Christian Mansell has perhaps been the understated, quiet presence in this season’s GB3 Championship title race.
While retirements saw early challenger Reece Ushijima‘s push fall by the wayside a little after two DNFs at Donington Park, Zak O’Sullivan has been able to extend his lead in the standings with steady points gains and five wins to date.
But it’s O’Sullivan’s Australian Carlin team-mate we will focus on here.
Like O’Sullivan, he graduated from the F4 British Championship after a seventh-place finish, one win and five podiums in total.
Having shown a strong hand in pre-season testing at Brands Hatch, Mansell’s qualifying performance for the first round in Kent left plenty to be desired and gave him work to do from 13th on the grid.
Eighth and tenth-place finishes in Races 1 and 2 showed impressive overtaking ability, but the best was yet to come.
He made a stunning start from seventh on the reverse grid, shooting every gap that opened in front of him as Max Marzorati (Chris Dittmann Racing) squeezed polesitter Reema Juffali (Douglas Motorsport) to the inside and opened a hole for Mansell to swoop around the outside at Paddock Hill Bend.
Six places within two corners isn’t bad going, and his prospects got even better when the safety car was scrambled after Sebastian Alvarez (Hitech GP) became beached in the gravel on the outside of Paddock Hill.
The race being neutralised for two laps allowed Mansell to hold his lead for a decent chunk of the 12 lap distance, and he got yet more respite when Alex Fores (CDR) collected Juffali at Stirling Bend after the restart.
He didn’t quite clear off in the remaining half of the race after the second safety car restart, but held on for his first GB3 win from Javier Sagrera (Elite Motorsport) and Dexter Patterson (Douglas).
His second win of the season to date came in similarly changeable conditions at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, moving up from third on the grid to win by over four seconds, opening the gap by just over half a second per lap on average.
Race 2 saw him put on an overtaking clinic at Les Combes, as he made a stunning move on Ushijima at Turn 6, then a move around the outside of fellow Australian Bart Horsten on the way into the chicane put him on the podium for the second consecutive race.
Mansell’s distinction this season has perhaps been his consistency.
Several drivers have finished every race they have started, but the Australian is the only driver to start, and be classified in the result of every race so far this season.
Arden Motorsport‘s Frederick Lubin has also finished every race he started, but missed Donington Park and Spa on doctors’ advice, while mid-season entry Branden Lee Oxley has finished every race he started at Snetterton, Silverstone and Oulton Park.
Oxley, though, was disqualified from Race 3 at Silverstone after contact which saw Faria retire.
Mansell’s Carlin team-mate Bryce Aron has also finished every race, but was disqualified for contact with Patterson in Race 2 in the first visit to Silverstone.
Part-time entries Jonathan Browne, Hunter Yeany and Tommy Smith have also finished every race they started, but only Mansell has been classified in the results of all 21 races so far this season.
To scroll across the results sheet and not see a single DNF over 21 (hopefully 24) races so far this season is seriously impressive.
While a degree of luck (and perhaps mechanical sympathy) is to thank for Mansell having avoided any technical gremlins throughout the year, he has also stayed out of trouble with other cars and the stewards all year. If nothing else, the mechanics and powers-that-be at Carlin can be pleased with that.
The 16-year-old Australian, who also qualified fifth on his Euroformula Open debut at Spa in June before finishing fifth, fourth and sixth across the three races, has the narrowest of title chances as the GB3 Championship heads to Leicestershire for the Donington Decider.
He sits three points behind Ayrton Simmons and 115 behind O’Sullivan, with just 116 available from the last three races of the season.
The realistic view would place a target on Simmons’ back, in which case a consistent debut season with at least two wins and a second-place finish has to be seen as a successful campaign.