Max Chilton would rather forget...

F3  CHAMPIONSHIP AT SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM

Max would rather forget the championship’s trip to Spa as he suffered problems throughout the three days, limiting the competitiveness of his Hitech run Dallara. Although he came away with a points scoring finish in the second race, a jump start penalty in the first only added to his woes……

Travelling to the British F3 International Series’ annual event at the fabulous Belgian Grand Prix circuit at Spa, Max was really looking forward to the races. He had raced here before and loved the track, but never had a chance to show his competitiveness this year as initially an engine problem and then handling difficulties put paid to any strong performances.

Throughout the free practice sessions his Mercedes Benz powered car appeared to be down on power and despite an engine change before qualifying on Friday, it was still handicapping him in the half hour session. The problem was eventually traced to faulty injector. With a different airbox fitted in time for the second qualifying session, his hopes for a better performance were dashed when again the pace was just not there.

In the first race held late on Friday afternoon, Max was keen to make up ground from his 12th place on the grid. Unfortunately he was too eager to get away and he jumped the start, incurring a drive-through penalty from the stewards. This dropped him to the back of the field and he then had an exciting race battling up through the pack. He managed to get up to 14th place in class at the end of the race, enjoying the challenge, but missing out on a points scoring finish.

“I just misjudged it,” he later explained. “I got into the clutch too early and the lights were on for a long time. I tried to anticipate them going out, but I went much too soon. After the drive through I was way down the field and although I actually had a lot of fun passing all those cars during the race, it wasn’t really any consolation.”

Initially the second race, held on Saturday, looked to be a lot better. Max judged the start to perfection this time and made up places straight away. A first corner incident which eliminated several competitors helped Max further and amazingly he was up to 6th place at the end of the first lap having started 16th on the grid. The possibility of a good result was short lived however, as soon it became clear that Max was really suffering with straight line speed again. One by one his pursuers caught and passed him with ease, Max simply unable to defend or compete with the performance of his car being down. He held on as best he could to take a couple of points, eventually finishing 9th in class.

“That was just ridiculous,” a frustrated and disappointed Max exclaimed after the race. “I don’t know what’s going on but I can’t compete with the car the way it is. It isn’t just the lack of straight line speed either; it’s lack of grip as well. I made a great start, did my best to avoid all the first lap incidents and was really pleased to be up to 6th. From the end of the first lap though I was just unable to live with everyone else’s pace. They could pick me off so easily. The team are scratching their heads as well. We simply can’t explain it.”

Max and the Hitech Racing team will return to Belgium this weekend to compete in the Masters of Formula 3 event at Zolder. This is a one off competition, not part of the British International Series, and differs from the normal regulations in terms of the tyres that all the competitors have to use. The rubber is supplied by Kumho and traditionally the British competitors, who normally race on Avon tyres, have struggled to beat their European rivals who use this make of tyre in their championship. But as Max explains, it still makes sense for him to take part;

“We are going to Zolder for The Masters and treat it primarily as another test session. Nobody expects us to do well because of the tyre situation, so in some ways the pressure is off. I’m as keen as the team is to get back out as soon as we can and try to get to the bottom of the problems that we’ve suffered this weekend at Spa. So the opportunity to run at Zolder is important even if we aren’t that competitive because of the lack of experience with the tyres.”

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