8/27/2021 11:47 AM

Bowers Group Sponsored University of Wolverhampton Racing Team Fight Back at Brands Hatch Indy

UWR Fight Back at Brands Hatch Indy

UWR Podium Shane Kelly P"With the fourth racing weekend of the 2021 F3 Cup calendar rolling around, the Bower’s sponsored University of Wolverhampton Racing team headed to Brands Hatch Independent Circuit, hoping to stay on top of their class and potentially unseat Stefano Leaney.

Leaney had sat comfortably on top of the overall competition throughout the season, securing a perfect season so far, with 7 pole positions and 7 race wins under his belt.

It was all eyes on the UWR students to see what they and driver, Shane Kelly, could gain from the weekend’s races.

Considerable Pace

Friday testing saw all the F3 cars on the grid showing considerable pace, confirmed by qualifying on Saturday morning with just 0.6 of a second separating the cars from 2nd to 7th.

Unfortunately, UWR qualified in 6th place, significantly behind F3 Cup class rival and fellow University of Wolverhampton team driver, George Line. The team would need to make changes to the car’s set-up to maintain their 50-point lead in class.

A Slow Start

Sadly, race 1 of the weekend proved a slow start for the team. A wet afternoon meant that most teams went out on intermediate tyres, leaving them searching for grip on a slippery track, notorious for its radical changes in elevation.

Coming into Clark Curve on the formation lap, Shane Kelly lost control and entered the gravel trap. Maintaining his forward momentum, he re-joined the circuit behind the 7th placed car however, he worked to retake 6th position on the grid.

Gravel in Kelly's tyres caused him to slip back into last place as the race started, with the rest of the grid getting away cleanly. As the race progressed, Kelly continued to fight the car for control, while Leaney, still in imperious form, set faster and faster laps, gradually lapping all other cars in the field.

In the end, Leaney romped home, with George Line taking P2 (P1 in class) and Kelly having to claw his way back to 5th (P3 in class). However, the incident in the gravel trap meant that Kelly shouldn’t have taken 6th position on the grid, instead needing to start from the very back of the pack, an infraction that saw him awarded a 10-second penalty and dropping him back to 6th overall (P4 in class). His lap times also meant he would start Race 2 from 7th position.

Fine-Tuning the UWR Dallara

A Mini Festival on Sunday saw hundreds of classic and new Mini’s descend on Brands Hatch for a day of Mini racing, interspersed with F3 action.

A later start to the racing for the F3 Cup gave the students’ time to work on the UWR Dallara, fine-tuning the ride-height of the car as well as the forward rake, increasing the downforce to give Kelly more grip.

Despite overnight rain, the track was dry but overcast by midday as the grid re-formed. UWR’s focus was absolute as nothing but an immense start would keep the team in the points and on the top spot of the class.

As the lights went out, Kelly shot away, cleaving through the middle of the grid propelling from 7th, up to 4th. A cheer ran through the students in the UWR garage at such a great start to the 15 minutes of racing.

Slipping off the track at Pilgrim’s Rise, Leaney offered a lifeline, helping Line and two other drivers to overtake. Leaney’s perfect championship was in danger if Line could hold him at bay.

As Line pushed hard to regain the top spot, Kelly began to struggle as his tyres began to lose grip once again. Instead of challenging for 3rd place, he was now defending from the cars behind him. In the dying minutes of the race, neither University of Wolverhampton driver could maintain their position, with Leaney powering past Line, and Kelly relinquishing position down to 5th place.

Lead in Class

But as they climbed from their cars, news of further penalties came through the paddock, with Cup class rival Dominic Paul given a 10-second penalty for jumping the start, and Stefano Leaney given a 45-second penalty for exceeding track limits.

Line had the race win and P1 in class, while Kelly was now P2 in class. Leaney’s hopes of a perfect season were over, and Kelly maintained the lead in class for a little longer.

With 5 hours to wait until the final race of the weekend, UWR turned to celebration, with students Sunil (Sunny) Motay and Calum Back both having their birthdays on the racing weekend. It was a touching moment for the two senior students, whose oversight was helping forge UWR’s success in 2021. However, the rules against naked flames in the garage meant that the candles on the cake were just for show.

After many delays caused by red-flagged Mini races, the F3 teams gathered, ready to take their cars and drivers to the assembly area. Without warning, the heavens opened, and a torrential downpour struck the circuit. Instead of the dry race that everyone had anticipated, this was suddenly a very wet one, with just minutes to change the cars’ set-up.

With rain still falling, albeit not as hard, and spray coming off the cars on the formation lap, so much of the final race would come down to the unknown quantity of how the cars and drivers would handle the wet conditions.

A Superb Start

Shane Kelly once again made a superb start, rocketing from 5th up to 3rd behind George Line. For the first five minutes of the fifteen, Kelly fought back as several laps left less than 0.4 of a second separating him and Line.

The University of Wolverhampton cars became equal in their handling, and Line held on to take the class win, with Kelly in P2.

With George Line taking P1 in class in all three races at Brands Hatch, UWR’s lead has been reduced to just 24 points. But with Donington Park up next, a circuit where Kelly and UWR have always been very strong, the opportunity is there to take some class wins and rebuild the lead.

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