GB3

Browning extends GB3 Championship lead with two wins at Spa

5 Mins read
Credit: Jakob Ebrey

The GB3 Championship visited Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps at the weekend (23/24 July), and left with an even clearer two-way title battle.

Browning’s ideal weekend

Luke Browning jumped title rival Joel Granfors to lead the standings after Snetterton, and his Spa weekend got off to the perfect start as he took pole position for the first two races in Qualifying on Friday.

Spa and Oulton Park could scarcely be more different, but it didn’t seem to matter to the Hitech GP driver as he repeated his feat of converting both poles into wins.

Race 1 didn’t start as he’d hoped, as Granfors used the slipstream down the Kemmel Straight to take the lead on Lap 1.

The safety car then came out for an incident which saw Nico Christodoulou and James Hedley retire, and Matthew Rees disqualified.

Once it came back in, Browning wasted no time in getting back through into Les Combes and clearing off to win by six seconds.

Race 2 was a little more hard-fought, with Branden Oxley jumping him from second on the grid.

Granfors got past Browning on the Kemmel Straight too, and tried to move into the lead into Les Combes.

That forced Oxley over the run-off area, and the British driver lost his front wing on Granfors’ rear-left tyre when rejoining.

That gave Browning second place back, and he re-took the lead again at Les Combes a few laps later, keeping Granfors at bay for the remaining six laps.

His double-pole put him at the back for the reverse-grid Race 3, a situation he’s experienced plenty of times this season so far.

He made his way forward in the sole lap of racing to finish P18, two positions behind Granfors.

Race 3 was shortened to such an extent that half-points were awarded, meaning Granfors only closed the gap to Browning by half a point.

Browning’s two wins meant he pulled away by a further 19.5 points in total, leading by 30.5 points after five rounds.

With 35 points available for a Race 1 or 2 win, and 29 handed out for second in those races, it’s still all to play for in the remaining three meetings.

Morales OK after 140mph Race 3 crash

The main talking point of Sunday was a crash involving Cian Shields and David Morales on Lap 3 of the reverse-grid race, which saw Morales in the wall at Blanchimont, one of the quickest corners on the circuit.

There was concern from fans across social media, but the Championship issued the below statement to confirm that the American driver had managed to get out of the car without assistance.

Credit: GB3 Championship on Twitter

The Championship later shared a further update from Morales himself, after the Arden Motorsport driver was discharged from hospital.

Credit: GB3 Championship on Twitter

No footage has emerged of the incident, but it’s testament to the improved safety features of the Tatuus MSV-022, and possibly the Halo, that Morales was able to get out of the car uninjured.

At time of writing, it is yet to be confirmed whether he will be on the grid at Silverstone this weekend (30/31 July).

Esterson, Voisin jump Faria in standings

The battle for third in the standings is becoming as exciting as that for the title, with three drivers swapping positions race-by-race.

Max Esterson has kickstarted his season since the second round at Silverstone, after a tricky debut at Oulton Park.

He took his first podium in Round 3 at Donington Park, winning Race 2 from pole after graduating from the BRSCC National Formula Ford 1600 Championship for this season.

He’s 26.5 points ahead of Callum Voisin, despite the Carlin driver having won three races on-track to Esterson’s one at time of writing.

Voisin lost his win in Race 3 at Spa, after the race result was amended to only include the first lap of racing, officially finishing second behind Tommy Smith, the Australian taking his first win in the Championship after an earlier podium at Oulton Park.

Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Roberto Faria took third on-track, but slipped to fourth after the amended result which saw Fortec Motorsport‘s Zak Taylor promoted to his first podium finish.

Ironically, Faria was pleased to end “a harsh weekend” for he and the team with a double-podium, when he spoke to The Checkered Flag in the pitlane after the podium celebrations.

He sits 2.5 points behind team-mate Voisin, who moved ahead of him with his better Race 3 result, and 19 points ahead of Silverstone race-winner Tom Lebbon.

Fortec’s second triple-podium round after amended Race 3 result

Fortec took a podium in all three races at Snetterton, with Granfors in Races 1 and 2, and Mikkel Grundtvig winning Race 3.

They eventually managed to do the same at Spa, once the final result was confirmed.

Granfors finished second and third regular-grid races, with Zak Taylor promoted to his first podium at former Fortec man Faria’s expense after the Race 3 result was revised.

The Daventry team sits third in the Teams’ Standings, having finished there in 2021, ahead of Arden.

Arden aren’t enjoying as strong a season as last, sitting eighth, bottom of all the teams who have run at least two drivers all season.

Meanwhile, Fortec are 34 points ahead of Elite Motorsport, 46.5 behind Carlin and 48.5 behind Hitech.

Hitech lead Teams’ standings again

Hitech don’t have as storied a history in GB3, formerly the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship as Carlin, but are really taking the fight to the blue team in their third season in the category.

They’ve competed against each other in the FIA Formula 2 Championship and the FIA Formula 3 Championship for several years, with Hitech joining the F4 British Championship for this season too.

At time of writing, Carlin lead Hitech in the British F4 Teams’ Cup by 74 points.

In GB3, though, the roles are reversed, with Hitech leading by just two points after 15 races.

This season is the first time since its introduction in 2021 that Hitech have led the GB3 Teams’ Championship.

Carlin enjoyed a strong Snetterton, but Hitech were able to bounce back at Spa courtesy of a double-win for Browning and strong qualifying performances for both Cian Shields and Bryce Aron.

Only the two highest-scoring drivers’ points from each race count towards the Teams’ Championship, thus not disadvantaging two-car line-ups such as Chris Dittmann Racing and, until recently, Arden.

Gilkes outscores two-car JHR

JHR Developments have run with a single car for Matthew Rees for most of the season to date, but welcomed James Hedley back to the fold after he ran with the team for the first half of his 2021 British F4 campaign before moving to Carlin.

Hedley started his GB3 season with Elite Motorsport, but moved back to JHR for Spa, with no official reason for the switch given by either team.

That gives JHR a great opportunity to pull away from Hillspeed in the Teams’ standings, with twice as many potential points coming in as before, but Spa didn’t quite work out that way.

Hedley retired on Lap 1 of Race 1 in an incident Rees was disqualified for his part in, and although they had a better showing in Race 2, JHR were still only able to pull away from Hillspeed by a single point over the weekend.

Credit: Jakob Ebrey

That’s courtesy of Nick Gilkes‘ upturn in form recently, particularly his improved qualifying performances which have seen him reduce his average pole deficit by around a second since the start of the season.

The Canadian was happy with his recent progress when he spoke to The Checkered Flag after Race 1.

The GB3 Championship returns to Silverstone for the second time this season this weekend (30/31 July).

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Stickler for track limits, covering the GB3 Championship and the FIA Formula 3 Championship. Twitter: @MCallanderMedia
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