Rain in Belgium made for an extra challenge, along with the heat, for the British Formula 3 racers.
At Spa this afternoon on a fast drying track Jordan King (Carlin) held off a determined attack from William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) to claim victory in the second of this weekend’s three British F3 races. 3rd went to Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing) after he was overhauled by Buller during the latter’s charge from 8th to 2nd. The National Class win went to Sun Zheng (CF Racing).
Before the race started the field had been reduced by one after Carlin failed to fix Nicholas Latifi’s heavily damaged car in the time available and thus the Canadian would not start the race. They did, however, manage to cobble Jann Mardenborough’s Dallara back together enough that he would be able to participate after a heavy shunt in the first race of the weekend, which meant we had an all West-Tec front row, Chris Vlok settling in to pole position.
With the grid consisting of the first eight finishers in the first race in reverse order, which meant an all West-Tec front row, with all three National Class cars starting ahead of the faster International Class runners. It had the potential to be interesting…
In the event, Giovinazzi made a great getaway and was soon in the lead, though he didn’t hold it for long. Coming into the Bus Stop at the end of the first lap he managed to out brake himself, which was all King was waiting for. The Carlin driver had also barged past the front row men early on, and now he saw his chance and took it.
Behind him and Giovinazzi was Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing), who had made the most of her starting position and was hanging on gamely to the lead pair. Sean Gelael (Double R Racing) was 4th from Buller, who had made a second blistering start to get on terms with the leaders. 5th was Mardenborough, from National Class leader Jordan Oon (Team West-Tec), Chris Vlok (Team West-Tec), Zheng and Felipe Guimaraes (Fortec Motorsport).
As Buller settled in to chase down anyone who wasn’t paying enough attention, the fastest sector times started to fall to the Fortec driver, while King was looking pretty useful up front as well. King set about building himself a lead, while Buller pushed as hard as he could to make up for starting 8th. Further back, Guimaraes had found his way past Vlok and Zheng and was now setting about Oon to try and get clear of the National Class runners. It wouldn’t take long.
A lap later and the Brazilian was free of the slower cars, but by then the other six had broken away and were running in relatively close formation a good quarter of a lap ahead of him, with Buller starting to slice through them like a hot knife through butter. On his way he set fastest lap after fastest lap, passing Calderon for 3rd on lap 4 and beginning the chase after Giovinazzi. The smart money was not on the Italian at this point!
It certainly didn’t take Buller long to catch up with the lead pair, and on Lap 6 he got the drop on Giovinazzi and was through into 2nd. It remained to be seen whether he would be able to catch King, and more importantly if he would be able to pass him if he actually could catch the rookie. It looked like being an interesting final few laps. And so it proved.
However, it wasn’t the only interesting battle. On lap 7 Zheng finally got the better of Oon after a fairly tense tussle, Zheng edging back into the National Class lead, which he would keep for the remainder of the race. Even so, no one was watching that. Instead they were watching Buller as he ran faster and faster on the rapidly drying track.
As the race progressed, Buller edged ever closer to King, and on the final lap he was right with the Carlin driver. As they tore into the Bus Stop for the very last time, Buller made his move, jinking out to the side only to find King was expecting him, and he wasn’t taking any of Buller’s nerve, thank you very much. Buller tapped the rear of King’s car, and King resisted for all he was worth, blocking the move effectively to come home the winner of Round 5. Buller would have to settle for 2nd and a point for fastest lap. 3rd was Giovinazzi, from Calderon, Gelael, Mardenborough, Guimaraes, Zheng, Oon and Vlok.
Fastest laps went to Buller and Zheng.
Weather: Wet initially, drying later.