Rookie talent John Bennett came oh-so-close to claiming a maiden podium finish in the third GB3 Championship meeting of the season at Donington Park last weekend (28/29 May), taking a best finish of fourth place with a charging drive.
Motorsport UK Academy star Bennett headed to the 1.9-mile circuit in Leicestershire looking to build on a spectacular start to his rookie GB3 season, with consistent top-10 results leaving him fifth in the overall championship standings.
Strong pace throughout winter testing gave the Elite Motorsport driver plenty of optimism for his return to Donington Park, and his speed again showed during the pre-event testing in preparation for the weekend. In Thursday’s final session he ran third fastest of the 22 drivers, behind only title contenders Joel Granfors and Luke Browning – an impressive achievement in only his first single-seater season.
Qualifying would be the session that Bennett, backed by J5C Management Limited, StreetSharp Ltd and The Accounting Centre Ltd, hoped to prove just what he could do against his rivals. Unfortunately, a developing engine fault was combined with confusion over his pitboard that meant he lost time evading kerbs in response to what he thought were track infringements that, ultimately, never were.
Bennett was therefore limited to 15th in the times despite the knowledge that he had much more pace in the car that he’d shown in testing. With that, he put his frustrations to one side ahead of race one, hoping to charge through the field in response.
After evading two incidents on the opening lap, Bennett climbed the order from 17th up to 11th with a spirited fightback. Getting to the head of a train of cars, he would lose time with a spin at the chicane later in the race as he took the flag an unrepresentative 17th. Following this race, the issue was found with his engine, which showed he had been only getting 88% throttle through the day.
With the engine issue now both diagnosed and repaired, the Thornton Ltd, Lonetree Limited, Lewco Holdings Limited-backed driver saw Sunday as a new opportunity, with two more races including a reverse grid encounter to look forward to. In the first race on Sunday, he managed a stronger result moving up from his starting position to 13th by the chequered flag.
Starting a more enjoyable seventh on the reverse grid and with fresh tyres to boot, Bennett's best chance came in the final race of the weekend. He made his way up to fifth place in the final complex with a good move into the hairpin on the inside, before a penalty for another driver ahead of him played into his hands. Bennett therefore achieved his best ever GB3 result in fourth place in a great performance that saw him finish less than a second from the podium.
John Bennett:"In the last race we moved up plenty of positions and I salvaged a good finish of fourth. Despite being so close to getting that podium, I'm happy with that given the issues we had faced, and it's a good place to build from.
"We hadn't realised until Saturday evening that I actually had the engine issue giving me only 88% throttle, which is why we were losing so much time. We found what was loose and fixed that for Sunday which opened it up for us and gave me a chance to fight back from my qualifying positions, which I did everything to do.
"It's obvious that we do have some good pace in the car and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do next time out at Snetterton which again should be very close."
Bennett therefore now sits eighth overall in the Drivers' Championship, next heading to Norfolk over the weekend of 25/26 June when GB3 visits Snetterton's 300 circuit.