“Where do I start, it’s been a season of ups and downs.”
Coming into the year, Callan O’Keeffe seemed fresh-faced and raring to go in what would be his first full season of racing in over a year. The South African was easily one of the favourites for the championship, but outlook might be slightly different as the season draws to a close.
Sitting sixth in the standings on 310 points, O’Keeffe have all but lost sight of the overall title, though a strong finish is still on the cards with the BRDC British F3 Championship heading to Snetterton this weekend. TCF caught up with him prior to the trip to Norfolk.
“We knew coming into this year, we were a bit behind,” started O’Keeffe. “We didn’t do as much testing as other people, but we backed ourselves to progress as the year went on.
“Obviously Oulton was a bit more challenging. First qualifying of the year, my first in over a year, we made a decent weekend of it and I was on the podium at least once in the first three rounds. We were very much optimistic that once the pace came we’d be up at the front. The pace did come, we spent the last three weekends running consistently in the top three in terms of pace.”
Of course, the Douglas Motorsport driver has proved that he’s not all doom and gloom, sarcastically stating; “I don’t believe in luck” before laughing.
“…but if luck would change we’d be in a stronger position than we were at the start of the year. I just wish we’d be able to make it [a win] happen.”
So far this season, Callan proudly states that he scored a podium in each of the first three events, but the silverware has since dried up.
“Certainly pace wise, we’re always there now, so I’m sure it’ll come eventually. It’s just a matter of time for when it does and trying to make it happen a bit faster.”
Saying that, O’Keeffe has remained a member of the front pack, consistently challenging during practice and qualifying. The race though has always been a different story, with Spa notably providing his worse weekend to date.
“It’s never as black and white as ‘you’ve not had podiums so it’s not going well’. We have struggled for some reasons, some we can’t control, like anything you go through ups and downs. Like anything you just need to put it together and that’s the reality of it.”
“Silverstone testing we were P1 and P2 on Friday, Spa was the same, but putting it together has been a bit more difficult. If you keep putting yourself there, eventually it’ll come, though we’ve gotten to the point where we’ll finish P5/4 and we’ll be disappointed with it and that’s where we need to be if we’re gonna be fighting for races.”
“Mentality is there, pace is there, it just needs to click into place and get a bit of luck and try to make it happen.”
O’Keeffe made it clear at the start of the year that it was his aim to win, though the South African will need to ensure that he isn’t too bogged down by disappointment to not notice the bigger goal.
“If I finish sixth, second, seventh, it doesn’t really make a difference, because everyone only focuses on the person that won. Championship position comes with the more points you get and you get that by finishing up the front.”
Ultimately, O’Keeffe remains in a similar position to Enaam Ahmed last year. In a Douglas car, far off from the overall leaders, but keeping a comfortable gap to the midfield runners behind, allowing him to focus on maximising his results before the end of the year.
“We can still go forward, Cameron [Das] and Ben [Hingeley] have had terrible weekends and we’ve caught up after our bad results. P3 may be a bit out of reach because of James [Pull], but P4 is certainly there and it just takes one weekend where James does the same thing and you’re back there again.”
“As I said, it’s not my main focus, I want to get as many points as I possibly can, win races and do well. It’s never over. At the end of the day, you want to finish off the season with wins and podiums and that’s what we’re here for.”
O’Keeffe was fifth after Friday testing and goes into qualifying with a shot at pole position. Snetterton was the sight of his last trophy and will be determined to repeat the feat this weekend.