19 Aug Clean sweep at Thruxton
It was a clean sweep for the two Fortec Cooper Tires British Formula 3 Championship drivers last weekend, as they competed in the fifth event of the season at Thruxton in Hampshire. Martin Cao took both race one and two wins, whilst Matt Rao took double pole and the win in race three as well as 3 x fastest laps.
Saturday’s qualifying saw superb results for the team, with Rao taking pole for races one and three. Teammate Cao qualified second and with less than a tenth separating the two it was sure to be an exciting race weekend.
“Both Matt and Martin showed their maturity and race craft previously at Spa where they had a spectacular close race. But it doesn’t make it any easier watching the guys race wheel to wheel!” Commented team manager Dan Mitchell before the start of race one.
As the lights went out at the start of the weekends racing, Rao was a fast mover off the line but Cao closely followed and had taken the lead by the end of the first lap.
After a brief safety car period, to remove a grid-stricken car off the track, the pair bunched up and both battled for the lead. Rao was on the charge to catch Cao and made a successful pass, only for Cao to fight back but make contact into the final complex and setting Rao back with front wing damage.
Rao fought back the best that he could but Cao went on to take his first F3 win, followed by Rao who took the second step on the podium.
The second race of the weekend saw a reverse grid format. The track was wet but the team chose to stay on dry tyres as the circuit begun to dry out. Cao showed his experience and his trademark wet weather skills to go from fourth to first on lap one, pulling out a lead of seven seconds.
With no one else able to catch the Chinese driver, Cao went on to take his second win of the weekend. Team-mate Rao took second and was the fastest man on track, proving the team made the right choice to gamble with a dry set up.
The third and final race of the weekend saw Rao once again start from pole. At the race start Cao got the better of Rao and took the lead, but the Brit fought back to regain the lead at the chicane at the end of lap nine. Rao continued to pull away and crossed the line to take the win with Cao second.
Championship leader Rao commented: “I feel like the team and I had a very positive weekend with double pole and 3 x fastest laps. I’m glad to still hold the championship lead going into Brands, and am looking forward to even more battles between my teammate and I.”
Team Manager Dan Mitchell added: “With two rounds left and just four points separating the two drivers it makes for an exciting sprint to the finish line… I’m sure with a few more bumps along the way! Brands GP is next in just under a fortnight’s time, we will go into it high on confidence but we know were going to have to be on the top of our game to secure the championship this season.”