Dutchman Bart Hylkema‘s Brands Hatch weekend had a silver lining thanks to a win in the final race of the weekend. Until then however, 2 DNFs from Rounds 10 and 11 were far from the results the Cooper Tyres British Formula 3 International Series ‘Rookie Class’ points-leader expected. The T-Sport driver still maintains a healthy championship lead over Rookie Class rival Kotaro Sakurai, though a testing pair of races allowed the Japanese driver to take quite a chunk out of his lead despite Hylkema’s Round 12 win on Sunday afternoon.
As the only 2 Rookie Class drivers in the field in 2011, Hylkema had been consistently getting the better of his main rival since the season began, and the trend looked set to continue during Saturday qualifying at the 2.4-mile circuit in Kent. Hylkema took both Rookie Class pole positions for Rounds 10 and 12, but was bogged by slow-starters at the rain-soaked start of Round 10, handing Sakurai the lead of the Rookie Class. The Dutchman had the pace to re-take Sakurai, but an overly ambitious move around the outside of the Druids hairpin saw him slide into the gravel and out of the running.
His weekend troubles were compounded by lining up last on the grid for Round 11 thanks to his DNF. After escaping the small pile-up off the start line, a safety car that effectively halved the short race distance held Hylkema in place, leaving him only 7 laps to chase Sakurai down again. Hylkema’s overtaking efforts were met with stiff resistance, and the 21-year old left his last-gasp effort until the final lap, where once again he came off second best, sweeping himself Sakurai off the track in the process. Both drivers managed to continue to the finish, though both Dallaras picked up considerable damage and Sakurai took another Rookie Class victory away from the Dutchman.
Round 12 – the last of the weekend, finally saw Hylkema receive some good fortune, though the wet conditions made sure there was nothing easy about the race. Making a clean getaway from pole position, Hylkema set about threading his way through the slick and narrow turns of Brands to take a textbook lights-to-flag win. “It's good to win again after the problems we had this weekend” Hylkema said after his win. “It rained very hard before the start of the last race but I had a good start, pushing the A-class cars ahead but I was careful as the conditions were tricky. When it dried later on I did start to struggle with the car more and more, so I took care and came home with the class win.”
He was quick to admit his frustrations however, well aware of his unrealised potential throughout the weekend: “I had a good start in the first of Sunday's races (Round 11) but I had to brake hard to avoid a collision with the two cars in front of me. On the last lap I tried to pass at turn four, I got alongside but he just turned in on me and the car picked up a lot of damage. Luckily I managed to just get to the finish to at least pick up the points for second place. All in all I am disappointed as we had the pace for three wins this weekend but now I'm really looking forward to the next round at the Nurburging – it's a circuit I know from when I raced in Formula Renault and where I had good results.”
Those next 3 rounds are set to take place on the 2-3 July at the famous German circuit – Hylkema will be determined not to let more points, or wins, slip away from him.