cent the right choice and they’ve brought me on so much. Hopefully we can get many more wins this year. Hopefully it is the first win of many, that is the plan anyway!”
The championship standings now see Enaam Ahmed leading the way from his Carlin team-mate Cameron Das by just 15 points. Ben Hingeley moves up to third, seven points adrift of Das, with James Pull fourth and Callan O’Keeffe fifth.
The next round of the 2017 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship takes place at Snetterton on 27/28 May.