Donington Park GP Report

The penultimate race meeting of the 2021 F3 Cup season saw the drivers descend on Donington Park for a triple header on the Grand Prix circuit. Stefano Leaney qualified on pole by 2.307 seconds ahead of Dominic Paul in second. From second down to sixth position, the five drivers were separated by just 0.378 seconds! Shane Kelly was third ahead of George Line, John Corbett and Tony Bishop, with Mark Harrison qualifying seventh.

Race one saw Stefano get a good start and immediately pulling away from the rest of the field. Kelly got alongside Dominic going down to turn one, where Dominic then ran wide and lost position to both Shane and George as well, who snuck through out of the first corner to take third position and second in the F3 Cup class. Dominic’s first lap didn’t get much easier from there though as he came under attack from both John and Tony towards the end of lap one.

John made his way past Dominic on lap two as did Tony just after, dropping Dominic from second on the grid down to sixth in just over a lap. Dominic stayed close to Tony going into lap 3 and stuck with him for a couple of laps until Tony pulled a gap on lap 5, whilst closing in on John. However, it all went disastrously wrong on lap 6 when John had a moment at the bottom of Craner Curves. Going wide and taking to the grass at Old Hairpin, he spun ending up on the grass, but got going again at the back of the grid. Tony got caught up in the incident and ended up in the barriers whilst trying to avoid the spinning John, which saw him retire from the race with a damaged car.

Further up the grid, George didn’t let up on Shane at all during the race; he tried to get past a few times but never managed to make a move stick. This fight suddenly went from being for second place overall to a fight for the win as Stefano spun off at Coppice corner, ending up in the gravel and putting him out of the race on the last lap. He had been 23 seconds ahead, but this gifted the overall win to Shane. George attempted to get past Shane on the last lap, with a desperate dive round the outside at the Melbourne Hairpin but he couldn’t pull the move off and accepted a second-place finish behind Shane. After a very dramatic race, Dominic ended up third overall, Mark came in fourth and John finished the race fifth but also won the F3 Euro class as the other two contenders had both retired from the race.

With qualifying for race two set by the fastest laps in race one, Stefano was back on pole ahead of George who had set a time just 0.288 seconds faster than Shane who lined up third. Tony was fourth ahead of John, Dominic and Mark.

There was a clean start to the race from all, if a bit sluggish to get away. George seemed to have a good start and had a few car lengths over Shane going down through Craner Curves. However, by McLeans corner, Shane had managed to get by him, George went back underneath but Dominic got a good run on them to come past both George and Shane at Coppice Corner. Shane, Tony and John all then managed to get past George down the back straight leaving George to come over the line sixth at the end of lap one.

John and Tony, racing for fourth and fifth place, switched positions a couple of times at the end of lap two and start of lap three, with John eventually taking the place. He maintained the position, pulling slightly away from Tony whilst also catching Shane for third place overall. The middle of the race was largely uneventful with all drivers maintaining position, until on the last lap John lost control of his car having pushed it a bit too hard. He spun and dropped the car down from fourth place to last place.

Stefano drove a faultless race, after the drama of the day before, to finish with a comfortable lead of 17 seconds over Dominic. Dominic pulled a few seconds lead to Shane after getting past him on the first lap, however track limit infringements gave him a 5 second time penalty and a false start gave him another 10 seconds penalty, meaning he was dropped to fifth overall in the end. Therefore, Shane inherited second place, Tony third and George fourth.

The grid for race 3 had Stefano on pole ahead of John, Dominic, Shane, Tony, George and Mark. The start of the race saw John slow to get away and Dominic and Shane immediately got the jump on him. It was a bit of a messy move by Dominic with contact being made between him and John. Tony seized the opportunity to get past the pair and Dominic was left with a puncture and had to limp back round to the pits, re-joining the race a lap down just behind Mark.

Stefano immediately pulled a lead which he continued to build through the duration of the race to win by 21 seconds. The battle for second was where all the excitement of the race happened between Shane, Tony and John. John got past Tony for third place on lap 5 and the started pulling the gap in to Shane over the next few laps, taking Tony along with him. John got past Shane early on lap 9, whilst Tony then followed suit and also got past Shane on the same lap down the back straight. The three of them then spread out somewhat before finishing the race second third and fourth respectively. Mark finished fifth, with Dominic bringing up the rear a lap down from the rest.