- Dan Mason
Douglas Motorsport Take Another GB3 Victory At Spa-Francorchamps
Douglas Motorsport added a brilliant second win of their 2022 GB3 Championship season thanks to Tommy Smith and took another podium finish with Max Esterson at the picturesque Spa-Francorchamps circuit this past weekend (23/24 July).
The team travelled to the 3.5-mile grand prix circuit off the back of their fourth podium finish of the season at Snetterton, with drivers Marcos Flack, Tommy Smith and Max Esterson all now having claimed silverware for the team across the opening four meetings - including a superb win at Donington Park for the latter.
With experience from testing at the Belgian circuit already under their belts with the new Tatuus MSV-022 chassis being used this year, the team entered the latest three races with high hopes of fighting for more trophies and maintaining their title push. Testing on Friday seemed to point towards strong pace once again with Esterson inside the top three on each occasion, as drivers focused their attentions towards qualifying later that afternoon.
What followed was a tight session, with Esterson the highest placed of the Douglas Motorsport trio in an competitive third place on the grid for race one. Team-mates Flack and Smith were hindered by a red flag in the closing stages as the two Aussie stars looked to take advantage of their tyre performance, but had their runs cut short by the stoppage which left them an unrepresentative 15th and 21st respectively.
Saturday played host to the first two races of three in the Ardennes, with a potential second victory of the season within range for the team as the lights went out for race one. Esterson held his ground in third initially, but fell to sixth on a safety car restart following an early accident behind. The American fought back however to pass Javier Sagrera for fifth, taking another spot at the chequered flag for fourth place, while further back there were sterling recovery drives from both Flack and Smith to climb five and six places higher than their original grid slots - Flack rounding out the top 10.
Although starting a spot lower on the grid for race two later that evening, Esterson gave the team the podium finish they desired. The former Formula Ford star evaded a first-lap tangle ahead of him to climb into the top three where he would hold onto his position, the impressive rookie sealing his third podium finish and the team's fifth of the year. It would later become second place after a penalty applied to a driver ahead.
Flack produced a star performance of his own with a terrific surge through the field from 12th on the grid. Through the opening lap chaos he had already made his way up to eighth place, which soon became sixth as he dodged by a tangling pair of rivals at the unnamed left-hander exiting Rivage. The former British F4 racer brought home a top six finish, with Smith taking 19th.
Smith would have the best grid position of the trio for the reverse grid contest on Sunday, lining up on the outside of the front row with Flack closest in eighth. Tucking into the slipstream of Zak Taylor heading up the Kemmel Straight on lap one, Smith grabbed the lead with a brilliant move at Les Combes, which he held onto under pressure from Taylor a lap later at the same corner.
This would prove critical as a red flag was waved on lap two, Smith later dropping to second on the one-lap restart that followed. An incorrect grid procedure meant the results were moved back to the end of lap one though, meaning Douglas earned their second win of this season and Smith could celebrate becoming a GB3 winner for the first time.
Flack was handed ninth place, although the decision hindered Esterson who had charged from 20th on the grid to ninth, gaining eight spots after two laps. He was bumped back to 17th, but still holds onto third in the championship.
A strong weekend in Belgium puts the Douglas Motorsport squad fifth in the Teams' Championship as the series quickly heads to Silverstone's GP circuit this weekend (30/31 July) for a second time this year.
Wayne Douglas - Team Principal: "We came here hoping to continue our recent good form at a track we know very well thanks to our testing mileage, so to come away with two podiums, a victory and a good handful of points is a positive outcome for us. Max again has been fast and very consistent to keep us in the title fight, while the recoveries from Marcos were fantastic all weekend. Tommy fought hard and we'll take a win however we get them, which he would have deserved anyway after his drive in those early laps. It all points to a good weekend at Silverstone."
Max Esterson: "A good weekend for us and I'm happy to come away with another podium. Race two could have been a tricky one as we nearly got caught up in the wreck on the first lap, but I tried to look forward and hold my place, maintained the tyres and kept my nose clean to score those points for the team."
Tommy Smith: "It was a tricky one, I got a really good restart after the red flag, and I thought I had a big enough gap down the back straight but Voisin got into the slipstream I guess and passed me. To get that first win after the weekend I had … I'll take them any way they come! We’ve been to Silverstone already so hopefully we can have a good time there."
Marcos Flack: "I love Spa. It's a great circuit to race at and thank you to the team for giving me a good car. I had some good fun in the races. We gained five spots in race one and then seven in race two which showed our true pace, and we scored some important points for the team."
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.