DE LEON TAKES FIRST UK SR3 WINS AND MAKES IT A DOUBLE.
Donington triple winner and reigning Champion James Lay took pole position for the first of the weekends races on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit. The RAW Motorsports driver managed to edge out title rival Daryl De Leon in the Valour Racing car by 0.403 seconds, while DW Racing team mates Ben Caisley and Peter Tyler shared the second row of the 19 car PRO SR3 grid.
As the lights went out for rolling start De Leon had held back so had more momentum as they crossed the line. There was a slight touch, but it was De Leon in front from Lay and Caisley as they headed up the hill into Druids.
“He just had the pace, but it didn’t help when I had two wheels in the gravel. I was impressed with my save though,” said Lay. “I just went for it,” De Leon added.
The lead duo had just started to gap Caisley on lap two when the safety came out, but it was green again after one lap.
It was a similar pattern of De Leon heading Lay, with Caisley just hanging on, while behind them, Chris Preen, Tyler, 360 Racing’s Jacek Zielonka and Jason Rishover were in close contention, with Jack Tomalin having taken Haydn Chance for eighth, after both had demoted Mark Williams.
But two laps and the safety car was out again for a longer stint, leaving just a two lap sprint to the finish when it went green again.
The whole of the top 10 held station to the flag, in a disappointing start to weekend, but it was a maiden UK PRO SR3 victory for De Leon.
Once again it was a duel between De Leon and Lay into Paddock at the start of race two, but Lay came out of Druids spinning and De Leon was delayed, which left Caisley with the lead down Graham Hill, with De Leon in second, from Zielonka and Abdelmajeed Kahteeb.
“I got a nudge and spun, then got back on and was nudged again onto the grass,” said Lay after finally completing the opening lap in 14th.
Two laps behind the safety car then followed before racing was underway again, with Rishover taking third from Zielonka into Paddock, as the lead pair were soon in the clear.
“I knew Daryl would be coming through, even though I got a good restart after the safety car,” said Caisley. “I just sent it into Westfield after I had a good run out of Hawthorn,” De Leon replied after taking the lead on lap seven.
Zielonka was back into third too after a brave run down the inside into Druids. “I wasn’t expecting that from Jacek, “ Rishover admitted.
Tyler was next on the move taking Khateeb for fifth but the safety car was back in action too, with Andy Lowe in the Paddock Hill gravel.
In the final eight laps to the flag De Leon managed to pull out a winning margin of 0.868 secs over Caisley, with Zielonka heading a five-car train for third, from Rishover, Tyler, Preen and Tomalin.
With time lost in the first race, the final race of the weekend was extended to 40 minutes duration.
This time it was Lay who came away from the charge into Paddock with the lead, over De Leon, Caisley, Tomalin, Zielonka and Preen.
But the safety was quickly in action again for three laps, before the lead trio made another immediate break from the green flag, as the next nine cars ran line astern.
It suddenly all changed on lap eight though. “I had a good start and felt comfortable, but then the rear floor broke as I went into Paddock,” said Lay as he was forced to pit.
Caisley pitted early and with the addition of the success penalties, it took a few laps to work out who was in contention and who had lost out.
By lap 12 the stops were completed and Preen was ahead, from Rishover, Caisley, Daniel Headlam, Tyler, Zielonka, Khateeb and De Leon. Tyler took Headlam a lap later and both De Leon and Tomalin ousted Khateeb from seventh.
Preen then suddenly slowed exiting Graham Hill Bend a couple of laps later and pulled off. “The right hand paddleshift had stopped working,” he explained.
Caisley was the new leader, having taken Rishover on the same lap, as he now came under pressure from Tyler, while De Leon had also taken fourth from Headlam.
“I had lost track of things a bit after the stop, wondering why I had lost so much time, as I had forgotten the success penalty,” Caisley admitted.
The race was red flagged after 19 laps, with Headlam off at Surtees, which secured Caisley his maiden PRO SR3 victory by 8.339 secs.
Tyler had managed to take second from Rishover on the penultimate lap, with De Leon following. “Then I got the blue flag so moved over and let Daryl through, I thought he was lapping me, not taking me for second place,” Tyler admitted.
“With the penalty I just picked my way through as the cars came up, I wasn’t really sure on positions, “said de Leon.
Tyler was still a well deserved third, with Rishover, Zielonka and Tomalin completing the top six.
PENALTY ROBS WOOD OF THE TREBLE
Tom Wood kept Theo Micouris at bay for the whole of their opening race, after Micouris had edged out his rival for pole position.
Starting on a split grid, the SR1’s had to battle with the slower SR3’s initially, which both of the lead drivers managed to do with relative ease.
George Knutton had been third from the start, followed by James Ockenden and Oscar Joyce, but it was an SR3 that cost Knutton dearly on the last lap.
“I was trying to pass and was forced wide, losing three places,” he explained. So Wood was first home but a 10 second jump start penalty dropped him to sixth, so it was another win for Micouris, from Ockenden, Alex Spooner, Joyce and Knutton.
Wood spent the first four laps chasing Micouris in race two, while George Knutton battled with Ockenden and Joyce for third.
After the first safety car break, Wood made his move. “I got a really good run, he tried to squeeze me a bit and I touched the grass, but was through,” he explained. “He got me into Hawthorn as I think he had less aero and had the pace on the straight,” Micouris replied.
The gap started to grow and Wood took victory by 0.950 secs, with Ockenden getting the better of the three way battle for third.
George Knutton and Joyce continued to swap and change for fourth, until went in Knutton’s favour, by just 0.4 secs.
It was another Wood v Micouris duel in the final race too, with Micouris holding the upperhand before the pitstops, with Ockenden, Joyce, George Knutton and Alex Spooner heading the pursuers.
Micouris was the last to stop and rejoined third behind Wood and Knutton. He soon reclaimed second, but Wood was out of reach and added another win to his tally. “I was lucky though as the car just stopped on the slowing down lap,” said Wood.
Joyce retained a comfortable third, from Ockenden, while Knutton and Spooner held station too to complete the top six.
Published by Peter Scherer for Radical Motorsport, May 1st 2023.