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Chase Owen delivers good points haul for team and driver standings from the fifth event of the BRDC British F3 Championship at Spa-Francorcamps, demonstrating Top 3 pace throughout the weekend.
Owen drove Hillspeed’s F3 car at the Belgian circuit located in the Ardennes during pre-season testing and had set a marker for his return this weekend. He was immediately up to speed on Thursday, going third quickest in two of the three practice sessions. Only Enaam Ahmed, Toby Sowery and Callum O’Keefe set quicker times – drivers with a great deal more single-seater experience than the American.
Heading into qualifying on Friday morning, Owen prepared well for the strategic demands of qualifying up front at Spa. He would need to find a tow in order to boost his own driving ability around the 4.35-mile circuit – the longest circuit on the 2017 F1 calendar as well as the British F3 calendar.
At the end of the 30-minute session, Owen qualified P5. He opted to use a single set of new tyres and waited in the pit lane for a few minutes in order to reduce his fuel load for the session. Once he was on track, he picked up a tow but got pipped for a second row grid slot by Guilherme Samaia who had found a 3-car tow on his final flying lap.
Unfortunately the potential of a podium finish in Race 1 was dashed from Owen as an electronics issue affecting the gearshift on the steering wheel of the #21 car was intermittently preventing Owen to upshift and downshift correctly. This cost Owen considerable time on the long straight sections of the circuit and he fell from P5 to P10 by the end of the 20-minute race – an uncharacteristic fall from grace for the American. Through no fault of team or driver, it was identified post-race that a loom attached to the steering wheel had been the cause of the untimely issue.
Prior to Race 2 on Saturday morning, a new steering wheel was fitted to Owen’s car. He lined up P10 on the grid and, despite slipping back to P13 at the start, drove a strong race that featured a close duel with Double R driver, Jamie Chadwick, exchanging places back and forth in the final laps of the race. Owen crossed the line in P7 and earned himself a P9 start position for Race 3 later in the afternoon.
For the third and final race of the weekend, which had all taken place under dry conditions, Owen made an impressive rise up the field to P6. He reeled in fellow American driver and British F3 newcomer, Cameron Das, but Owen could not find the opportunity to attack for the Top 5 position.
Owen commented post-weekend:
"The weekend started out really well. Being at my favourite track and finishing in the Top 3 for practice was a great start to the weekend. In qualifying I struggled to find a good tow, but was happy to put myself in P5 for Race 1. The team had done a great job setting up the car all weekend and I felt really good about the coming races. Expecting to make up a few places in the race and contend for a podium finish, I was devastated to encounter electrical issues on the first lap of the race. Being unable to shift in and out of gears at any given time on the track, I had to switch into damage-control mode and try to give up the least amount of positions as possible."
"I started the next race from P10 and after a tangle with another car on the first lap, I fell back to P13. With a really good car underneath me, I knew I was well out of position and that I had a lot of work to do. I managed to battle my way to P7 before the end of the race and felt really happy with my drive. It was one of my best races of the season, and with over 10 positions changes, it was also the most fun."
"Starting P9 in the final race, I was again starting out of position. Having another series of great battles I ended the race in P6 with several attempts at a P5 cut short by the race end."
"I’m looking towards Brands – a track I’m very familiar with and have been quick there in the past. I’ll certainly be looking for my first podium in F3 there."
With 3 events in the 2017 BRDC British F3 Championship remaining, the series returns to the U.K. at Brands Hatch from 5-6 August.