Simmons scores dominant victory at Spa Francorchamps

by Nathan Hine
Ayrton Simmons, Clement Novalak and Kiern Jewiss on race 3 podium at Spa Francorchamps

Chris Dittmann Racing driver Ayrton Simmons romped to a dominant race victory in the final BRDC British Formula 3 race around Circuit de Spa Francorchamps by virtue of converting pole position into a lights to flag victory.

He beat runaway championship leader Clement Novalak by 1.8 seconds, who finished second from seventh on the grid, while Kiern Jewiss completed the podium finishers despite starting from tenth in a lively final race around the spectacular Spa Francorchamps racetrack.

Simmons made a sensational start to hold the lead into the first corner over local racer Ulysse De Pauw. But there was drama behind as several drivers were forced to take to the escape road on the exit of Le Source because of an accumulation of concrete and dust which gave the Chris Dittmann Racing driver a 1.5 s margin to the chasing pack at the end of the opening lap. This instantly eliminated the chance for the following drivers to gain a tow that proved so vital in winning both races so far this weekend.

Behind Simmons, the battle of second soon got frosty pretty quickly as both Kaylen Frederick and De Pauw had damaged their front wings in the opening exchange which consigned the American to the pit lane.

Podium finisher in the reverse-grid race Neil Verhagen therefore held second place early on, and with De Pauw holding third following a broken front wing allowed the Double R Racing driver to break away. But series leader Novalak soon got around De Pauw at the bus stop chicane at the end of the second lap and went chasing after Verhagen in hot pursuit.

Things then got worse for the Belgian as the dust at Le Source damaged his front wing even further and meant that he dropped even further back from Novalak. By the end of the lap, he was forced to pit for a new front wing which all but destroyed his race.

By lap four, Simmons’s lead was over three seconds from Verhagen with Novalak a further 1.5 s further behind. But with Verhagen punching a hole through the air allowed the Carlin racer to catch up and on lap six, he made his move down the Kemmel Straight into Les Combes.

Now with Novalak in second instead of Verhagen, the championship leader was bringing the gap down to Simmons, but he still ended the race 1.8 s in front of the Carlin driver.

After looking a safe second during the first few laps, Verhagen continued to struggle more and more. And after he upstaged Manuel Maldonado’s efforts for third, both Kiern Jewiss and then Hampus Ericsson passed the fighting pair to finish third and fourth respectively to defy the odds after starting tenth and sixth on the grid.

As for the man second in the points Johnathan Hoggard, his frustrating weekend was made even worse as while fighting with Sasakorn Chaimongkol for seventh, the Fortec Motorsports driver nudged the Thai racer on the last lap.

This meant that Chaimongkol fell down to twelfth place at the flag, but Hoggard was given a 27-second time penalty for causing a collision, so in the final classification, he finished behind Chaimongkol in thirteenth position.

This means that after a dismal weekend of racing for Hoggard, Novalak heads back to Britain and to the Brands Hatch GP Circuit in two weeks time, some 54 points ahead of the Fortec Motorsports driver, with Ayrton Simmons’s relatively positive weekend means that he is just 19 points further behind.

So with three rounds and nine races to go in the 2019 BRDC British F3 Championship, will Novalak hold onto the series lead or can Hoggard and Simmons truly put the Carlin driver under pressure as the series climax reaches its end?

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