Litespeed Challenge At Oulton Park

In less than a year, Litespeed F3 has gone from an unknown quantity in motor racing to an engineering and manufacturing outfit that has earned the genuine respect of its peers in British F3, but never so much as for its performance and professionalism at Oulton Park over the Easter weekend.

Blistering times were set in the wet on Friday’s test day, the first outing for Litespeed’s R1 and their young Brazilian driver, Victor Corrêa, at the UK’s most picturesque circuit. It may have been the first round of the 2009 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, when adrenalin is high and the ‘new season’ competitive edge is waiting to be unleashed, but that did not prevent other teams from acknowledging the progress that Litespeed had made with its own chassis through its winter testing programme.

Despite the need for an engine change on Friday night, expectations were running high for Saturday qualifying. Those expectations appeared to be founded as Corrêa set a leading pace whilst he warmed his tyres in the first five laps. But the young driver was unfortunate to leave the track on exiting Shell Oils Corner, multiple bouncing across the grass and leaving the front wing in his wake and the suspension in disarray. Five laps may not be many, but Corrêa had made them count and he was 3rd on the grid.

Second qualifying was to be an impossibility, but such is the respect and best wishes for the team that no one was to object to Litespeed starting the second race from the back of the grid ………. If the car was to be ready.

A less dedicated team may have packed up there and then, but the Litespeed engineers worked tirelessly, determined to see the weekend through. By Sunday afternoon, a number of other teams had visited the Litespeed garage and there was unanimous admiration for ‘the boys from Norfolk’. Only 24 hours earlier the marshals had suggested Litespeed find a rake to gather up all the parts of its R1 that were scattered over a 100m range, and now a fully functioning car was – to all intents & purposes – in one piece and ready to race.

Corrêa’s Formula Ford championship last year showed him to be a true Brazilian puma in race conditions and with a car that he declared to have the perfect set up, he started the first race well. That perfect combination was to be short lived and a minor error forced him back into the pits after 9 laps. Race 2 was not without its own drama, Victor made up a number of places but with Wayne Boyd and Gabriel Dias clashing on the first lap and the latter rolling over Jay Bridger, he would have to do it all again. With a delayed re-start and a reduced 16 lap race confirmed, it was decided that Corrêa should simply bring the car home safely – no heroics were necessary, just a clean race to put points on the table.

Steve Kenchington, Litespeed F3’s Technical Director said, ‘That was beyond eventful as far as a race weekend goes, but we like a challenge – or several....' Nino Judge, Team Manager, added 'We may not have come away from Oulton Park with the results we wanted, but we have proved that a British manufacturer can engineer an extremely competitive F3 racing car. To have engendered such support from our peers counter-balances the fact that we are only taking home one piece of silver-ware on this occasion …..but we will be building a bigger trophy cabinet for the rest of the season !’

With other F3 teams impressed by the speed of Litespeed’s R1 and the obvious dog-eared persistence and professionalism of the operation, they remain a team to be watched throughout the 2009 season.

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