On the ground at Donington Park with Voisin, Toparis, and Webster: Notes from GB3 and GB4 pre-season testing

March is a busy month for GB3 and GB4 as the two series prepare for their season openers at Oulton Park in early April. Whilst many teams organise private test days throughout the winter, most come together for the regular series of official tests – five of which are scheduled during March. The most recent one took place at Donington Park, where Feeder Series spoke to GB3’s Callum Voisin and Costa Toparis and GB4’s Cooper Webster.

By George Brabner

Day one of the test saw Elite Motorsport’s McKenzy Cresswell on top in GB3, setting the pace exactly one tenth of a second ahead of Tymek Kucharczyk for Douglas Motorsport and a further 0.003 second clear of the unannounced James Hedley who was on track with Arden VRD.

That result saw Cresswell top a day of official testing for the second time. Whilst the season is still in its infancy, the early signs are encouraging for the Brit.

Day two saw the same twenty-four drivers out on track, and Callum Voisin set the fastest lap of the day for Rodin Carlin this time around, followed closely by the consistently impressive Matthew Rees. The top twelve would finish within Voisin’s 2022 pole time and the top twenty-one were split by under a second, an early indication of the high level of competition in GB3 this year.

11 GB4 cars also joined the fray on day two at Donington Park. Tom Mills from Kevin Mills Racing had an impressive four sessions to leave with the fastest time of the day. However, of those currently confirmed to be on the GB4 grid in 2023, it was Liam McNeilly for Fox Motorsport leading the way, ahead of Fortec’s Colin Queen – whose running ended prematurely after crashing heavily in the final session.

Voisin fourth on day one, tops day two

Callum Voisin embarks on his second season of GB3 with Rodin Carlin | Credit: Dom Bessell
Callum Voisin embarks on his second season of GB3 with Rodin Carlin | Credit: Dom Bessell

Tipped as one of GB3’s many 2023 title contenders, Rodin Carlin’s Callum Voisin had a successful two-day test at Donington Park. He finished day one in fourth place just over one-tenth and a half behind pace-setter Cresswell. The next day saw him top the timesheets after pipping JHR Development’s Matthew Rees by under a tenth of a second.

Voisin claimed two of his five pole positions and two of his three victories at Donington Park last season too, and whilst racing conditions always provide differing results, Voisin does somewhat favour the venue.

“It’s a combination of luck and stuff like that, but I do like this track out of all the circuits,” Voisin said.

“You know, just with Donington’s nature of fast-flowing corners and a lot of undulation as well, it’s a great sort of challenge for the drivers.”

[The wind] makes the track completely different, but I guess that’s all part of the experience

Callum Voisin
Voisin enters the GB3 championship as a title contender, having delivered strong performances in 2022 | Credit: Jakob Ebrey
Voisin enters the GB3 championship as a title contender, having delivered strong performances in 2022 | Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Whilst red flags and media activities shortened running on day two, weather conditions throughout official testing this season have also not been favourable. Two days at Silverstone were cancelled due to snow, whilst running at Oulton Park was also curtailed by similar conditions. However, at Donington, which is situated next to an airfield, wind was the differing factor.

“It has affected the car quite a lot, especially at the top of the hill… it makes it quite tricky to get it right. I mean, we’re still trying to perfect that at the moment, so yeah the wind definitely does have an effect, but at the same time, in some other corners it makes it a lot faster,” Voisin told Feeder Series.

“So it makes the track completely different, but I guess that’s all part of the experience.”

Toparis making progress before GB3 debut

2023 will be Costa Toparis' first full season in cars | Credit: Dom Bessell
2023 will be Costa Toparis’ first full season in cars | Credit: Dom Bessell

Costa Toparis will be making his full-time car racing debut with Rodin Carlin in GB3 this season. The Australian karting champion has made two appearances in Formula 4 cars: one race in the FIA Motorsport Games and three races as part of the F4 UAE Trophy weekend. However, he will essentially be starting 2023 as a complete single-seater rookie.

“Well, it was also a decision not just by me, but by Rodin Cars my sponsor, who’s now merged with Rodin Carlin. It was about maybe what suited me, what I really thrive in, which is downforce and speed. When I hopped in the car, everything seemed positive, the results seemed good in the first couple of tests so we thought we’ll pursue this and now it’s come together quite well,” Toparis told Feeder Series.

Definitely towards the season’s end, the middle to the end, we’ll be right up there fighting for race wins

Costa Toparis
Toparis aims to gain experience in the Tatuus MSV-022 car throughout the season | Credit: Jakob Ebrey
Toparis aims to gain experience in the Tatuus MSV-022 car throughout the season | Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Despite his inexperience, Toparis has been getting up to speed with the Tatuus MSV-022 car quickly. Day one at Donington Park saw him classified ninth, only half a second away from the leader McKenzy Cresswell’s fastest time; although he placed eleventh on day two, he improved and was just three tenths off the leader’s time.

Over the course of the official test, he racked up 170 laps at a track he’d previously never visited. Whilst this was a lower number than he had hoped due to the volume of red flags – particularly on day two – this marks a productive start to the year.

“I think at the start [of the year] it will be quite difficult, for me my first time in Europe ever racing in karts or cars, but I think, definitely towards the season’s end, the middle to the end, we’ll be right up there fighting for race wins, for sure,” Toparis said.

Webster settles in at Evans GP

Cooper Webster makes the switch to GB4 after previously competing in the Australian S5000 championship | Credit: Dom Bessell
Cooper Webster makes the switch to GB4 after previously competing in the Australian S5000 championship | Credit: Dom Bessell

Newcomers Evans GP have entered GB4 after two successful seasons in the Formula Regional Asian Championship, announcing Cooper Webster as the first driver on their 2023 roster last December. The Australian driver comes from a third-place finish in the 2022 Australian S5000 championship, having taken two victories and five further podiums – missing out on second place in the championship by only three points.

However, the S5000 car couldn’t be more different to GB4’s previous-generation Tatuus F4 car, making pre-season testing of the utmost importance.

“Pretty much everything on the [F4] car is different [to the S5000 car] – the only similarity is probably that it’s an open-wheeler. But engine power, the weight of the car, the paddles, the pedals… the tyres are probably the biggest thing, that’s the biggest difference to get used to. Not translating anything over from the two cars is working at the moment for GB4,” Webster explained.

I think I made improvements in every session, little steps in the right direction and feeling the limit of the car in different areas

Cooper Webster
2023 will be Evans GP's first season in GB4 after two seasons in the Formula Regional Asian Championship | Credit: Jakob Ebrey
2023 will be Evans GP’s first season in GB4 after two seasons in the Formula Regional Asian Championship | Credit: Jakob Ebrey

Despite the huge jump in machinery, Webster made good progress – ending the day at Donington Park with the fifth-fastest time and 44 laps under his belt.

“I think I made improvements in every session, little steps in the right direction and feeling the limit of the car in different areas. I think I feel a lot better at the end of today than I did at the start of the day,” he said.

Webster and Evans GP are building a strong foundation ahead of their debuts at Oulton Park. Whilst Webster’s experience from S5000 is an obvious aid, so is his time as an Oracle Red Bull Racing Esports driver.

“That little fine-tuning of your driving and the way you go testing and the way you try things is very similar to the way you optimise the car in real life,” he said.

Additional reporting by Dom Bessell and Nida Anis

Header photo credit: Jakob Ebrey

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