John Bennett battled through the summer heatwave to bag himself strong points finishes in an ultra-competitive GB3 Championship meeting at Brands Hatch this past weekend (9/10 September).
The 19-year-old from Salisbury was greeted by dramatically different conditions to the deluge that curtailed the final race at Silverstone last time out, as soaring temperatures graced the famous former Grand Prix circuit in Kent for the youngster’s latest three races with Rodin Carlin.
The J5C Management Limited, StreetSharp Ltd, The Accounting Centre Ltd and Khan Thornton Ltd-backed driver, who was rapid at this same circuit last season in his rookie year, hoped to return to that form heading into Saturday’s qualifying session.
After a solid initial run in the crucial 20-minute timed session that decided the grids, GB3 podium finisher Bennett saved his best laps for the second half of the action. A rapid effort saw him leap into the top five despite encountering a slower car in the final sector, before a red flag with four minutes left signaled an early end to proceedings - Bennett qualifying seventh on the grid for race one.
Attentions turned to the weekend’s opening race, and Bennett was able to skirt around an incident ahead of him at Paddock Hill Bend to advance two positions into the top five, the safety car deployed as a result. Under pressure on the restart, Bennett was slowed by James Hedley and squeezed out by Tymek Kucharczyk, demoted to seventh at Druids whereafter he pursued both Kucharczyk and Matthew Rees intently until the chequered flag.
The Motorsport UK Academy driver hoped to back up his points tally for seventh place with two more solid results on Sunday, starting race two that afternoon from 13th on the grid after his second-best lap of qualifying was affected by traffic.
Bennett - backed also by Lonetree Limited, Lewco Holdings Limited and Project Divebomb - was delayed early on and fell down to 17th place on the opening lap. Climbing a spot in his recovery attempts to finish 16th, his eyes were locked on the final race where he started 18th on the reverse grid.
What followed was a chaotic opening lap, as Bennett swerved numerous times to avoid a pair of accidents breaking out ahead of him. Through it all, seven places were gained and he then quickly made another place into the top 10, chasing Oliver Stewart hard but not quite finding the gap to put his car inside safely to climb further.
A brace of top 10 results ensures that Bennett advances his way into the top 10 in the Drivers' Championship standings.
John Bennett:“I think that was a much better reading of our pace and what we can be doing. It was close in qualifying, and with that extra lap that we didn't get because of the red flag, there was definitely a chance of being inside the top five.
"We got those positions early on in race one, but frustratingly I had to go to the outside on the restart and that put me out of position where we lost two places. Otherwise, we would have been in the top five for sure.
"The rest of the weekend was all about trying to make up ground with our second quali lap being affected by traffic. I managed to avoid all the trouble around us and got into the top 10, but then it becomes tough to pass around here even with the extra pace we had. I'm looking forward to Zandvoort, as it's a lovely track and a new challenge for a lot of us.”
Bennett next heads to the Netherlands for the penultimate meeting of this year's GB3 Championship at Zandvoort over 14/15 October.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.