- Dan Mason
Super Smith Seals Oulton Park GB3 Podium For Douglas Motorsport
Douglas Motorsport grabbed a superb podium finish courtesy of Tommy Smith to round out the opening round of the 2022 GB3 Championship season in style at Oulton Park over the Easter weekend (16-18 April).
The team entered the new season armed with a fresh line-up featuring Formula Ford graduate Max Esterson, 2021 British F4 star Marcos Flack and GB3 returnee Smith, with the trio all hoping to hit the ground running with a strong start to the season.
Bringing along three of the latest Tatuus MSV-022 GB3 cars for their latest assault on the series, rookie drivers Esterson and Flack showed their potential with consistent pace well inside the top 10 on Friday.
Qualifying on Saturday morning would be a hectic affair as the 21-car field jostled for position on track to find the optimum hot lap, with Esterson leading the Douglas charge in the 20-minute timed session to decide the grid for races one and two of the weekend. The American teenager narrowly missed out on the top 10, one spot ahead of Flack while Smith sealed 18th.
A frenetic opening lap in race one later that afternoon would be to the advantage of Australian rookie Flack, who moved into the top 10 as he evaded numerous first lap incidents around him, ultimately finishing a credible ninth place on debut. Smith improved a spot from his starting position, while Esterson was a victim of the lap one squabbling which dropped him to an unrepresentative 19th.
Action would then resume on Monday, and the day would bring much brighter things for the Douglas Motorsport team. Esterson led the team's charge initially, finishing 11th after a tight race two and narrowly missing out on 10th by 0.2s. Flack and Smith came home 14th and 17th respectively.
A reversed grid from Saturday's qualifying results decided the order for the third and last race of the weekend, and it paid off handsomely for the resurgent Smith, who lined up on the front row of the grid for the final 14-lap contest.
The Australian would take full advantage with a fine start to maintain his position, keeping David Morales at bay throughout with a controlled performance to grab second place and his first ever GB3 podium finish.
Esterson again showed great pace as he joined an enticing 10-car tussle for sixth place, climbing the order to eighth where he remained to the chequered flag. Flack was shuffled wide at the hairpin on lap one and fell to 20th at the end of an otherwise solid weekend.
Douglas Motorsport are next in action at Silverstone GP circuit for another trio of races when the GB3 Championship visits next month on 7-8 May.
Wayne Douglas - Team Principal: "Finishing the weekend with a podium finish is a fantastic result for us as a team, and we could not be happier for Tommy Smith to have achieved this and his first ever GB3 podium after a controlled performance.
"Qualifying was not quite representative of our pace before that, and Max in particular has a lot more to come this season having been in and around in terms of pace, as did Marcos who impressed on his first ever GB3 weekend.
"All three drivers showed great race craft also at a track that is notoriously difficult to overtake at, so we're looking forward to a strong showing at Silverstone next month."
Max Esterson: "Qualifying was tough and it put us a little bit on the back foot as you can't overtake people much around here. We showed good pace in testing and in pre-season, so I know there's a lot more to come for us this season."
Tommy Smith: "It's great to finish on a positive. The pace was better in the final race when you're out of the traffic and can drive at your speed. Qualifying could have gone better as we had a few issues and struggled because of that, but a great result to end the weekend. I'm really glad to get the podium and good points, because Oulton's a tricky old track."
Marcos Flack: "An up and down weekend for me. I learned through the weekend, but I feel that I need to learn more. It's definitely a bit of a character-building weekend but we'll be sorted and come out fighting a lot harder next time out."
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.