Single-seater rookie John Bennett showed strong pace as a sixth place finish in the most recent meeting of the season at Snetterton 300 circuit last weekend (25/26 June) helped him climb the GB3 Championship standings.
Motorsport UK Academy star Bennett headed to the 2.9-mile circuit in Norfolk looking to build on his season's best result of fourth place in the previous outing at Donington Park last month, entering the fourth meeting of the year sitting well inside the top 10 of the championship in his rookie year.
The Elite Motorsport driver, backed by J5C Management Limited, StreetSharp Ltd and The Accounting Centre Ltd, had enjoyed a fine start to his maiden season in single seaters, and testing times hinted that it would be a very tight weekend throughout the 22-strong field.
Bennett's first call to action was the short and sharp qualifying session on Saturday morning. A fast start ensured the Ginetta GT5 Challenge race winner would sit comfortably inside the top 10, considerably lowering that later on to move just 0.4s off the pole position time. Despite the narrow gap, eighth place on the grid would be Bennett's reward, starting from the fourth row for race one later that afternoon.
A fabulous start when the lights went out jumped him up into seventh place heading into the first corner, which soon became sixth with the retirement of another car ahead of him. Chasing team-mate Tom Lebbon with considerably more pace to play with, the dirty air given off would hinder his chances to overtake, but he would still comfortably seal sixth place to take more points from rivals around him.
Bennett's Sunday job would look tougher on paper, starting 12th on the grid for race two of the weekend. The Thornton Ltd, Lonetree Limited and Lewco Holdings Limited-backed driver made up a place during the early squabbling, latching onto the back of the car of Max Esterson which was among another long train of cars battling for positions well inside the top 10. Bennett would take the chequered flag in 11th place, a result unrepresentative of his pace as he fought for a way past cars ahead.
Salisbury racer Bennett had one final chance to attack in the third race of the weekend, but again the grid would not be to his favour as he would have to fight from 15th with the reverse grid undoing his hard work in qualifying.
The youngster rolled up his sleeves in the early laps once again, battling it out with several drivers including the Fortec Motorsport car of Joel Granfors which he rebuffed on the exit of the Wilson hairpin. He would be unlucky in the fights that followed, squeezed out to finish 16th at the chequered flag.
John Bennett: "I think qualifying went really well and the car felt good throughout that session, but it was amazing how close it was throughout the whole field all weekend.
"In any other weekend that would have been possibly challenging for the top three. I think race one was personally my best performance of the season yet. The pace was really good and I made up a place at the start, but once I got up to the back of Tom Lebbon I couldn't do much about it in the dirty air.
"Race two was okay, but the result was only caused by being stuck in a train where it was so hard to overtake. On lap one of race three it was a case of being in the wrong place in the battles, then on the safety car restart, when one car gets past you it's hard to get back in line as they all have a chance.
"It was a tough Sunday, but Saturday went really well so the important thing is that we know we're still quick, we scored good points in a race where a lot of the drivers fighting around me in the championship had a bad race, and now we'll look forward to Spa which will be a good experience."
A strong start to the weekend and more crucial points did ensure Bennett solidified a top-eight position in the Drivers' Championship as the GB3 party heads to Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps circuit across the weekend of 23/24 July.
Image fom Jakob Ebrey Photography.