UWR F3 Cup Update
After the rescheduling shenanigans of Silverstone, the UWR F3 team returned to Donington Park, one of their favoured circuits, in a strong second position, but still with points to make up if they were to snatch first place in the championship from Cian Carey.
The powers that be decided to cram qualifying and 2 races into the Saturday session, and just 1 race on Sunday morning, so once again the pressure was on for Dan Bird and his team of engineering students to have the Dallara F308 in tip-top condition, leaving nothing to chance for the tight turn-arounds on Saturday.
As driver Shane Kelly, Motorsport Technician Matt Fenton and the team huddled before qualifying, they knew a lot was riding on the next 20 minutes. Qualifying ahead of title rivals Carey and 3rd place-man George Line would be imperative for securing 2nd place. And with Hywel Lloyd in an invitational car, there’d be another driver with good pace to contend with.
Out on the track, as the time ticked away on a damp surface, it was becoming clear that UWR Car 11 was struggling for pace. On what is normally a good circuit for the Racing Wolves, Kelly’s sector times were lagging behind half the grid, more than a second behind the leaders. Unable to get the power through the car as he wanted, it was an uphill battle for both driver and car, and as the clock ran out, the team had to settle for 6th on the grid. Not the ideal position to be in, especially with just a few hours until the first race to make any changes.
Back in the garage the team began their investigation into what had gone wrong. Unfortunately, a set-up error meant that the Dallara went onto the track with the wrong suspension settings for the fast Donington circuit, explaining the difficulty in getting the power down. While this was an easy thing to fix, it could prove to be a costly mistake with UWR in the middle of the grid.
Race 1 saw drivers trading positions off the start line, with a poor start from Daly dropping him from 3rd to 10th and immediately giving the rest of the grid a boost. Lloyd in the invitational car quickly pulled away, but an early nose-to-tail battle for 2nd place developed between Carey, Dittman and Kelly, with Kelly 4th on the road, but 3rd place on the podium. As the race progressed the four leading drivers challenged each other for track position, but remained in the same order. A late charge by Daly threatened UWR’s effective 3rd place finish, but Daly’s over-commitment earned him a 5 second penalty, sealing the last spot on the podium for UWR.
The second tight turn-around of the day meant the UWR engineers needed to work tirelessly and accurately to prepare the car for a dry but dark race in the autumn gloom. Out on the track, the cars and drivers jostled for position as 20 minutes slipped by and the main two championship contenders fought at the back of the pack. With mere tenths of seconds separating the majority of drivers, it was a tough race for all concerned, but ultimately hardest for UWR, who had to settle for 8th place.
With night falling, the team would need a rethink for the final push on Sunday morning.
The team celebrated, knowing that 2nd place in the championship was all but sealed. But pinching first off Carey at Snetterton could be a challenge too far.
Images by Andi Rusyn – www.andirusynphotography.com
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