Aaron Steele took several admirable accolades during the opening rounds of the 2011 MotorsportVision Formula 3 Cup at the weekend – the youngster from Kent dominated the inaugural 2 races of the new series, claimed both pole positions and set the Snetterton 300 lap record in the process.
The recently renovated and newly named Snetterton 300 circuit in Norfolk hosted a wealth of motorsport action over the weekend (19-20 March), including the new-for-2011 MSV F3 Cup. The series is designed with less restrictive regulations in mind as the rules allow various types of chassis, specifically those ranging from 1980 to 2005, aiming to reduce costs and increase accessibility.
Unbelievably, Steele only got his hands on the Grays Motorsort’s Renault powered Dallara F302 in the Friday practice session, less than 24 hours before qualifying. But the initial signs from the car were very positive. “Firstly I knew the car had been stored for 2 years before it was run on Friday” explained Steele. “As a result I always expected there to be a few teething problems with it, and sure enough there was! But luckily these were all catered for in the first half of the test day after a top job by Grays Motorsport to get the car in race ready condition!”
Teething problems or not, Steele put the car through its paces and quickly discovered a rich vein of form. “Going into qualifying was a bit of the unknown however the word on the pit wall from Fridays testing was that I was the fastest!”
Qualifying was equally full of surprises, as Steele claimed pole position for both of the weekend’s races with a 1:46.6 – breaking the track record – with his nearest opponent, Mark Terry on a 1:49.4.
“I just went out there got some good laps in and did the best I could do. When I came back in I found myself almost 3 seconds quicker than the nearest competitor, I was very shocked but obviously more than happy.” Steele beamed.
The start of Race 1 was tumultuous, as 2nd-placed driver Mark Terry suffered a hair-raising airbourne crash which caused a red flag. Despite the dramas behind him, at the restart Steele eased off into the distance to take the first MSV F3 Cup race win ahead of Chris Needham by a humbling 29 seconds.
Race 2 endured fewer dramas, and Steele once again started from pole and led the race from start to finish, with the final gap to 2nd place Needham a gaping 32 seconds. “The races went exactly to plan, good starts, just getting my head down from the word go and leaving the field a long way behind me, in both races I managed to finish with around a 30 second lead!” Steele said afterwards.
Steele and the Grays Motorsport team are already looking ahead to the next round of the series at Donnington. The series’ calendar itself focuses only on Britain’s leading race circuits for the moment.
“So after the perfect start to the season, we’re going to use the break to thoroughly go over the car and get all the finer details exactly how we want them which we didn’t have time to do before this weekend so we can go to Donington confident and aim to do it all again!” Steele commented after the weekend’s races.
When asked about his thoughts on Norfolk’s new Snetterton 300 layout, Steele was naturally a fan: “It's very challenging but at the same time quite enjoyable. I'm looking forward to going back there later in the calendar!”
MotorsportVision, owned by former racing driver Jonathan Palmer, will have enjoyed a successful curtain-raiser for the 2011 MSV F3 Cup, which will resume at the Donington Circuit on 2-3 April.