FIFTH PODIUM OF THE SEASON FOR MIKE MEADOWS IN BRITISH F3 AT SPA The challenge of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, combined with changing weather conditions as well as mechanical issues, shaped the fortunes of Mike Meadows this weekend...
FIFTH PODIUM OF THE SEASON FOR MIKE MEADOWS IN BRITISH F3 AT SPA
The challenge of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, combined with changing weather conditions as well as mechanical issues, shaped the fortunes of Mike Meadows this weekend in the 13th and 14th rounds of the 11-event British F3 International Series. A third placed podium finish yesterday for the NewNet Raikkonen Robertson Racing entry in torrential rain, and a fourth place on Friday kept the Banbury driver in third position of the overall National Class championship standings.
On his first visit to the famed Belgian circuit, Meadows quickly realised just why this is a favourite track of so many race drivers who enjoy the challenges of this demanding, high speed Formula One circuit. With a seven kilometres lap and a lap time of over two minutes, there's little time for the F3 drivers to learn the circuit in the practice sessions. Meadows opened with sixth fastest time in opening practice having completed 11 laps, and then improved to third quickest in the second session, and closing on second placed rival Cheng Cong Fu, despite struggling with gearbox issues. The two qualifying sessions saw Meadows showing his consistency with third fastest lap in each of the sessions,a particularly strong effort as many of his rivals had previous experience of racing at Spa.
From his third in class position, Meadows lined up for the grid with the weather dry and cloudy. An uncharacteristic slow start off the line dropped the young British driver back to fifth in class, but with a better place than his rivals ahead, he quickly started to chase them down. Salman Al Khalifa was unable to resist the persistence of a hard-charging Meadows and after five laps of close racing, he was soon through to fourth. Hunting down Hamad Al Fardan four seconds ahead was Meadows' next challenge and he set his sights on this goal as the race progressed. He made up ground over the course of the race, but was unable to get close enough to make a move and by the chequered flag had to settle for fourth place. En route to this Meadows posted the fastest first sector time not only of the National class cars, but overall, beating the faster championship ones as well, an impressive performance from the 19-year-old.
Torrential rain forced organisers to start the second race behind the safety car and for the first two laps the grid circulated behind it. The cars were unleashed on lap three, although Meadows like the rest of the field, apart from the leader, struggled with the spray from cars ahead. There was little chance of attacking in the atrocious conditions and when the safety car returned on lap seven after Ricardo Teixera spun off track, it stayed out until the chequered flag eliminating any further opportunities to improve from his third in class start place, but a welcome podium finish as reward from a tough weekend.
Meadows said of his weekend, "It's an amazing circuit, particularly Eau Rouge and with the history attached to it, it makes it quite special to have the chance to race here. It's quite difficult to learn as it's such a long, complex lap and with the limited amount of practice time we have you have to try and get the most out of yourself and the car as quickly as possible. Our mechanical problems didn't help in that respect, but I stayed focused and kept pushing.
"We were improving throughout the weekend, but it seems that it isn't until the races that we're able to match the pace of Sergio (Perez) and Frankie (Cheng Cong Fu). We're happy to take a podium, but we need to find the class-winning pace earlier in the sessions. Beating everyone in the first sector is a small comfort, particularly as it includes the super-quick Eau Rouge section. We know we can take the fight to our rivals, we just need to bring it all together from the outset of the weekend.
"The weather didn't make it easy for us in the second race though. I couldn't see much in front or behind me, I just had to try and stay on track and not make any mistakes in the difficult wet conditions.
"We will be going to Silverstone to win, it's a track I know well and that gives me the confidence that I need to challenge for this. However both my title rivals will be aiming for the same goal, so it'll be tough and I'm sure there'll be some good fights out on the track."
The British F3 International Series returns to more familiar ground, with Meadows' local race at the home of British motorsport, the Silverstone circuit in Northamptonshire.