22 Jun Fortec rule at Snetterton
The Cooper Tires British Formula Three Championship held their fourth event of the season at Snetterton this weekend. The Fortec trio of Matt Rao, Martin Cao and Sam Macleod had a very successful weekend, taking a podium finish in all three races.
A strong qualifying session for the Fortec team saw Sam MacLeod, Martin Cao and Matt Rao make up the top three positions respectively ahead of Saturday’s first race.
The Fortec trio made a strong start to the race. Starting from pole Macleod built a 0.815 second gap ahead of Cao, but Cao responded to close in with the time down to less than half a second as he pulled away from Rao.
Cao’s pressing on MacLeod did come at a cost, as the Chinese driver locked his wheels up at Murrays several times as he tried to end his streak of finishing second in every race so far this season with an elusive victory.
After the ten-minute mark, Cao’s challenge came to an end as MacLeod picked up the pace, setting his fastest lap and building his lead at the top to over two seconds. With five minutes to go, MacLeod extended the lead up to almost four seconds over Cao.
As the race came to an end, both Cao and Rao closed in on their targets, but they were unable to move up the grid. It meant that Fortec’s three drivers finished the race in the same positions they started in, with Macleod crossing the line in first, Cao second and Rao third.
Race two saw a reverse grid, and a battle up front soon saw Rao, Macleod and Cao pushing to move up the field to take the top spot from Li Zhi Chong (Carlin).
At Agostini on the second lap of the race, MacLeod overtook for fourth before Li Zhi Cong’s race came to a premature end on the third lap as the Chinese driver went off track at Riches, ending his race and bringing the yellow flags out.
The Carlin driver’s exit signaled the beginning of the battle between leader Kaminsky (Double R) and the chasing Rao. The Ohio-born driver defended well and saw off Rao’s challenge, as the British driver fell behind teammates Cao and MacLeod.
Kaminsky now had a new challenge in Cao, with the Chinese driver close in the early stages of the battle. However, by the ninth lap the American had extended his lead to over a second.
Not to be discouraged, a lap later Cao was back on his heels but soon fell victim to mechanical issues as his car came to a stop at Riches corner, ending his challenge.
Kaminksy had done well to avoid the incidents befalling the rest of the grid, but his imperviousness soon ended once he became embroiled in a battle with MacLeod.
Heading into Hamilton corner, MacLeod went off track but rejoined as he tried in vain to take the lead. With three laps remaining, Kaminsky and MacLeod collided at Riches, sending Kaminsky into a race-ending spin. MacLeod recovered as Rao stormed into the lead where he crossed the line with Macleod just behind.
Sam MacLeod emulated his race one success in the third and final race of the weekend in the 2014 Cooper Tires Formula 3 Championship.
While MacLeod capped a fine weekend for the Fortec Motorsport team, it was a race that almost proved costly for the team as Martin Cao and Matt Rao had a collision that ended Martin Cao’s race and hindered Rao’s pace.
The Fortec trio had another good start, and despite an initial battle with pole sitter Kaminsk (Double R), were soon leading once again. The trio continued at a similar pace, with just over a second separating them after six laps. By the seventh lap, it became less than a second.
That was as close as the Fortec racers were to get. Montreal saw the end of the battle as Cao and Rao collided. Cao’s race came to an end there and then, while Rao limped on with a damaged car.
Cao’s halt signaled the safety car, which saw MacLeod’s large lead slashed, but Rao continued to run some way down on the rest.
It took several laps for the damaged car of Rao to catch up to the leading pack. When the safety car returned to the pits five minutes later, MacLeod stormed into a decisive lead, while teammate Rao had a lot of ground to make up.
Rao set about returning to the podium places, dispatching Li Zhi Cong at Agostini on the restart, before moving past Kaminsky moments later, leaving Chang the target for Rao.
Chang was made to defend for the last ten minutes throughout as the Brit closed to within a second and looked to overtake several times. Chang was able to hold his position, but it almost cost the pair as initially the Fortec driver ran wide at Murrays, before the pair both ran wide at Hamilton a lap later.
Chang however was able to hold onto second place as MacLeod built an unassailable lead to win his second race of the weekend, while Rao made up the third place on the podium.
Another successful weekend sees Cao extend his lead in the championship, Rao currently sits second and Macleod third.
Photo: MacLeod takes the win in race 1, courtesy of the British Formula 3 media