John Bennett showed his fighting spirit on the second away trip of the 2023 GB3 Championship season, collecting a brace of top-10 results against the odds at Zandvoort last weekend (14/15 October).
The 19-year-old from Salisbury and his Rodin Carlin squad travelled to the Netherlands for the penultimate three races of a tight and ultra-competitive GB3 Championship campaign, with series front-runner Bennett hoping to add to his Silverstone podium and eight top-10 finishes in ‘23.
The J5C Management Limited, StreetSharp Ltd, The Accounting Centre Ltd and Khan Thornton Ltd-backed driver clocked his first laps of the Grand Prix circuit on Friday, with three practice sessions blighted by poor weather conditions that ensured the first dry running would take place on Saturday morning. The 25-minute qualifying session was twice interrupted by red flags for incidents on track, Bennett’s best effort initially putting him comfortably inside the top 10, but the finest of margins dipped him to 13th in the times.
The Motorsport UK Academy driver had pace to burn, and a manic start allowed him to make progress by charging past three rivals to climb into the top 10. A stricken car prompted the appearance of the safety car at the end of lap one, Bennett locked right onto the rear wing of Elite Motorsport’s Oliver Stewart as drivers prepared for the restart. Stewart did not react quickly enough to the breakaway cars ahead, and Bennett pounced by slipstreaming up the inside to move into ninth spot at Tarzan corner.
It was the slingshot needed for Bennett who showed his pace by rapidly closing the deficit ahead of him in two laps, chasing the battling pack but not quite able to find the gap to make a safe and decisive lunge to gain further ground. Sadly, the slow restart by Stewart meant Bennett’s move was penalised for completing the pass before the finish line on the restart, so he was switched back to 10th on count back after the race’s conclusion.
Bennett - backed also by Lonetree Limited, Lewco Holdings Limited and Project Divebomb - battled to overtake in the second race later that Saturday, his second-best time in Qualifying affected by traffic and timing of the red flags which put him 16th. Despite this, he made two places by the time he reached the chequered flag, the Ginetta GT5 Challenge race-winner only moving forward on day one.
Starting mid-pack in 12th for the third and final race of the weekend, Bennett was greeted with treacherous weather conditions as a cloud burst saturated the Dutch tarmac. What followed included very little in the way of racing laps, but a safe passage for Bennett thankfully through the two tours that were completed away from the safety car.
He made swift early progress on the opening lap to move into the top nine and then a separate two-car incident ahead on the restart allowed him to profit further, collecting more points for seventh spot to strengthen his top-nine position in the Drivers’ Championship with one meeting remaining.
John Bennett:“Overall it has been a decent weekend at a new circuit for me, but one that is very exciting and a good learning experience for us. It’s been very different in terms of weather all through the days we’ve been out on track, and the last race was always going to be a bit messy. I’m happy that we managed to survive it and still move forward for a good result in the end, to strengthen our chase for a higher championship position.
“We were fast in the wet in that race and in testing on Friday, but all three cars struggled slightly with set-up in the dry. We moved up places in the races though and I showed at least that you can overtake which is now very difficult in GB3!"
Bennett now returns to the UK and is straight back into action for the final GB3 Championship meeting at Donington Park this weekend (21/22 October).
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.