The University of Wolverhampton Race (UWR) Team had a moment of déjà vu last weekend when the blue, white and lumi liveried F308 in the hands of Shane Kelly drove back into the pits after receiving its third win of the weekend at Donington Park. Students proudly cheered as their driver made his way up to the podium.
Six months stood between the last competitive race the F3 took part in at Snetterton 300 last October and the start of the 2017 season at Donington Park National. During the winter seasons, a new team of Engineering and Media students were recruited and trained. The Dallara F308 went through its methodical breakdown and rebuild and after a series of successful test days, the F3 team felt confident walking into the first round of the F3 Cup a Donington Park.
A cool track meant a slow start to qualifying with Kelly, Carey, Sebastiani and Watts all fighting for pole positon. When UWR crossed the line, an incredible 4 10ths of a second separated Kellys lead from CFs Cian Carey. Students set out to analyse data to see where we could increase our lead during the next three races.
A confident start in race 1 from the UWR driver sent Kelly straight to winning victory with a huge 9 second lead. Students roared as the number 11 car made its way through the pit lane; a rewarding moment for their hard-work during the winter season.
It was neck and neck at the start of race 2 between Team Fox Racing's Robbie Watts and UWRs Shane Kelly for the first lap, with a moment of tyre contact between the two as they flew down Craner Curves. Kelly managed to open up a gap over the following laps but Watts was determined to keep up and closed the gap on a couple of occasions.
An unfortunate moment lead Watts to come off track on this 12th lap and he was unable to continue the race. Kelly then had a 7 second lead over Sebastiani, who was now fighting for 2nd place against team mate Stuart Wiltshire, with just half a second separating the two CF cars.
2016 Championship winner George Line had a great drive. After an off in qualifying, Line had to start from the back of the grid but managed to fight his way to 4th position. James Heffernan sounded like he had engine problems for the second time, it was thought reliability could play a factor in his performance in race 3, he starts from 7th on the grid.
Race 3 was pure class from Shane Kelly and the UWR team; opening up a lead of over a second on the first lap and increasing that lead to just over 10 seconds by the end of the 20th lap of the race. Cian Carey had the Irish luck on his side, climbing 9 places to finish 5th and posting the fasted lap of the weekend. James Heffernan's engine troubles continued and forced him to retire the car after just 11 laps.
Richard Purcell had a fright when contact saw his car getting air before spinning on the grass along the Wheatcroft straight, which inevitably brought out the yellow flags. Robbie Watts lined up on the grid but was unable to complete a lap before a battery issue ended his race.
Despite everyone else's troubles on track, the "King of Donington" Shane Kelly was in a race of his own, cruising to his third win of the weekend and opening up a 12 point lead over Jacopo Sebastiani and a 25 point advantage over Stuart Wiltshire in third. The UWR Team were overwhelmed with their opening weekend success, and are already looking forward to Snetterton in May (13th – 14th), where they hope to build on their Donington success.