British F3 launches this weekend with biggest Rnd 1 grid since inaugural season

British F3 launches this weekend with biggest Rnd 1 grid since inaugural season

The 2021 BRDC British F3 Championship blasts into life at the majestic Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit this weekend (22-23 May), with one of the most impressive crops of talent the series has seen. 

A total of 19 drivers have entered this weekend’s triple header in Kent, the largest round one entry for the category since its inaugural season as British F3 in 2016. It’s not just the entry numbers that impress, but the level of ability on offer too, for this year’s grid features two reigning car racing champions, three World Karting Champions, and a European Karting Champion for starters.

If that wasn’t enough, the field also boasts a further 25 major karting titles, 36 race wins across multiple Formula 4 series, a driver with serious F1 academy backing and countless victories across a number of other motorsport categories.

Each driver has a big prize to aim for; this year’s champion secures a two-day official FIA Formula Three test, with a day each at Carlin and Hitech GP. The last two British F3 champions, Clement Novalak and Kaylen Frederick, have jumped straight from British F3 to the F1-supporting FIA F3 category, so the test could play a pivotal role in progressing the winner’s race career.

Official test offers pointers ahead of Brands Hatch weekend 
Picking a pre-season favourite out of this year’s roster is nigh on impossible, but last week’s test at Brands Hatch gave several clues ahead of this weekend. 

Carlin, champions again last year with Frederick, were fastest courtesy of British F4 runner-up Zak O’Sullivan, with the 16-year-old Brit almost four tenths of a second clear of Hitech GP’s Bart Horsten. O’Sullivan won more races in British F4 than any other driver last year as he just missed out on the title, while Aussie Horsten is expecting big things in his second season after podiums in 2020.

Chris Dittmann Racing’s Ayrton Simmons should also figure in the fight at the front. The Brit is the only driver in the field to have won races in British F3 with five in total, and finished third overall with CDR in 2019, before making a stunning one-off appearance at Brands Hatch last year, taking a double win. 

Fortec should challenge too, especially if Brazilian Roberto Faria continues his end of season form from 2020, which saw him claim a podium at Silverstone. He’s joined by Britain’s World and European karting title holder Oliver Bearman, and Denmark’s multiple F4 race winner and Endurance racing champion Mikkel Grundtvig. 

Douglas Motorsport’s charge is headed by Sauber-backed Scotsman Dexter Patterson, holder of no fewer than nine karting titles, and a World Championship too. No wonder he’s ranked highly by the Hinwil hierarchy, and Patterson will race alongside Reema Juffali, a trailblazing racer who is the first female racing driver from her native Saudi Arabia. 

Elite Motorsport are new to single-seaters, but no stranger to winning thanks to multiple sports car titles. They introduce reigning Ginetta Junior Champion Tom Lebbon to BRDC British F3 alongside multiple NACAM F4 race winner José Garfias from Mexico and Spaniard Javier Sagrera.

Arden Motorsport joins British F3 for the first time, bringing their international race winning pedigree to the UK’s top single-seater category, and will field young Brits Alex Connor and Frederick Lubin. Connor is a multiple karting champion and F4 race winner while Lubin is in just his second season of car racing, taking the runner-up spot in the British F4 Rookie Cup last year. 

Elsewhere, Mexican Sebastian Alvarez makes a welcome return to racing after missing the 2020 season. The 2019 British F4 runner-up has joined Hitech GP alongside Horsten, while Japanese ace Reece Ushijima is back for a second season in the championship with the team, having found his way to the podium a couple of times last year. 

Chris Dittmann Racing has added British pair Alex Fores and Max Marzorati to their roster alongside Simmons; both have raced in BRDC British F3 and know how to win at Brands. Fores has won on the full layout in Monoposto at the wheel of a previous generation F3 car, and nearly claimed the F3 Cup crown last year, while Marzorati is a multiple victor on the Brands Hatch Indy layout in Renault Clios and Formula Fords. 

Australian Christian Mansell and American Bryce Aron complete Carlin’s line-up for the season; both were quick and inside the top four last week. Mansell is an F4 race winner while Aron comes from the same Team USA Scholarship scheme that has previously spawned IndyCar legends Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta and Josef Newgarden.

New Teams’ Championship and revised race weekend format
It’s not just the drivers that will compete for honours this weekend, as for the first time, the teams will also fight it out for an end of year title. Each team will take their best two results from each race and count it towards their final points tally, with the highest scoring outfit claiming the first Teams’ Championship. 

The weekend format has also been tweaked slightly. The race one grid is still formed by fastest laps in qualifying, while each driver’s second fastest times will now form the race two grid, held on Sunday morning. The weekend will then end in style with the full reverse grid, with the starting order this time decided by the inverted qualifying result, forcing the fastest drivers of the event to battle their way through from the back.

Weekend times
The action starts off with a day of testing on the Indy Circuit on Friday, before switching to the Grand Prix Circuit from Saturday morning with practice (09.00) and qualifying (11.50) ahead of the first race of the year at 15.30. 

Both of Sunday’s races (11.10 and 16.15) will be streamed live on the BRDC British F3 website, Facebook and YouTube channels.

Brands Hatch Entry list
3      Javier Sagrera, Elite Motorsport
7      Roberto Faria, Fortec Motorsports
10    Reema Juffali, Douglas Motorsport
12    Sebastian Alvarez, Hitech GP
13    Reece Ushijima, Hitech GP
18    Ayrton Simmons, CDR
21    Christian Mansell, Carlin
23    Bryce Aron, Carlin
27    Alex Connor, Arden Motorsport
34    Tom Lebbon, Elite Motorsport
43    Mikkel Grundtvig, Fortec Motorsports
50    Bart Horsten, Hitech GP
51    Zak O'Sullivan, Carlin
55    Dexter Patterson, Douglas Motorsport
78    Frederick Lubin, Arden Motorsport
81    Max Marzorati, CDR
87    Oliver Bearman, Fortec Motorsports
90    Alex Fores, CDR
99    Jose Garfias, Elite Motorsport

Image credit: Jakob Ebrey

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