John Bennett capped off a mightily impressive rookie season in single-seaters by securing his maiden podium finish in the 2022 GB3 Championship season finale at Donington Park last weekend (15/16 October).
Fresh from a fine run of form in recent rounds and a total of six top-five finishes to his name during the season, GB3 newcomer Bennett saved his best until last by making it onto the podium in the final meeting of the season on the full 2.4-mile Donington Park Grand Prix loop.
The talented youngster from Salisbury, backed by J5C Management Limited, StreetSharp Ltd and The Accounting Centre Ltd, headed into the final three races of the prestigious single-seater series sitting eighth in the Drivers' Championship and with a point to prove, showing his speed in testing with the fastest time of the day over Thursday's three sessions.
With pace looking strong, Bennett translated that form into a solid qualifying performance on Saturday morning in a session that saw cars getting faster as the drying quick rubbered on following a morning shower. Bennett put his Elite Motorsport Tatuus car inside the top four, starting as high as third for Sunday's second race in his best qualifying performance of the season - his third time qualifying inside the top six in as many meetings.
The Motorsport UK Academy star had a podium in sight for race one and a brave dive around the outside at the first corner ensured he surpassed Bryce Aron for third place early on. Looking comfortable, Bennett would lose out around the outside under braking on a safety car restart but was swiftly promoted back to the final spot on the podium after a penalty applied to a car ahead, giving the former Ginetta GT5 Challenge race winner his chance to celebrate with his long-awaited maiden piece of GB3 silverware.
The Thornton Ltd, Lonetree Limited and Lewco Holdings Limited-backed driver started the following race the next morning from third on the grid, which was an intense contest made dramatic by a drying surface and a split across the grid of drivers on slicks or wet tyres.
Bennett was one of those opting for a wet compound and he began his charge back to third after being boxed in at the first corner, attacking Callum Voisin at the Foggy Esses and stealing the place around the outside. Unfortunately, contact from the Carlin driver coming out of the following hairpin unceremoniously caused terminal damage to Bennett's left-rear suspension, putting the youngster out on the spot.
Bennett had one more chance in the reverse grid contest that put him back in a starting spot of 17th, and he was unlucky to be eased wide in the mid-pack by Javier Sagrera which left him in a recovery mode, finishing the race in 16th.
The podium finish did mean Bennett could celebrate also maintaining eighth place in the final Drivers' Championship standings, a strong performance for his maiden season.
John Bennett: "That was pretty much a perfect way to end the season and it sets us up really well for next year.
"We topped the times on Thursday and our pace in pre-season testing even showed that we could be really quick here, so I set my targets high for this meeting. Qualifying has been getting better and we've shown with the last three meetings that we are right up there on merit now, and it's been getting quicker and quicker.
"I would have liked to have finished on the road in the top three in race one, but you take a podium any way you can. I got a great start and then it's a shame to lose out on the restart but we had the pace in qualifying to maybe even be on pole.
"I think in the wet we had a real chance of winning race two but I never got the chance to show it, and then race three was chaotic. It's great to have finished the season well and it sets us up for the winter and into 2023."
After a superlative maiden season in the GB3 Championship, Bennett now focuses his sights on next year. If you would like to be a part of that journey, please do get in contact at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss sponsorship opportunities.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.