Bart Hylkema British F3 Season Review

Bart Hylkema enjoyed a memorable debut year in the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series in 2011, a season in which he dominated the Rookie Class for the first half of the campaign before making the bold decision to step into the category's top tier in pursuit of greater competition.Initially setting his sights on the Rookie Class title, the 21-year-old led the way from the opening round at the wheel of his Dallara Mugen-Honda and over the course of the first 15 races he surged into an uncontested lead in the title standings with 12 victories.Wanting to challenge himself much more though, the T-Sport driver opted to make the move into a current specification Dallara-Volkswagen for the balance of the 30 race championship in order to prepare for a full International Class campaign in 2012. In turn, of course, this meant sacrificing his hopes of winning the Rookie Class title."It was a great season overall, I really enjoyed it and we learned a lot - especially during the second half of the year in the A Class", reflected Bart, "Getting to grips with the F3 car in the Rookie Class was the best way to start but after winning so many of the races, I needed to step-up the challenge and take on the best guys in the championship to keep improving."Off the back of a strong season in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2010, Bart chose to take the next step on the motorsport ladder by graduating to F3 in the world-renowned British championship for its 60th anniversary season.He got the Rookie Class bid off to the perfect start by winning the opening three rounds at Monza in Italy. Unfortunately though, Bart was unable to count the points from his race one victory when officials declared he hadn't completed sufficient distance following an enforced visit to the pits - this was required after the rear of his Dallara was rammed at the re-start after a Safety Car period.Just a week later, the championship travelled to the UK for the first event of the year on British soil, at Oulton Park in Cheshire, and Bart continued his tremendous form with three more successes. For the next event at Snetterton in Norfolk, he took two further victories but was eliminated from round eight on the opening lap at the hairpin.Determined to continue building his Rookie Class points lead, an unfortunate non-finish during the first of the three races at a wet Brands Hatch made for a frustrating start to the fourth event of the season but second place in round 11 was followed by another win in round 12.In early July, British F3 decamped back into Europe for a visit to Germany's Nurburgring where Bart sealed three more victories to open-up a 55-point championship advantage and he also earned the coveted Driver of the Weekend award. During the two week break prior to the next event at Paul Ricard in France though, the Dutch racer made the choice to leave behind the Rookie Class battle and instead tackle the headline International Class.Hylkema makes immediate impact on International Class debut It would have been all too easy for Bart to remain in the Rookie Class and cruise to his first car racing title but with one eye continually on the bigger picture, the first year F3 driver decided a move into the top tier would ultimately make the most sense and be the best bet for his career development.The second half of the year certainly brought with it some very unfortunate incidents where Bart lost out on a series of top finishes through nothing other than bad luck. His first two races driving an International Class car both ended in retirement but in race three at Paul Ricard, he underlined his promise with a great drive to eighth place and his first championship points in the main division.At Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, the British F3 regulars were joined by competitors from the FIA Formula 3 International Trophy meaning an expanded grid and another fresh challenge. Qualifying a sensational fifth fastest of the British championship runners for the opening encounter, Bart was prevented from delivering a similarly strong race result when he suffered broken suspension.Bouncing back in the next two outings though, he posted 14th and 12th place results and enjoyed three race finishes during the subsequent event at Rockingham in the UK - including his second International Class points score with ninth position in round 24.During the final six rounds, at Donington Park and Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit, he continued to sharpen his skills and despite some incident and contact at both events the F3 newcomer proved his front-running potential for the 2012 season."Looking back, we definitely made the right choice to move-up into the A Class halfway through the year and in terms of my driving and understanding of the car I learnt much more during the final five events", says Bart, "It's a shame we didn't score a few more points during the second half of the year as our pace was good enough. Sometimes, we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time."British F3 is a great championship, so competitive, and that can only be good for my development as a driver. Thanks to all the guys at T-Sport for their hard work through the year and a huge thank you to my family, my manager and my sponsors who made everything possible this season. I'm happy with the progress we made, I really hope we can be back in British F3 in 2012!"Click here for the Bart Hylkema web site - designed and built by Racecar