After a four week summer break, round five of the 2019 BRDC British F3 Championship saw the single-seater racing series take a trip to continental Europe and to Circuit de Spa Francorchamps, where Carlin driver Clement Novalak held a 28 point lead over Fortec Motorsport’s Johnathan Hoggard.
Following Hoggard’s double victory at the last race meeting at Donington Park, all eyes were on whether he could cut the gap to Novalak once more in Belgium. But his first visit to the legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit did not go to plan after banking just 34 points. This now means that he heads back to Britain and to the Brands Hatch GP circuit 55 points behind the ever-consistent Novalak.
Meanwhile, the quest for victory was divided between three men as Novalak’s team-mate Kaylen Frederick discovered the winning feeling for the first time since Oulton Park, Hillspeed’s Nicolas Varrone took to the top step of the podium in the reverse-grid race from eighth on the grid, with Ayrton Simmons completing the weekend on top to move himself back into title contention.
Novalak started the second-half of the season as he ended the first, continuing his trio of fourth-placed finishes at Donington Park to the Ardennes Forest. While he lost a couple of points to Hoggard in race two, he more than made up for it with a fine podium finish in the final encounter of the weekend. Hoggard meanwhile had a weekend from hell as the Fortec Motorsport driver’s first visit to Spa Francorchamps saw him lose 27 points to his nearest championship rival.
After a disappointing race meeting at Donington Park, Chris Dittmann Racing’s Ayrton Simmons had a more positive time of things at Spa Francorchamps. He started both races one and three from pole position, and despite being pipped by Frederick in the first race, he dominated race three, while still picking up a few points in the tricky reverse-grid race which saw the front-runners struggle to make progress. He now finds himself just 19 points behind Hoggard and 74 points off Novalak with three rounds and nine races to go.
Heading to Spa Francorchamps, Manuel Maldonado, Ulysse De Pauw and Neil Verhagen were separated by just five points. Now after a turbulent weekend of racing, it is a very different picture: Maldonado leads the group after a solid weekend from the Venezuelan, while Douglas Motorsport’s Kiern Jewiss has elevated himself up to fifth in the standings, just nine points off the Fortec driver after a terrific weekend from the British teenager. Although, just a single point clear of Neil Verhagen who finds himself sixth in the standings after a tough weekend for the American.
Some fourteen and fifteen points further behind respectively is Ulysee De Pauw and Kaylen Frederick, both of whom had rather mixed fortunes in the Ardennes Forest which has put them off the back of the chasing pack. Now after a troubled campaign thus far, brother of IndyCar racer Marcus Ericsson, Hampus enjoyed a productive race meeting to be inside the top ten during his first season in the championship.
While at the rear of the championship table, a better weekend from Benjamin Pedersen has seen the American-Dane leap-frog Thai racer Sasakorn Chaimongkol, who are now tied on 161 points a piece. Josh Mason finds himself eight points adrift after another podium finish in Belgium, now ahead of Nazim Azman, Pavan Ravishankar and Lucas Petersson, who all struggled around the Spa Francorchamps circuit.
However, star of the show in race two was the eventual winner Nicolas Varrone in only his second BRDC British F3 race meeting after coming from eighth on the grid. This now means that he is ahead of season-long campaigner Kris Wright in the points classification.
So as the BRDC British F3 heads back to Britain for the next round at Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit on 3-4 August, Novalak is in charge of the championship standings, some 55 points ahead of his nearest rival Hoggard. But with three rounds of racing at Brands Hatch, Silverstone and Donington Park, anything can and probably will happen in this ever-changing motor racing series.