Caio Collet surged through from fourth on the grid to win at Spa-Francorchamps, but it was a dramatic Sprint Race behind him. Championship leader Gabriel Bortoleto and challenger Josep María Martí both failed to finish after separate incidents, while Zak O’Sullivan finished fourth on the road.
Collet made his moves on the opening lap, pulling off a brave pass to take the lead on Tayor Barnard at the end of Lap 1. The Jenzer Motorsport driver held onto the rear wing of the Brazilian to secure his maiden Formula 3 podium, while PREMA Racing’s Paul Aron completed the rostrum in third.
AS IT HAPPENED
Hugh Barter nailed his start to retain the lead into La Source ahead of Aron and Barnard, but wheelspin under traction for the PREMA Racing man allowed the #27 Jenzer Motorsport car to sneak through for P2 on the approach to Eau Rouge.
Collet followed the Briton in passing Aron, and on the run to Les Combes, the pair overtook Barter along the Kemmel Straight to head the field in P1 and P2 respectively. Aron and Jonny Edgar were also able to pass the Campos Racing driver before the end of the first lap.
Through Blanchimont, Collet swept around the outside of Barnard to take the lead of the race before the Safety Car was deployed to recover a stranded Sebastián Montoya, who had spun out before Turn 9 after contact with Rafael Villagómez.
Back to racing conditions entering Lap 4, and the two PREMA teammates of Dino Beganovic and O’Sullivan battled into La Source. The Briton was able to make the pass around the outside to take sixth, before moving by Barter into Les Combes for fifth.
Heading into Pouhon, Martí and Gabriele Minì fought over 10th but mid-corner contact left the pair spinning off. In his efforts to rejoin, the Spaniard collected the Rodin Carlin of Ido Cohen, putting both out of the race along with Minì, who’d ended up in the gravel after the initial contact. The incident brought out the Safety Car once again.
With the Safety Car withdrawn going onto Lap 8, O’Sullivan pressured Edgar into a lock-up at Turn 1, moving himself up to fourth.
Bortoleto was up to ninth position having started 15th on the grid, passing Beganovic heading into Lap 9 but his joy was short lived. Slight contact after a lock-up for the Swede tagged the Trident driver’s rear left tyre, leaving him stranded on track and out of the running.
With the recovery of Bortoleto’s car taking until the end of the penultimate lap, there was no more time to go racing and the field finished in formation behind race winner Collet under Safety Car conditions.
Barnard had to settle for second with Aron third ahead of teammate O’Sullivan in. Edgar held off MP Motorsport teammate Franco Colapinto, in fifth and sixth respectively. Barter fell to seventh in the end with Nikola Tsolov eighth, Beganovic ninth and Hitech Pulse-Eight’s Luke Browning in P10.
KEY QUOTE – Caio Collet, Van Amersfoort Racing
“Really happy with the win. I think the conditions were quite tricky, we did a good first lap and unfortunately there were a lot of Safety Cars, but we managed both restarts well. Really happy for the team and myself and we’ll keep pushing for tomorrow.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Gabriel Bortoleto retains his lead on 144 points ahead of Paul Aron on 102, Zak O’Sullivan on 101 and Josep María Martí on 100. Franco Colapinto is now fifth on 99 points.
PREMA Racing head up Trident in the Teams’ Standings, 297 points to 276 respectively. Hitech Pulse-Eight remains third on 157 points.
The FIA Formula 3 Feature Race kicks off at 08:30 local time on Sunday, with Gabriel Bortoleto getting his first chance to seal the 2023 Drivers’ Championship.