Leading BRDC British Formula 3 Championship team SWR made a welcome return to the rostrum placings during the season finale at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit on Sunday, 11th September, with an absolutely sensational double podium finish in the penultimate race of the campaign.
South Africa’s Eugene Denyssen starred with an excellent drive to second place to claim his maiden British F3 silverware, having led from pole position until a mid-race Safety Car period. Australian team-mate Thomas Maxwell made it a double celebration for Oxfordshire’s SWR with a superb top three finish, taking the chequered flag a mere 0.5 seconds shy of the sister Tatuus-Cosworth.
“It’s really good for the team, as well as Tom and I, to end the season on a good note”, said an ecstatic Denyssen, “This result proved what we are capable of, we had pace earlier in the year and we just had some unlucky events. I had a bad qualifying, didn’t do any laps, but made my way through to eighth in the first race to get the reverse pole for race two.
“It was amazing to start on pole, I got a good gap but unfortunately we had the Safety Car which brought the field back to me and then Toby [Sowery] got the run on me. After that, Tom was right with me all the way but we kept it clean and got a great result for the team, P2 and P3.”
Maxwell, similarly elated, added: “There’s been a lot of potential lately, we made some changes and they have really paid off. We’ve got a strong package and we’ve proven we have the potential to get great results like this. The pace of the car is fantastic, the guys in the team have done a great job, and hopefully we can build on this in the future.”
Wet weather greeted the competitors for the final qualifying session of the British F3 campaign on Saturday morning and, despite having a time disallowed for a perceived track limits infringement, Maxwell managed to put his SWR machine into the top 10. Unfortunately for Denyssen, though, he had to begin race one from the back of the grid after an early excursion in qualifying at Coppice.
The first of the weekend’s three races took place on a dry track and Maxwell put together an excellent first lap to expertly carve his way through into seventh position. Leaping into the top five on lap two, he then slipped back to seventh a couple of laps later but still delivered strong pace.
Following a Safety Car period between laps seven and nine, Maxwell continued in position but on lap 10 a dramatic tangle at Redgate for two cars ahead resulted in red flags and then the chequered flag. Inheriting fifth place as a result, the finish marked the best of Maxwell’s rookie season at that point.
Denyssen, replicating his super-impressive overtaking performance from Snetterton last month, produced a stunning show in round 22 to scythe his way through the order from 18th and last on the grid onto the top eight.
Putting together a remarkable first lap, almost breaking into the top 10, the South African continued in 11th place until the latter stages of the fifth tour when an excursion for Jeremy Wahome elevated the SWR racer into 10th position. After the resulting Safety Car period, he maintained the place and was then promoted into eighth – matching his best of the year – following the red flags.
Lining-up on pole position for the ‘reverse grid’ round 23, Denyssen made an excellent launch and opened a lead of 0.7 seconds on the first lap before going on to control the action at the front until the appearance of the Safety Car on lap four. At the re-start on lap six, Denyssen judged it perfectly to pull 0.5 seconds clear of Toby Sowery but at the hairpin the SWR man was edged to second.
Maxwell, meanwhile, started the race in third position and although edged back to fourth at the start he fended off eventual champion Matheus Leist well. Continuing to hold fourth after the Safety Car period, he then moved back into third place when Aleksanteri Huovinen spun off the track.
Shadowing team-mate Denyssen throughout the second half of the encounter, the SWR duo circulated pretty much nose to tail to the chequered flag on lap 13 with only a few hundredths of a second the difference on lap times.
Ahead of round 24, the final race of the season, an issue for Ben Hingeley on the grid elevated Denyssen and Maxwell into seventh and ninth respectively and when the race began after a second formation lap Denyssen held position while his team-mate slipped back to 10th spot.
As Denyssen stayed with the top six, Maxwell tried everything in the book in an attempt to pass James Pull for ninth. With three laps to go, though, Denyssen’s hopes of another strong finish were dashed when he picked up a puncture. After pitting, he eventually finished a lap down in 15th place.
Maxwell, of course, profited and moved up into ninth before ending the race on lap 13 glued to the rear of Pull’s car, just 0.3 seconds adrift. Maxwell ended the championship seventh in the standings, with Denyssen concluding the campaign 13th and only two points shy of the top 12.
Looking back at the 2016 season, SWR team owner Sean Walkinshaw said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to see the team back on the podium and we’re all absolutely delighted for Eugene and Tom to take their first British F3 trophies. Both guys have come on really strongly during the year and they definitely deserve these results, as do all the guys in the team who’ve worked so hard all season.”
All focus now turns to the BRDC British F3 Autumn Trophy event which will be held at Snetterton in Norfolk over the weekend 29th/30th October. Drivers seeking a race drive or testing opportunities are invited to contact Ken Page on 0845 4020402, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email Sean Walkinshaw at email@example.com.
Final 2016 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship Driver Standings:
7th Thomas Maxwell, 265pts; 13th Eugene Denyssen, 194pts; 16th Jan Jonck, 142pts