Douglas Motorsport have moved their BRDC British F3 Championship podium tally up to 11 for the season, as a brace of top three finishes for Ulysse De Pauw kept the team in title contention after the penultimate meeting of the season at Donington Park this past weekend (24/25 October).
De Pauw, buoyed on from a second victory of the season last time out at Snetterton, hoped to continue that strong form and immediately lay down a marker in testing by topping two of Thursday’s timed sessions, with team-mate Manaf Hijjawi consistently challenging the times inside the top 10.
Rain threatened on Saturday but stayed clear for qualifying, De Pauw parking his Tautus chassis fourth on the grid in a hugely tight session – only 0.17s from pole position. Hijjawi closed to within half a second of the pole-sitting car, finishing 11th by the flag after a tense 20 minutes against the clock.
Rain soon arrived and did not relent, meaning race one was delayed and subsequently moved to Sunday morning for safety reasons. Clearer skies greeted drivers on Sunday for the trio of races, although wet tyres were selected by most drivers for race one, including the Douglas duo.
De Pauw was keen to make up places early to trim the 32-point gap in the title fight, and made progress immediately by dispatching two cars on the opening lap to move into second place. The young Belgian chased and grabbed the fastest lap of the race, but just ran out of time to challenge for a third win. Hijjawi made a strong start, but was unlucky to be eliminated in a lap one incident at Old Hairpin.
A reverse grid put De Pauw back to seventh on the grid for the drier second encounter, with Hijjawi recovering from a starting spot of 14th. De Pauw moved himself up into fifth place in the opening laps, but it was lap five where he made a key double overtake to dispatch two cars at Redgate in a superb attack to grab third place.
The Belgian, now clear of his main title rivals, caught up to second-placed driver, but ran out of time to progress as he brought home a fantastic second podium finish of the day. Hijjawi hunted a train of cars ahead of him looking to make progress in the second half of the race, but unfortunately failed to finish.
The final race did not start the way De Pauw would have wanted after a shuffle near the front of the pack delayed the fourth-placed starter and dropped him to 13th; Hijjawi tucking in behind as the pair gave chase. De Pauw made steady progress up the order and soon moved into the top 10 with a brace of overtaking moves, finishing in eighth place after two time penalties were applied to drivers ahead, while Hijjawi took the flag in 13th.
The weekend means Douglas Motorsport sit just 42 points adrift in the drivers’ championship standings with just three more races remaining in the BRDC British F3 season, which take place in two weeks’ time (7/8 November) on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.
“It was an important weekend for us and I think we did a great job. We stayed right in contention and grabbed two podiums to round out the weekend and keep ourselves right in the mix.
“Even from testing, we knew both drivers would be quick, as shown by their top-three times on Thursday. In qualifying and the opening two races it was apparent that the form Ulysse in particular is now in is making us real title contenders.
“His drive in the second race showed his talents and especially a great double overtake on some key rivals to make the podium. Manaf was unlucky to have his weekend affected by the opening race, and was left to play catch up on a day that he could have once again shown people what he is capable of.
“We’re right in the hunt still despite race three, so we’ll look forward to Silverstone and see what we can do to take the fight to our rivals. We’re not out of it yet by any means.”