Toby Sowery launches title attack with near-perfect weekend at Silverstone
Toby Sowery had a stunning weekend at Silverstone to boost his BRDC British Formula 3 title chances, with pole position, two wins and a second place, plus the fastest lap of the weekend at the British Grand Prix venue.
Sowery was only to be denied by Ben Hingeley, who burst past his Fortec team-mates from fourth on the grid to win the partially-reversed-grid second race.
Having dominated Friday testing, Sowery took pole position in qualifying and converted this into a dominant win, his first of the 2017 BRDC British F3 season, heading Carlin drivers Enaam Ahmed and James Pull to the chequered flag.
At the start, Sowery assumed an immediate lead and spent the opening laps fending off the attentions of Enaam Ahmed, whilst behind the championship leader; Hingeley, James Pull and Callan O'Keeffe battled over third place. Pull managed to hold onto his qualifying position, but Hingeley was less fortunate, losing a place to O'Keeffe. Behind, Cameron Das fell to seventh place between the Fortecs of Manuel Maldonado and Nicolai Kjaergaard.
As the race progressed, Sowery began to pull clear of Ahmed, who was having to fend off the attentions of his team-mate, with O'Keeffe remaining in touch with the podium fight and Hingeley dropping back, and the finished the race in that order. Behind, sixth place became an intense fight between Das and the Fortecs of Maldonado and Kjaergaard. Carlin's Das was determined to pass the Venezuelan and tried several manoeuvres, which proved successful as he cleared the two cars, and Kjaergaard also passed his team-mate.
Ninth place was taken by Jamie Chadwick, who was the main beneficiary of the opening lap battles. She fell back from the battle for sixth place, and ended the race just clear of a fight between the Chris Dittmann cars of Jeremy Wahome and Omar Ismail. Wahome was running in tenth place, but lost out to team-mate Ismail at the end of the race, despite trying his best to regain the place.
Hingeley won his second race of the season, with Sowery and Pull completing the podium after a thrilling fight through the field from both drivers.
Hingeley led the race from the start, surging from fourth on the grid to lead his Fortec team-mates Manuel Maldonado and Nicolai Kjaergaard, who shared the front row. Kjaergaard sustained front wing damage on the opening lap, and would quickly drop down the order, eventually finishing the race over half a lap behind.
Pull also made a great start and was quickly up to third place, whilst Sowery ran fifth behind O'Keeffe, and passed the South African early on. Just before this, Maldonado lost second place to Pull after running wide at Copse. Hingley, Pull and Sowery were all on a charge at this stage of the race and Sowery soon caught Maldonado, passing the Venezuelan at the end of lap four.
Sowery continued his stellar progress, setting the fastest lap of the weekend so far - just six thousandths of a second off his qualifying time - as he closed down on Pull in second place. By the final lap the pair were together and as they entered the Wellington Straight for the final time, Sowery drew level, and nipped down the inside to claim second place, just two seconds behind the winner.
Further back and with Sowery out of reach, O'Keeffe caught Maldonado, passing him for fourth place. The pole-sitter then had two Carlin cars to contend with. Cameron Das lost out at the start and was left to fight with team-mate Ahmed, a battle he eventually lost, then Ahmed passed Maldonado in the late stages to claim valuable points for fifth place. Wahome took an eighth place finish for Chris Dittmann Racing, ahead of Guilherme Samaia, who was given a penalty for starting out of position, having spun on the green flag lap. This promoted Chase Owen and Jamie Chadwick to the final top ten places.
Sowery won his second race of the weekend with a lights-to-flag victory, whilst Carlin team-mates Pull and Ahmed completed the podium after a tense battle for the runner-up position.
When the lights went out, pole-sitter Sowery didn't hesitate to take the lead into Copse corner, and whilst fellow front-row-starter O'Keeffe tried to fight for the lead into the esses, he soon came under attack from Pull, and the Carlin man quickly slotted into second place. This left the South African under attack from race two winner Hingeley and as they exited the Wellington straight at the end of the opening lap, the pair battled side-by-side. Hingeley was forced wide at Brooklands, and into Luffield the pair collided, O'Keeffe out on the spot.
A delayed Hingeley rejoined behind Ahmed, Owen, Jordan Cane and Das, but continued to fall down the order, his car clearly affected by the clash. Meanwhile Das passed Cane and the race began to settle as the top three pulled away from fourth-placed Owen.
Race leader Sowery continued to clear his immediate pursuers, and as Ahmed closed in on Pull, the two Carlin drivers began a race-long battle for the final podium place. In the late stages, Ahmed stalked Pull, and made a couple of attempts to pressure him, even trying to pass at Stowe corner. On the final lap he got a good exit onto the Wellington Straight, but Pull defended into Brooklands corner and held onto the second step of the podium.
Owen finished in fourth position, fending off Das for the place, the pair a second ahead of Cane, who ended the race a couple of seconds up on Samaia and Kjaergaard. Ninth overall was Wahome, with Hingeley recovering from his earlier incident to finish in tenth place.
BRDC British F3 Championship standings after 12 of 24 rounds
1. Enaam Ahmed, Carlin, 310pts
2. James Pull, Carlin, 252pts
3. Toby Sowery, Lanan Racing, 247pts
4. Cameron Das, Carlin, 247pts
5. Ben Hingeley, Fortec Motorsports, 241pts
6. Callan O'Keeffe, Douglas Motorsport, 214pts
7. Omar Ismail, Chris Dittmann Racing, 128pts
8. Chase Owen, Hillspeed, 128pts
9. Nicolai Kjaergaard, Fortec Motorsports, 122pts
10. Jamie Chadwick, Double R Racing, 121pts