The MSV F3 Cup crossed over to the continent to compete against their Austrian counterparts at Spa-Francorchamps and championship leader Aaron Steele left Belgium after scoring a win from what he called the “best race of his life”.
In the build-up to the event the Kent-based racer had been sceptical about how he would fare against the newer Dallara 307 cars that dominate the front the Austrian F3 field, but quantity rather than quality was Steele's first problem in testing on the 4.4mile track.
“Due to the high volume of cars on circuit I didn’t get a clear lap,” he explained. “With the novice skill level of a lot of drivers, many red flags were inevitable, so by the end of testing I managed at most 12 laps of the circuit… Not great with such a long and complicated track to tame!”
The problems, and the cancellation of a final test session due to noise levels, allowed very little track time before qualifying for the two races, but Steele came away with a pair of class poles; The Grays Motorsport driver third overall for race one and a front row start in second place for race two.
Race one left him disappointed. Boxed in one his first rolling start “since karting” he slipped back, and though he recovered to third, an ill-timed safety car intervention and an ill-placed mackbarker between him and the top two meant he had to settle for the lowest step of the overall podium, but left him confident that, from a front row start he could push for a win.
“After third place I was left wanting more. Starting P2 for race two I knew I would have a much better opportunity to attack the lead cars at the start as I couldn’t get boxed in. I kept P2 through La Source after the start, then backed off slightly So I could take Eau Rouge flat and get a run on the car ahead.”
Along the Kemmel Straight that follows Eau Rouge Steele was able to pick up enough a slipstream to pull out, overtake and move back infront of his Austrian rival before the following corner.
“From that point i knew they would be quicker so I didn’t expect to stay in the lead for too much longer, however I just got my head down and proceeded to put in lap after lap at qualifying pace.”
“Through the mid-section in all the twisty stuff, their extra downforce meant they eased up to the back of me, but then in the quicker stuff my older and less aero drag car had just enough legs to pull some of the advantage I lost, back!”
Though only nine laps long the race was full of action at the front. A safety car period bunched the field up, forcing Steele to defend and a slow backmarker forced him to brake through a normally flat out corner and allowed his nearest chasers to catch back up, Steele crossing the line to start the final lap with an advantage of only 0.1 seconds.
“I managed to defend down the long straight after Eau Rouge and then push really hard through the twisty mid-section to build a cushion. When I crossed the line it was an amazing feeling, better than all my victories so far this year put together. I really had to out drive the car to beat the newer and faster cars, it was a real challenge and I loved every second of it.”
“Makes me wonder how quick i could have been if i was driving a 2007 carâ€¦”