Will Davison takes strong second at Brands Hatch
A superb podium finish has been the perfect way to end the 2003 British Formula 3 Championship season for 21-year-old Australian Will Davison.
Davison, driving a Dallara chassis with an Opel-Spiess engine for Menu Motorsport, finished second and seventh in the final two rounds of the highly-competitive championship on the Brands Hatch grand Prix circuit in England overnight.
The podium finish was Davison's first since he won a round at Croft in Yorkshire earlier in the season, and the result of an on-going improvement in results since the Buckingham-based Aussie joined the Menu outfit for the last three rounds of the series, held at Spa-Francorchamps, Donnington and Brands Hatch.
"It was a good solid result and it's great to be back up the front end of the field," said Davison, who is now one of the most sought-after drivers in the British F3 paddock for the 2004 season.
"In the last three events since joining Menu Motorsport I've been getting my confidence back and just getting back to the form I was in when I won at Croft in earlier part of the season. The car set up and team environment are very different to what I was used to at ADR and with little testing available it took me a little while to adapt.
"We did a test at Snetterton last week and I learnt a lot more about the car and the team who have done a great job to put it all together, as it was not easy for either party coming in late in the season. However I know feel the very difficult decision we made to change teams has been totally vindicated, with neither of the ADR cars finishing better than 14th on the weekend, even with last year's champion Robbie Kerr driving for them."
Davison, the grandson of multiple Australian Grand Prix winner the late Lex Davison, was at the top of the timesheets all weekend, beginning strongly on Friday by being fastest in official testing.
He was three-tenths of a second faster than Dutch teammate Robert Doornbos, translating that impressive speed into qualifying at the former home of the British Grand Prix.
Davison held pole position for the opening race until the dying seconds of qualifying, when Nelson Piquet Jr pipped him by just six-hundredths of a second relegating him to the outside of the front row starting position.
In the race, Davison was fast but couldn't do enough to out-drag Piquet Jr into the first corner, the Brazilian heading home the Australian at the completion of 15 laps of the very fast Grand Prix circuit.
"I knew I had to lead into the first corner to be able to win it because passing in Formula 3 is very difficult, particularly at a very fast circuit like Brands where you lose all your downforce over the front wings as soon as you get anywhere near the car in front of you. My car started creeping on the start line and I had to ride the brake before the lights went green, so I didn't make a great start and then had to consolidate second place, which was easy to do, as the car was very strong.
"I was a fair way ahead of the group behind me so I probably played it a bit too conservative. There was no point in hanging it off the fence and I really, really, wanted to get that podium spot to end the season on a high."
Davison started seventh for the second event, though he was unable to get a proper opportunity to improve his position.
"I got boxed in off the start and couldn't make up any spots. The car was quick, which was proven by the fact that I had the second fastest lap of the race behind Piquet Jr who was in clear air."
"But it was my fault for a lowly qualifying performance because I speared off into the gravel trap in the second qualifying and you can't improve on your time when you're building sandcastles, I'm afraid."
In his first year in the British Formula 3 Championship, Davison has impressed many experienced on-lookers with his speed and race craft. Although he has finished a very creditable eighth in the final championship points in his first season of F3, one can only lament what might have been if he had been able to start the season with the Menu team.
But the former Australian Formula Ford Champion has had a taste of one of the main breeding grounds for future Formula 1 stars and one thing is certain - he wants more in 2004.
"Fingers crossed we can back it up and get stuck back into it next year. I felt I worked harder for this podium than even the win at Croft earlier in the season.
"And that makes me even hungrier to get back here next year, apply all that I've learnt this year, and give it a real shake."
Davison will remain in the United Kingdom as his management teamwork on his 2004 program before returning to Australia over the summer.
Final championship points: 1) van der Merwe 308, 2) Green 237, 3) Piquet Jr 231, 4) Antinucci 125.5, 5) Watts 125, 6) Bremer 121, 7) Austin 110, 8) Davison 104.