Owen Robbed of Potential Podium by Gear Selection Issue
Hillspeed with Cliff Dempsey Racing driver Chase Owen continued to build his strong mid-season form in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship with a highly competitive showing on his maiden visit to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium over the weekend, retaining seventh place in the standings. During the fifth event of the campaign on Friday, 7th July, and Saturday, 8th July, the American driver was quick from the outset and having delivered top five pace in qualifying he went on to finish 10th in round 13, seventh in round 14 and a weekend-best sixth in round 15.
Despite a problem with his steering wheel in race one, which prevented the first year F3 driver from changing gear, he battled well to salvage the top 10. While championship organiser MSV is looking into the issue which afflicted Owen in the opening contest, a new steering wheel for races two and three enabled the Texan to showcase his true pace. German driver Nick Worm, again breaking new ground in his maiden season of Formula 3 racing with a first visit to the legendary Formula One venue, secured a best finish of 13th place in the second contest and 14th position results in the other two encounters with another consistent weekend.
“Chase’s season definitely seems to be turning a corner, he did an exceptional job at Spa and we’re disappointed for him there was the issue with the steering wheel as I genuinely believe he had a chance of a podium”, said team principal Richard Ollerenshaw, “There was an intermediate problem in the third test session, but after working with MSV the steering wheel was faultless in qualifying. Unfortunately, the problem re-occurred in race one which is why Chase wasn’t able to challenge for the podium he deserved. I’m delighted with the work of the whole team, we were on top of the cars all weekend and they were very well dialed-in. Chase is continuing to develop as we knew he would, the pace and results are coming on very nicely.” Ollerenshaw added: “As at every track he visits this year, Nick is learning every time he gets behind the wheel and we’re pleased with the performances he delivered at Spa. It’s a unique and very demanding challenge but he raced well, didn’t take any undue risks in the races and gained vital experience with three important finishes.”
During testing at Spa on Thursday, 6th July, Owen starred with the fourth quickest time overall, just 0.3 seconds shy of the top two. Consistently competitive throughout the day, despite the steering wheel issue, he lapped third in session one and was in the top three again in session three. Team-mate Worm made good progress on the test day but his planned programme was impacted by an unfortunate excursion with around 15 minutes to go in session two. Feverishly getting to work back in the pits when the car was recovered, the Hillspeed with Cliff Dempsey Racing mechanics managed to repair Worm’s F3 challenger in time to get him back onto the track in session three.
Owen continued his strong form in qualifying with the fifth fastest time, just 0.4 seconds shy of the second row of the grid for round 13, but hopes of converting his starting slot into a deserved podium challenge went awry with the gear selection problem and he eventually slipped to 10th place. Worm started race one from 16th position where he stayed for the first couple of tours. Edged back a place by Manuel Maldonado into lap four, Worm hit back to get ahead of the Venezuelan and when two drivers tangled he was able to move up into 14th place where he stayed to the finish.
Lining up on the fifth row of the grid for round 14, as per his top 10 finishing position in race one, Owen slipped to 12th place on the opening tour but quickly mounted a charge through the order and by the end of lap three he was up into ninth position. Pressuring for eighth, the American made the breakthrough on lap five and then set about mounting a sustained challenge for seventh as he harried Jamie Chadwick. Glued together for the next three laps, on the ninth and final tour Owen sliced past his rival at La Source and went on to seal seventh position. His best lap of 1m18.569 seconds was only 0.2 seconds shy of top two pace. In the sister Hillspeed with Cliff Dempsey Racing car, Worm slipped back to 15th position on lap one but moved back into his starting spot of 14th when Ben Hingeley hit problems. Worm then battled strongly just outside the top 12 and climbed into 13th place at the expense of Omar Ismail on lap five. Maintaining position to the finish, the German raced well to keep Manuel Maldonado at bay.
Owen lined-up ninth on the grid for round 15, the final contest of the weekend, and quickly climbed into the top eight after a very strong start. Taking seventh at Les Combes, the American pressed on and started to pressure Cameron Das and O’Keeffe who were battling over sixth. By lap five Owen was in a position to challenge and at Les Combes he moved ahead of O’Keeffe with a terrific pass, before then setting his sights on Das. Ending the encounter just 0.8 seconds shy of his compatriot, Owen’s quickest lap of the race – a time of 2m20.021 seconds – was faster than the best managed by third placed finisher Ben Hingeley. Worm started the last of the three Spa races from 17th on the grid and after consolidating over the first couple of laps, he began to close on the cars ahead. Passing Maldonado on lap three, he then climbed into the top 15 the next time around when Jeremy Wahome dropped back. Performing well, Worm moved into 14th place at the end of the penultimate lap where he stayed to the flag.
Rounds 16, 17 and 18 will take place at Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent on 5th/6th August.