John Bennett enjoyed one of the strongest weekends of his impressive rookie season to date in the GB3 Championship at Silverstone (30/31 July) as he battled among the front-runners at the home of British Motorsport.
After another fine showing only a week prior in the fifth meeting of his first season in single-seater racing at Spa-Francorchamps, the former Ginetta GT5 Challenge race winner looked to make use of his proven pace in the second trip to Silverstone of the year.
Just like he did so in Belgium, the Elite Motorsport driver, backed by J5C Management Limited, StreetSharp Ltd and The Accounting Centre Ltd, shone when it came to testing over Thursday and Friday at the Northamptonshire circuit as he ended the combined outings inside the top five, with pace again strong as it was a week before.
The Motorsport UK Academy star entered the meeting inside the top 10 in the championship, and hoped to transfer that testing pace into a competitive grid position for the first two races of the weekend.
Bennett started the 20-minute qualifying session in optimistic fashion, with a great early lap enough to provisionally put his Elite Motorsport Tatuus MSV-022 up onto the front row of the grid. It would be one of the tightest battles for pole position of the year, to a point where Bennett ended the session just 0.1s from the top, yet qualified a personal best of the season of fifth with a fine performance.
It would put the youngster inside the top five for the opening two races of the weekend, the first of which would take place later that afternoon. A rapid jump when the lights went out allowed Bennett to climb further to fourth place, where he could set about chasing after the Carlin duo ahead of him battling over second spot.
Having hung onto the battle for much of the 10-lapper, ultimately he would lose out to Roberto Faria at Brooklands late on as he battled for grip on his oldest set of tyres from the weekend, making his fifth place finish even more impressive.
The Thornton Ltd, Lonetree Limited and Lewco Holdings Limited-backed driver would start fifth once again in the second race of the weekend, which took place on Sunday morning. A difficult first lap put Bennett down to seventh place, battling it out a pair of Arden Motorsport cars before settling into the remainder of the race a place lower in eighth.
The Salisbury racer started the final race of the weekend from a lower grid slot of 16th as a result of the reverse grid based on qualifying. What followed was a manic contest, with Bennett soon launching a spectacular recovery drive through the field. Among the overtaking moves pulled included a brave double pass around the outside at Stowe corner, then instantly making it three by cutting inside Alex Connor a bend later at Club.
The charge continued with Bennett displacing Smith for another spot before joining the battle for third place with plenty of pace in hand. Bennett had almost made his way up to sixth, but was unceremoniously removed from the race early after hefty contact from behind by Nico Christodoulou at Brooklands.
John Bennett: "Overall it's probably been my best weekend in the championship this season. Our pace was fantastic and we've scored a lot of good points.
"The car hooked up well in testing and again in qualifying, and my first few laps were good enough to go up to the front row. It was so tight again. At some rounds that time would have been enough for the front row, but it put us in the mix.
"We got a great start in the first race and that meant I could get away from the pack, but Joel was already up the road. I had a great battle with the Carlin cars but with our most used set of tyres, it meant the Carlin cars were just too quick for us.
"Race two didn't go to plan at the start, and then race three would have been my new best race of the year! We got punted in the end but the gaps just kept opening up for us, so I was able to make up places. I think a podium could have been on looking at how the others did from further back, but it'll come."
Despite Bennett’s faultless race three performance, the DNF cost him the chance to close on the top six in the championship standings. Therefore, he lies ninth in the points heading to Brands Hatch GP circuit for the next three GB3 rounds over the weekend of 10/11 September.