Round 2 of the 2023 GB3 season threw a variety of track conditions at the 25-strong grid. One wet race, one race in mixed conditions and one dry race tested drivers at Silverstone, and several reignited their title charges as championship leader Joseph Loake extended his lead with two wins. Feeder Series unpacks all of the action from the second round of the year.
By George Brabner
After Round 1 at Oulton Park, it was clear JHR Developments had unlocked something that others simply hadn’t. Loake and Matthew Rees took a 1-2 in the opening race of the year and David Morales took two top-10 finishes. But tough starts for second-year drivers John Bennett, McKenzy Cresswell and Max Esterson – all touted as possible title contenders – made Silverstone’s running order difficult to predict.
Saturday at the home of the British Grand Prix brought rain – and a lot of it. Qualifying in the morning took place on a wet track under cloudy skies.
Tymek Kucharczyk set the timing screens alight to take what appeared to be a double pole position, but he had to start from the back of all three races because of a technical infringement involving a vinyl covering over his car’s halo bolts – a fate also suffered by his Douglas Motorsport teammate Lucas Staico.
That gave Bennett a pair of pole positions in a session that produced two jumbled grids. A red flag caused by Daniel Mavlyutov’s spin between Brooklands and Luffield contributed to the mixed-up order, as did heavy traffic in the rush to set laps in the changeable conditions.
Later in the day and on an even wetter track, Bennett converted his pole to victory – his first win in single-seaters – only for joy to turn to heartbreak as he lost it after the chequered flag. The stewards issued him a one-place penalty after determining that he had gained an advantage by going off track to pass Loake on Lap 1 at Copse.
Despite the eventual setback, the race was the confidence booster the Briton needed after Oulton Park and proof that he had the pace to be at the front. And for Rodin Carlin, Bennett’s second place was just one of three strong results to open the weekend, as Voisin made up one place to finish sixth and Costa Toparis crossed the line eighth after starting an impressive third.
With Bennett’s win taken away, Loake moved into first position, giving the rookie his second victory of the year in just four races. Loake’s teammate Rees – who said before qualifying that he was not looking forward to the prospect of rain – drove a controlled race to third, albeit with front-row starter Alex Dunne breathing down his neck in the closing stages.
Whilst the rain was nowhere in sight on Sunday morning, the water certainly hadn’t left the Silverstone circuit. Despite the damp track, the entire GB3 grid opted for slick tyres. As Fortec Motorsport’s Jarrod Waberski outlined to Feeder Series after the race, they might not have been the most suitable for the conditions in the opening laps.
“On the warm-up lap, the track was still wet. Wets would have been the right way to go! [It was hard] getting heat into the new tyres – and they were new, so that made it even harder,” Waberski explained. “The first lap was just really surviving and picking up places if you could. It was something I haven’t experienced before, so it was a bit wild.”
The South African managed to finish fifth after starting fourth as his teammate Esterson climbed to eighth from 12th on the grid.
At the front, Dunne had found yet more pace, excelling in the treacherous conditions to take the fight to polesitter Bennett. Fighting over second on the road but the net race lead – runaway leader Rees had a 10-second time penalty for jumping the start – they made contact at the apex of Brooklands, sending Dunne into a spin.
Stalled on the outside of the corner, Dunne saw his maiden GB3 victory slip through his fingers. So did Bennett, who once again received a post-race penalty that demoted him from victory to fourth.
And who benefitted from the chaos? Once again, it was Loake. Fighting all the way to third on the road from tenth on the grid with supreme confidence, the JHR Developments driver was bouncing post-race, clearly comfortable in his new machinery – much more so than at Oulton Park, where his inexperience in the wet still shone through.
As the sun came out and UK temperatures rose as high as 21ºC, their highest point thus far this year, the track was finally bone-dry for Race 3. This meant that, for the first time since testing earlier in the week, we would get an accurate representation of the field’s true pace in dry conditions.
Ayato Iwasaki and Oliver Stewart locked out the front row for Elite Motorsport courtesy of the reversed grid, and Iwasaki held the lead as the lights went out. But Noah Ping made up ground on Lap 1 as he jumped to second off the line, passing Ed Pearson and Stewart, before diving down the inside of Iwasaki into Luffield to take the lead.
As Ping maintained a small advantage out front, the weekend’s main protagonists began to climb through the field. After passing Pearson at Vale, Voisin set his sights on Iwasaki, Stewart and Arthur Rogeon from 12th on the grid as Cresswell, Kucharczyk and Dunne made great progress from the back half of the field.
Gaining 10 places in Race 1 and 15 in Race 2, Kucharczyk reached a total of 40 positions gained at Silverstone by finishing eighth, showing his comfort with the Tatuus MSV-022. But despite finishing with a spectacular recovery, the Pole appeared dissatisfied, particularly after Race 1, in which a spin on his way to 14th from the back slowed his progress.
At the chequered flag, Ping scored his first GB3 victory from Voisin, Stewart, Nico Christodoulou, Rogeon and Iwasaki, but a myriad of five-second time penalties for track limits promoted Christodoulou and Rogeon to the podium and set up an Arden VRD 1-2, their first in GB3. Voisin lost out as he was dropped to fourth, although he was more than satisfied with three top-six finishes leaving the paddock, while Stewart fell to seventh and Iwasaki to ninth. Those decisions opened the door for their Elite Motorsport teammate Cresswell to take fifth in his most successful GB3 weekend to date, with Dunne likewise promoted to sixth.
Loake collided with teammate Rees early on in that race and came across the line 20th as all three JHR cars failed to score. But even with Voisin’s 21-point haul from Race 3, Loake retains a 31-point advantage – nearly a race win’s worth of points – over the Rodin Carlin driver as the championship heads to Spa for its first of two international rounds in three weeks’ time.
Header photo credit: James Roberts / GB3 Championship
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