Ayrton Simmons blasts to pole position double at Spa Francorchamps

by Nathan Hine
Ayrton Simmons on his way to pole position at Spa Francorchamps

Chris Dittmann Racing driver Ayrton Simmons has taken pole position for both races one and three for the fifth round of the 2019 BRDC British Formula 3 race weekend around Circuit de Spa Francorchamps.

The British teenager was just over a tenth of a second faster than Double R Racing’s Neil Verhagen, with Lucas Petersson closely behind in third position after a last-lap effort saw his margin over chasing pack increase in a tightly-contested qualifying session around the venue for the Belgian Grand Prix.

The 20-minute qualifying session got underway for the fifth round of BRDC British F3 Championship with points leader Clement Novalak starting the second-half of the season in the best possible way by setting the pace after the first of the proper qualifying runs in the session.

The Carlin racer posted a 2:19.202 lap time, but was immediately bettered by Simmons with a time of 2:18.657, closely followed by Verhagen, Kiern Jewiss and Petersson, who made up the top four positions.

But the British F3 qualifying session soon entered uncharted waters, beating the fastest times set in the practice sessions earlier in the day.

Verhagen soon displaced Simmons by 68-thousandths of a second after their next runs as the pair improved by a couple of tenths of a second a piece.

After being demoted in the earlier laps, Novalak elevated himself up to third, only to be displaced by both Petersson and Kaylen Frederick.

Meanwhle, Novalak’s closest championship rival, Fortec Motorsport’s Johnathan Hoggard was having a miserable session, setting the eighth-fastest effort at that point of the session.

He would be hard-pressed to make the substantial improvement necessary to challenge his championship rivals around a track that he had no prior experience on.

Local driver Ulysse De Pauw was having better luck as the Belgian racer moved himself up to third on a 2 min 18.654 while the fastest-man during practice Sasakorn Chaimongkol was struggling to master the challenging conditions in qualifying, languishing in seventeenth place at the mid-way point of the session. But the Thai racer soon moved himself up to eleventh to displace his Hillspeed team-mate Nicolas Varrone after setting a time identical to championship contender Hoggard with five minutes left in the session.

It seemed like things had reached a stalemate in terms of driver confidence and grip out of the circuit, but out of nowhere Simmons rose to the top of the times on a 2.18.432, some 25-thousandths of a second ahead of Verhagen.

Then with no-one improving at the tail-end of qualifying, the Chris Dittmann Racing driver bettered his own lap-time to take pole position from Verhagen by over a tenth of a second after setting a 2 min 18.353 in the dying moments of a difficult and ultra-competitive qualifying session.

Behind Simmons, Verhagen will join him on the front row ahead of Petersson in third, Frederick in fourth and local hero De Pauw in fifth position. Championship leader Novalak will start the first race from sixth, while double race winner at Donington Park Hoggard will hope to make amends for his tenth place starting position around one of the most prestigious racetracks in Europe.

Race one of the weekend will get underway Saturday at 1240 local time, where Simmons will hope to secure race victory for the first race of the weekend around spectacular Spa.

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