Taylor Barnard won a thrilling Feature Race at Spa-Francorchamps, taking his maiden F3 win and Jenzer Motorsport’s first since 2019. The Briton called the strategy right, opting to start on wets, handled a Safety Car restart and held off Christian Mansell in tough conditions. The Campos Racing driver secured his second podium of the 2023 season, while Nikita Bedrin capped off a great day for Jenzer in third.
Gabriel Bortoleto will have to wait until Monza if he hopes to wrap up the 2023 Drivers’ title, finishing 11th and falling just short of the points gap he needed to be crowned Champion.
AS IT HAPPENED
After a formation lap behind the Safety Car, racing got underway with a rolling start and Josep María Martí headed the field on slicks. Paul Aron was one of the only drivers to opt for wet tyres and he went from P11 up to fourth in the first corners as those ahead on the mediums struggled for grip.
Along the Kemmel Straight he moved up to P2, passing Leonardo Fornaroli into Les Combes, then quickly taking the lead as Martí slithered around on the mediums. Barnard was up to second after opting for wets also, joined by MP Motorsport’s Mari Boya who likewise went the right way on tyres. Mansell was the biggest gainer, going from 23rd to fourth in the opening stages.
The Safety Car was deployed on Lap 4 after a crash for Oliver Goethe at Eau Rouge. He was out of the car and ok, but Aron’s sacrificed his nine second lead as the PREMA Racing driver pitted for slick tyres. Barnard, Mansell, Bedrin, Alejandro García, Sebastián Montoya and Sophia Floersch all remained on track to make up the top six while Aron filtered out on his mediums in P7.
Roberto Faria was also on the mediums but spun off the road and into the gravel at Les Combes and out of the race, prolonging the Safety Car. Luke Browning was another to suffer a spin under the Safety Car, but he was able to rejoin, albeit down to 17th.
Racing got back underway heading onto Lap 8 and those on the wets opened up a gap to Aron who was the lead car on the slicks in seventh. Caio Collet made a fast restart, passing Boya for P8 into Les Combes, and the Sprint Race winner passed Aron after the Estonian ran wide and off the road at Turn 8.
Championship leader Bortoleto had been as low as 20th in the first laps but was back up to 16th on Lap 9 as he chased down his title rivals ahead. The Trident driver claimed two more places into Les Combes to move up to 14th on the same lap.
With five laps to go, Mansell was just 0.3s back from leader Barnard in the fight for first and looking to find a route through. The pair almost made contact into Les Combes and the Campos Racing driver ran across the escape road before handing the place back to Barnard.
Bortoleto continued his fightback, taking 12th from Boya on Lap 12 down the Kemmel Straight. That became 11th on the penultimate lap with a pass on title rival Zak O’Sullivan and with Aron in eighth, he needed two more places to clinch the title.
Up in front, Barnard made it back-to-back podiums at Spa-Francorchamps to seal his maiden F3 victory ahead of Mansell. Teammate Bedrin was P3 in the end ahead of the third and final Jenzer García, who capped off a great day for the team in fourth.
Collet swept to fifth on the final lap after he found grip to pass Montoya and Floersch for a top five result. Aron ended up eighth with Martí ninth and Colapinto taking a pivotal 10th place, keeping Bortoleto behind and short of the title by just two points.
KEY QUOTE – Taylor Barnard, Jenzer Motorsport
A Feature Race win here at Spa, I can’t quite believe it! My weekend has gone upside-down to how I expected it to be to be honest, I finished on the podium in both races. Quite a crazy race, started on the wets and I think it was the best tyre. I managed to hold off Christian and take the win.”
THE CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS
Gabriel Bortoleto remains top on 144 points on the cusp of the 2023 title with a 38-point advantage, and only 39 points to play for in Monza. Paul Aron is P2 on 106 points ahead of Josep María Martí on 105. Zak O’Sullivan is fourth on 101 points and Franco Colapinto moves into triple digits and back inside the top five with 100 points to his name now.
PREMA Racing stay top of the Teams’ Standings on 301 points ahead of Trident in second on 276 while Campos Racing leapfrogged Hitech Pulse-Eight to third on 171 points.
The 2023 Formula 3 season resumes after the summer break on 1-3 September for the season finale at Monza.