The final race of F3 Cup’s Silverstone National weekend was drama-filled from start to finish, with three new faces taking to the podium. With Ireland’s Cian Carey having won the first two races and fellow Meathman Darragh Daly having shown frontrunning pace on his series debut, the scene was set for a thrilling third race.
The University of Wolverhampton’s Dallara F308 of Shane Kelly failed to get going for the formation lap, and was pushed back into the pit lane. Diagnosed with engine troubles, he was forced to retire before the race began.
When the lights went out to start the race, double winner Cian Carey was once again the man in the lead at Copse, with Wiltshire in chase. Mark Harrison made a fantastic start to slot into third place, but couldn’t hold it for long as series newbie Darragh Daly passed him to complete the first lap behind the leading pair.
Tony Bishop had been forced to start at the back following his DNF in race two but quickly worked his way into the top ten. No sooner said however, he suffered a spin and was relegated back down the order.
At the front, a familiar battle emerged with Wiltshire trying to pass Carey for the lead. The CF Racing driver set the fastest lap in the process, but Carey was able to fend him off. Baptiste Leonard was up to fourth, ahead of Mark Harrison and George Line. The 2016 Champion managed to pass Harrison at Copse, and Patrick Jeans took advantage to slip through as well, dropping Harrison down to seventh.
Wiltshire continued to close on Carey, the gap down to 0.296s at one point, but the battle slowed the pair down and allowed third place Daly, driving superbly on his series debut, to catch them. As the lead fight became a side-by-side drag race, Irishman Daly was poised to take advantage of the slightest mistake.
The pack managed to safely negotiate the back markers, aided by some very considerate driving, but in the closing laps there was contact between Wiltshire and Carey, forcing them both off the track. While Carey managed to recover, Wiltshire was forced to retire. Daly’s strategy paid off perfectly, as he picked up a comfortable lead ahead of Leonard.
Carey managed to get back up to race pace in third position but before long Patrick Jeans was hunting him down, hungry for his first F3 Cup podium. The pair took the chequered flag side-by-side, but a five second penalty for Carey for exceeding track limits meant the trophy belonged to Jeans. Darragh Daly claimed the victory on his debut F3 Cup weekend, with Baptiste Leonard completing a trio of first time podium visitors.
Eric Brigham from the Marchand Watch Company was on hand again to present the trophies, and race winner Daly said, “I just played the waiting game, hung back and watched it all unfold in front of me. I’m really delighted to be here and on the podium. I want to thank Team Fox; they’ve done a tremendous job of getting the car prepared and ready.”
Leonard commented, “I got a good start, compared to race two, so I’m pretty happy to be here, and it’s a great car so really happy.”
Patrick Jeans said, “I didn’t know about the five second penalty, but I thought I had to get him [Carey] because he’s my mate as well, so I thought I had to at least try to get him at the line on the last lap!”
Carey joined the trio on the podium to collect the Sunoco Fastest Lap of the Weekend award for his performance in race two: “I was really struggling for pace there, don’t know whether it was the tyres or me. Stuart [Wiltshire] was down the inside and I thought I gave him enough room, but I’ll go and have a chat with him and have a look at the camera footage and see what happened. We got the finish, and two wins, so have to be positive coming out of the weekend.”