The second round of the F3 Cup Championship saw us make our way to Castle Combe, a circuit that hasn’t had an F3 Championship visit for over 10 years.
Stefano Leaney was instantly on the pace in qualifying, down below the lap record within a couple of laps, which set the tone nicely for him to challenge for the lap record in the races. Five minutes into the session, the drivers were all setting good times and improving, but an unfortunate accident where John Corbett hit a bump on the last corner which ended up with him in the barriers and the session stopped.
The session restarted with only 8 minutes of the session remaining. Stefano took pole position by over a second to Dominic Paul, who was also first for the Cup class. George Line qualified third and second in the Cup class. John still qualified fourth despite his crash and Shane Kelly and Tony Bishop finished up the order with just 0.001 seconds between their qualifying times.
An amazing effort by Team Fox Racing to rebuild the heavily damaged car saw Corbett make it to the grid to take his fourth place start. Stefano commanded the race from start to finish, setting a new overall lap record by lap 3 of the race and continued to improve on it until around halfway through the race where he eased off slightly to take the race win by over 16 seconds. After race 1 the new lap record stood at 58.759 seconds, down from 59.387 which was set by Dan Clarke in British F3 in 2005.
Dominic and George enjoyed a close battle throughout the race, with George never letting up. Dominic however managed to defend well to retain second place overall and first in class ahead of George who took third overall and second in the F3 Cup class.
Shane and Tony picked up where they left off at the previous round, racing hard between themselves. Tony held fourth for the first half of the race but Shane gradually reeled him in and got past on lap nine, he then led him to the end and pulled out a 15 second gap. Shane was fourth overall and third in the Cup class, whilst Tony took fifth and second in the Euro class.
John started the race from the pit lane, which left him last and with a 12.5 second deficit to Shane Kelly who was ahead of him in fifth at this stage. John had a steady race in sixth position, taking it cautiously after his qualifying incident; he didn’t get close enough to battle for fifth place and so settled for sixth overall and third in class.
The grid for race two was set by the fastest laps achieved in the first race. This meant that the order was as follows: Leaney, Paul, Line, Kelly, Bishop, Corbett.
Dominic lined up second on the grid but after the green flag lap, he had to be pushed off the grid with an issue which saw him out of the race. This promoted George to second on the grid, Shane briefly had an attempt at getting past him with a great start, but George soon got ahead. Shane stuck close with him for the first half of the race before George started gradually pulling away from him to finish second ahead of Shane in third by 2.3 seconds.
Leaney again had a dominant race, winning the race by over nineteen seconds and further lowering the overall lap record to 58.596, making it five wins in a row in the championship. It wasn’t a completely faultless race though as a spin on lap 6, after setting his new lap record, saw his ten second gap disappear and George making a move for the lead, Stefano managed to regain himself though to pull his lead back out by over a second per lap.
Bishop and Corbett had a close race for fourth place overall and second and third in class. John was stuck close behind Tony for a number of laps; a couple of mistakes dropped him back at various points, but he kept closing in and getting back on the tail of Tony. He had dropped back by over three seconds by lap nine but a number of fast laps in a row saw him 0.3 seconds away by lap thirteen and he eventually made it past Tony at Quarry on lap seventeen after a number of attempts over the five laps. Tony stayed close to him but was unable to make it back past, crossing the line within a second of John and having to settle for fifth overall and third in class.