At Brands Hatch this afternoon, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) proved he still has it with a masterful lights-to-flag victory in the first of three races this weekend. He was chased home by Jordan King (Carlin), with Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing) a slightly distant 3rd. The National Class win went to Sun Zheng (CF Racing) after pole sitter Ed Jones (Team West-Tec) was unable to take the start.
The same could not be said for William Buller (Fortec Motorsport), the Northern Irish driver getting a blistering start from three rows back to be 3rd by the time the pack reached Paddock Hill Bend. He was demoted by Giovinazzi, who had also made a pretty impressive getaway, but the real smooth move was from Jaafar, who got the power down in just the right amounts and held off King for the lead.
There was a bit of a tense moment at the start when Felipe Guimaraes (Fortec Motorsport) stalled, but everyone missed him and he got going eventually, almost last. Actual last was Jones, having been pushed off the grid when he couldn’t get moving at the start of the formation lap. After some frantic attention from the team, he was able to start from the pit lane but he was going to have his work cut out to get his advantage back.
In the pack, Jann Mardenborough (Carlin) was also on the move, having been forced to start from 9th after a five grid place penalty imposed on him for a rather silly accident after the flag at Spa a fortnight ago. A good start, and Guimaraes problems, promoted him to 7th.
At the front King was in hot pursuit of Jaafar, while Giovinazzi was busy holding off a very determined Buller. That battle came to an end quite abruptly, however, when it was first announced that Buller’s start was under investigation. It wasn’t long before he was given a drive through penalty for what was apparently too blistering a start. That took the pressure off Giovinazzi.
Jaafar, meanwhile, continued to build a gap to King and was now almost a second ahead of his main opponent. Giovinazzi remained 3rd, not quite able to get on terms with the leaders, but not in any danger from Nicholas Latifi (Carlin) in 4th either. Mardenborough was up to 5th so there was a possibility that things might get a bit messy, but there was no imminent likelihood of Mardenborough getting past the Canadian, especially as he had Guimaraes in 6th to worry about as well.
For the National Class, Zheng was now being closely shadowed by Cameron Twynham (Team West-Tec), while Jones was gone. His car had ground to halt on the run down to Hawthorne and his race was run. That took away some of the excitement, but Twynham was pushing the leader hard. Unfortunately, as is so often the case at Brands Hatch, catching was not translatable into passing, and the whole race was in danger of stagnating unless someone could do something unexpected.
Jaafar and King were now trading fastest laps and the gap was extending lap by lap. Elsewhere Buller was battling to pass Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing). Her efforts to hold him back were enough to put her under investigation for driving standards, but it wasn’t enough, even when she made the car as wide as possible. He was determined and it wasn’t long before he was through and setting off in pursuit of Guimaraes.
An extra push from Latifi was enough to give him the fastest lap of the race, though he didn’t hold it for long. With Buller now able to run clear of traffic he was next to go fastest. Meanwhile, King was now being pressured by Giovinazzi, the Englishman having lost ground to the Italian when he dropped back, apparently to get space and put in his own bid for fastest lap. It might not have been the best idea… but drivers don’t always act logically.
King’s chances of the extra point were boosted as Buller caught up with Guimaraes and was thus slowed up again. It was hindered however, when Giovinazzi speeded up but he still couldn't pass King no matter how he tried. Buller was now almost on Guimaraes but much the same situation was in effect there. It was now about as exciting as watching paint drying and that wasn’t going to change, even when the leaders came up to start lapping the National Class drivers with three laps left to run.
Despite Twynham falling back a bit from Zheng, and King again catching and then falling back from Jaafar as they came up behind Chris Vlok (Team West-Tec), we were now in some sort of stalemate. The New Zealander behaved impeccably as the front runners caught him, though he couldn’t help delaying King slightly, but it made no difference in the long run.
Jaafar was a very happy winner: “It is awesome to be doing F3 again and this circuit is very special to me. Jordan was really quick and he was fighting for the championship but I was fighting for my own race. A Carlin 1, 2 is very good for the team. We try to chip away to improve ourselves and there are some pluses but we’re still lacking in some other areas. We just keep pushing to do well.”
King was happy with second, as he’s in a fight for the title and didn’t want to throw it all away in a scrap with Jaafar. “For the first few laps I closed right up on Jazeman and I tried to get past but as you know it’s not the easiest of circuits to get past on After a while I felt it was not worth risking getting past Jazeman for the championship points as he was not scoring points against me.”
There were no complaints from Giovinazzi either: “I got a good start from fourth to third in the first corner, and then Buller had the drive through so I was going for Jordan in front. However there was no point passing him and risking the championship points.”
4th was Latifi (though he was called to the Clerk of the Course afterwards), from Mardenborough, with Buller 6th after a last lap pass on Guimaraes. Calderon was 8th, and then came Zheng, winning the National Class for the 7th time out of seven races: “It was a shame Ed didn’t get to the start. I don’t yet know why as I haven’t spoken to him. I had tyre pressure problems at the start and couldn’t get the temperature up but after a few laps I could push a bit in the race.” He was followed home by Twynham, with newcomer Zhi Cong Li (Carlin) in 11th and Vlok in 12th.
Fastest laps went to Buller and Zheng.
Weather: Warm, sunny.