Hitech Racing's British Formula Three weekend saw Ryan Sharp's team leave Northamptonshire with a good haul of points – both their International Class drivers scoring top six finishes in the first two races of the weekend. Sunday's feature race, however, also saw the team caught up in the chaos of the first lap melee.
As well as the two regular drivers for the team, the 1.94 mile Rockingham layout also welcomed Brazilian teenager Pietro Fantin, running in the Invitational Class, but it was locally based racer Will Buller who starred across the course of the weekend.
In an inauspicious start to the weekend the trio qualified to line up behind each other on the left hand side of the Rockingham grid, Brazilian Gabriel Dias leading the team in seventh from Buller and Fantin.
Buller quickly passed his teammate with a superb start as he leapt from his ninth place starting grid up to sixth, which became fifth on lap six at the expense of Felipe Nasr, who also fell behind his fellow Brazilian Dias.
“I want to keep doing starts like that for the rest of the year!” beamed Buller. “Overtaking in F3 is so difficult that a good start is crucial and I was able to make up places at the start.” If the start had been attacking, then once in fifth Buller turned to a commanding display of defensive driving, holding off Dias at the head of a snake of five cars that completed the 24 lap race covered by less than four seconds.
The fifth and sixth place finish had the Hitech pairing sharing the third row of the grid on the reverse grid for the second race, and unsurprisingly the pair were scarcely separated again, though this time Dias was able to keep his teammate at bay.
Once more both were able to take advantage of the misfortunes of Felipe Nasr, which in this race took the form of stalling trying to escape from the mandatory “pitstop”. Happily all three Hitech men made it though the stops – Fantin someway down the order en route to finishing 16th as he tried to gain experience around the track.
In another parallel with the opening race the Hitech Dallara-Volkswagen's held off a fleet of their rivals to finish fourth and fifth, where Buller once more heading a train of cars including title contenders Jean-Eric Vergne, James Calado and Oli Webb.
The third and final race saw a different story, though not for entirely good reasons.
When Vergne hit and spun Oli Webb into the middle of the track at the Deene hairpin on the first lap it created a sizable obstacle for those behind, inlusing the Hitech pilots. While Buller was lucky enough sneak though his teammates were not so lucky, both Dias and Fantin forced to retire on the spot, both cars sustaining significant rear damage.
“Until I see a replay, I can’t really say what happened,” Dias said. “I could see the cars ahead that had spun and I went to turn into the corner and all of a sudden someone hit me in the rear. Other people touched and were able to carry on but my car was destroyed.”
The crash, which eliminated three cars, including the Hitech runners, and delayed several others gifted Buller sixth place, having started eleventh. But once the safety car pulled in Buller was at least able to push forward as the only non-Carlin member of a five way battle for second. Though he remained behind the Carlin quartet he stayed out of the trouble that saw Jazeman Jaafar lose his front wing in an over aggressive move, but, held up by the battling stablemates Buller found his defensive driving called on once more as the recovering Webb caught the group.
Webb actually made it past Buller – a rare occurrence over the weekend – but Will was able to retake the place on the penultimate lap, finishing the weekend with fifth place finishes in all three races, the 22 points garnered lifting him to sixth in the title chase, one place behind Dias.