Sam MacLeod (Fortec) enjoyed a pole to chequered flag victory in the first race of the 2014 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series at Rockingham Motor Speedway.
MacLeod was the class of the field in the season opener and was not rattled by an attack on his lead at the second corner of the first lap or a mid-race safety car period.
Both notable incidents of the race involved MacLeod’s team-mate Matt Rao, who started from P2 and made a failed attempt for the lead on the opening lap, which resulted in the #7 car falling to the back of the field.
Rao fought back well, even setting a fastest lap as he sought to rectify his early misdemeanour, and by lap 10 he was right with Peter Li, wasting no time in collecting the Carlin driver ahead at the very same turn two of his earlier incident.
The two stranded cars brought out the safety car and closed the field, with MacLeod leading Martin Cao (Fortec), Andy Chang (Double R), Alice Powell (Carlin) and Camren Kaminsky (Double R).
After the Nissan Juke-R returned to the pits it was business as usual, with MacLeod backing the field up to make a perfect getaway. Further back, Kaminsky put Powell under pressure, making his move on lap 18 around the outside of the excitement-rich turn two.
Race two at Rockingham starts at 11:10 on Monday and features a reverse top four grid format. Race three takes place at 16:50 with a grid determined by the drivers’ fastest lap times set in today’s qualifying session.
Sam MacLeod, #50 Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312 HWA Mercedes
"That was one of my easiest races so far in my career. I had a good start, pushed for a gap and then cruised. I had to restart after the safety car, but I was able to build the gap again. Tomorrow gives us the chance of a repeat. We have a reverse gird and older tyres to start, but I'm confident we can do well again in both races."
Martin Cao, #57 Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312 HWA Mercedes
"The race started well from in P4 and I had a good launch into P2. The safety car destroyed my pace when it came out. My tyre temperature dropped a lot because of it and I really struggled in the first few laps when the safety car went in. I enjoyed the race a lot though."
Andy Chang, #8 Double R Racing, Dallara F312 HWA Mercedes
“Third was good. for my first time, third is a good result. The safety car restart stopped the heat in my tyres, so it made it more difficult to go round. Rockingham is a good track and some corners are quite hard.”
Camren Kaminsky, #34 Double R Racing, Dallara F312 HWA Mercedes
"The race started well, but on lap four I made an error. There were issues with the brakes as I went over a curb aggressively, and on the next corner, the brakes activated a couple of metres too late and I went off. Thankfully the safety car saved me. I managed to use that to my advantage and I got a good draft on Alice Powell. I took the outside move on her, passed her, and turned in after she left enough space."
Alice Powell, #3 Carlin, Dallara F312 Volkswagen
"I made a good start and it showed when I was running in the top three. We couldn't keep up with the newer cars, unfortunately. I pushed as hard as I could. We've got a bit to do and we'll keep at it. Outside of the media day at Donington, I've not driven in the car since November. It just adds to the challenges of my busy weekend. I just got here last minute from a trial with the British skeleton team. It's been frantic and my legs are like jelly to be honest! It didn't help that I started the race at the back. I've got to do the same again tomorrow."
Peter Li Zhi Cong, #1 Carlin, Dallara F308 Volkswagen
"My race was disrupted. In the first corner, there was a little accident. The Fortec wanted to overtake at the corner entry and our front and rear tyres touched. I spun and the damage put me out of the race. The damage should be no problem for tomorrow, and we shall see how it is. I couldn't see the car in the accident, so for me, it is not my fault."
Matt Rao, #7 Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312 HWA Mercedes
"I didn't make the best of starts. I was too eager going into the second corner where I was trying to outbrake Sam [MacLeod] while Andy [Chang] was on the outside. I had to lift off, and that cost me a lot. Later on, I made another mistake. I made an early move on the Carlin, but he didn't see me and we fought for the same tarmac. Personally, I think it was a racing incident. Rockingham is very wide, and it's hard to see in the mirrors, especially in these cars."
Race 2 MacLeod makes it a double
Sam MacLeod came from fourth on the grid to win the second race of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 Championship at Rockingham ahead Martin Cao and Alice Powell.
Fortec driver MacLeod made an excellent start from the flag to take three cars for the lead from the reversed top four grid and by the third lap he had built a decisive one second lead. From that position the young Brit continued to build a large gap over second placed team-mate Cao.
"The key today was the start," said MacLeod. "It was a better start today, and I was able to build from there. Hopefully I can make it a third win later."
While the top positions were set early on, race one’s man on a mission Matt Rao found himself at the back of the grid, but managed to work his way up the field to fourth.
Starting on the seventh lap, Fortec’s Rao overtook Carlin’s Peter Li for sixth at the same turn two where the duo had come together yesterday, before hunting down Double R Racing’s Andy Chang. Two laps later, Rao saw his chance and took his position. Rao was not to be stopped though, as he moved to take on Camren Kaminsky.
While an attacking style saw him move up the field early on, his new move was about patience, as he closed the gap on Kaminsky, and under pressure, the American lost the position.
Alice Powell meanwhile had the toughest battle, despite taking advantage of Kaminsky's error, as she tried to close down Cao while holding off the impressive Rao too. "It was difficult, with the new cars being so good," she said.