Solid start for Hillspeed
Hillspeed driver Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol produced three consistently strong races at a rain-hit Oulton Park in the BRDC British Formula 3 season-opener.
Delivering a top 10 best in round one, the Thai youngster went on to finish in 11th place in the rain-affected second and third rounds on Easter Monday to wrap-up the first race meeting of the campaign 11th in the driver standings for the Hathersage squad. Canadian team-mate Ben Hurst, making his maiden race appearance in British F3, finished 15th in the first encounter, a weekend best 12th in race two and then 14th in the final contest to depart Oulton Park inside the championship top 15.
“Neither Cutter or Ben had even seen Oulton before the pre-event test so we’re very pleased with their performances throughout the weekend, particularly when you consider the weather they had to contend with”, commented Hillspeed team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “It was good to see both drivers chalking up finishes in all three races and we know there is a lot of potential to build on as the season progresses. The weather was very challenging, especially at a circuit as demanding as Oulton, but they did a good job and we’re now looking forward to getting some more testing under our belts before the next rounds at Rockingham at the end of the month.”
Having enjoyed a strong day of preparation at Oulton on Friday, Chaimongkol continued to impress in the drying qualifying session on Saturday morning and lapped within just 0.6 seconds of pole position with a very competitive seventh fastest time. In the sister Hillspeed car, Hurst had to settle for 17th on the grid for round one after an unfortunate excursion early in the session. Race one of the season on Saturday was neutralised midway through the opening lap when the Safety Car was required following a tangle at the chicane. Chaimongkol had slipped to ninth before the cautionary period with Hurst moving up into 14th place. When racing resumed on lap four the team-mates each got away well, but Chaimongkol was shuffled back to 10th position on the first lap back at full speed while Hurst held onto his placing despite pressure from Arvin Esmaeili. Thai racer Chaimongkol was determined to hit back at Kush Maini and spent the next few laps close behind his rival, before then focusing on keeping Manuel Maldonado at bay to the chequered flag on lap 11. Hurst, meanwhile, was nudged back to 15th place on the fifth tour and stayed there to the conclusion in his maiden British F3 contest.
For round two on Easter Monday, Hurst started the contest in a lofty second place on the ‘reverse grid’ with Chaimongkol seventh. Track conditions were less than ideal, with persistent rain and a lot of spray, and on a tricky opening lap both drivers were edged back down the pack behind some of the more experienced F3 competitors. Hurst ended the opening lap in 11th position, with his Thai team-mate down to 16th spot, but as the laps ticked by Chaimongkol started to move back up the order. On lap three he passed Hurst to take 14th place and the Canadian then had to pit soon after with a problematic rain light. Two separate Safety Car periods impacted the second half of the encounter and the second actually resulted in a red flag stoppage on lap nine. Chaimongkol finished the race in 11th position with Hurst rounding out the top 12.
Round three later in the day didn’t see any improvement in conditions, meaning another very challenging contest for the Formula 3 drivers. Chaimongkol started the encounter 11th on the grid and remained there throughout the first half, before breaking into the top 10 on lap seven. Edged back to 11th with a couple of laps to go, the result marked another strong drive for ‘Cutter’.
Rookie F3 driver Hurst lined-up 15th on the grid and ended lap one in 16th position. Gradually improving his pace in the very trying conditions, he then started to pick up places during the second half of the race as others came to grief – ultimately ending the outing in 14th position.