Hillspeed drivers Sasakorn ‘Cutter’ Chaimongkol and Oliver Clarke were once again extremely evenly matched during the finale of the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit over the weekend, 7th/8th November, as the curtain fell on the team’s 50th anniversary year.
At the end of the massively competitive 24-race season, rescheduled of course due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there were just 10 points to separate the Hillspeed duo with Chaimongkol concluding the campaign seventh in the championship and rookie Clarke an excellent eighth.
During Silverstone’s three encounters, Kings Lynn teenager Clarke started off with sixth place in round 22 on Saturday afternoon before then finishing fourth in each of Sunday’s two races. In the sister red and gold Hillspeed car, Chaimongkol had to settle for ninth position in race one but was then sixth in round 23, where he also set the fastest lap, and fifth in round 24.
“We’ve had masses of pace all weekend and we definitely deserved several podiums with such a quick car under both drivers,” said Richard Ollerenshaw, team principal of the Markham Vale squad, “But I’m still very pleased with the pace and competitiveness we’ve shown at Silverstone, a very strong finish to our 50th anniversary season in motorsport.
“Ollie has had an exceptional first year, I’ve no doubt he can be a top three championship finisher if he’s back with us in 2021. It’s been a disjointed year for Cutter with his deal not happening until the week before the first event at Oulton Park, but he’s delivered some fantastic drives.”
Ollerenshaw added: “Mostly, I’m proud of the exceptional work we have done which has underlined the outstanding preparation, reliability and pace of the two Hillspeed cars throughout the entire British F3 campaign.”
Chaimongkol qualified sixth fastest for round 22 on Saturday, just half a second shy of pole position, but had a poor start to the race after being bundled back to 12th position on the opening lap. As a consequence, Clarke – who qualified ninth in a very tight session – moved up into eighth.
Nothing else changed until lap six, when contact between Reece Ushijima and Ulysse De Pauw led to retirement for the latter. Both Hillspeed drivers profited, with Clarke climbing into seventh and Chaimongkol into 11th position, and the incident also triggered the appearance of the Safety Car.
Racing resumed on the ninth tour, with time for two more laps, and Clarke passed Ushijima for sixth while Chaimongkol broke back into the top 10. At the flag, Clarke was just 0.1 seconds behind Louis Foster and Chaimongkol was elevated to ninth post-race when Ushijima was disqualified.
British F3 track action on Sunday was delayed by around 50 minutes due to early morning fog and while all of the cars initially looked set to run on wet-weather Pirellis for round 23, Hillspeed made an inspired call as the first team to gamble on slicks instead.
Although both drivers lost ground on a busy opening lap as their tyres came up to temperature on the damp and drying track, Chaimongkol slipping from ninth to 12th and Clarke from 12th to 16th, they soon started to slice their way back through the order.
By the start of the third tour Chaimongkol was back into ninth and gained four more places on that lap alone to leap into fifth. Grabbing fourth the next time around, his terrific drive was then stunted on lap five after contact from a rival at Brooklands. Able to recover in 10th, he fought back up into eighth and set a blistering fastest lap on the final lap – a time of 1m56.877 seconds.
Clarke mirrored his team-mate’s progress, before setting a string of fastest laps during the second half of the contest. Inside the top 10 by the end of lap three, he climbed into sixth the next time around and after Chaimongkol’s incident Clarke took fifth.
Pressuring for fourth during the closing stages as the lead group closed up, Clarke ended the 10-lap encounter just two seconds shy of the winner. Following time penalties for a couple of rivals, though, he was elevated to fourth in the amended result and Chaimongkol up into the top six.
“We should’ve been first and second in Sunday morning’s race,” reflected Ollerenshaw, “Our decision to go slicks was a fantastic call, and it triggered a lot of the other teams to follow our lead which was a bit frustrating. If we’d waited another couple of minutes to make the call, then others wouldn’t have had time to change tyres. But you can always be wise after the event.
“We had the fastest and second fastest laps and if Cutter hadn’t been turned around by [Roberto] Faria, who did get a penalty, I’m certain he would have gone on to win. The pace of both cars was outstanding, if they’d been able to make a bit more of lap one Cutter and Ollie would have been on the podium.”
Round 24, the final race of the season, began with Clarke sixth on the grid and Chaimongkol starting seventh and it was the latter who enjoyed the best of the opening lap – slicing through into the top five as Clarke was edged back to eighth.
It didn’t take long for Clarke to begin his fightback, moving into the top six on lap two and then closing on his team-mate. By lap six there were just tenths of a second between Kush Maini in fourth, Chaimongkol and Clarke and the next time around Clarke made his move to take sixth spot.
Over the line into the eighth tour the Briton was just 0.1 seconds behind Maini, with Chaimongkol only 0.2 seconds further back, and both Hillspeed drivers were able to get ahead of the Indian racer to move into fourth and fifth where they remained to the final chequered flag of the 2020 British F3 season – a very competitive way to conclude the team’s 50th anniversary campaign.
Hillspeed now heads directly into its winter testing programme and drivers are invited to get in touch with team boss Ollerenshaw regarding the upcoming dates. The team visits Snetterton in Norfolk on 18th/19th November, Oulton Park in Cheshire on 24th/25th November, Silverstone on 26th/27th November and then returns to Snetterton on 2nd/3rd December.