Alice Powell fights for the championship at F3 Cup Finale

Alice Powell (photo by Marc Waller)Alice headed to Snetterton in Norfolk last weekend tied on point with Alex Craven for the f3 Cup championship.

Season long rival Tristan Cliffe was 25 points behind so all three had a shot at the title. Alice was feeling confident and relaxed going into the weekend as Snetterton is a track she likes racing at.

For this round, 3 newer F3 cars joined the series, driven by Antonio Felix Da Costa, Carlos Sainz Jr and Estaban Ocon. These would not be eligible for points and so are “invisible” in terms of the championship. They are running in order for the 3 drivers so meet the requirements to enter the Macau F3 GP. This states that all drivers need to have competed in an F3 race during the season to enter.

Testing on Friday was mostly wet and Alice was quick so a wet track would be a welcome sight for Alice when qualifying took place on Saturday morning. First thing on Saturday it was indeed wet but it was drying fast and by the time the F3 session started it was just damp. The sky was dark though and rain looked possible as the cars took to the track. Alice was immediately quickest, pushing hard in case the rain came. In the end no rain fell and the track actually got faster as the session went on. Alice’s tyres had already given their best and this meant she fell away eventually qualifying 8th on the grid, 5th of the F3 Cup cars. It was a blow to her championship challenge but Alice was optimistic; “I pushed too early on my tyres thinking it would rain. By the time the track was at its fastest my tyres were past their best. We’re fifth of the F3 cup cars and I won my BARC Formula Renault championship from fifth on the grid so anything is still possible.”

Alice Powell (photo by Marc Waller)Alice Powell (photo by Marc Waller)By the time the first race lined up on the grid at 4:30pm it was completely dry. Alice needed to try pass some of the cars in front of her off the start as the aero on an F3 car makes it tough to pass once the race is underway. As the lights went out she made a good start but so did those around her and she found herself behind Mark Harrison. To make things worse up in front (Ignoring the invation cars!) was Tristan Cliffe and Alex Craven, her championship rivals. Alice tried every trick she could to try and get past Harrison, trying to pass up the inside and round the outside. But Harrison was driving as defensively as possible and making it impossible to pass. To make things worse Alice’s car had a brake issue and she found her wheels regularly locking, the last thing you need when you want to try and out brake someone. Still for lap after lap they battled and a couple of times she drew alongside but with the leaders getting further away, things were not looking good. As they started the final lap, Alice was still trying every trick she knew but Harrison was always there foiling her moves. They crossed the line together with Alice in 8th (5th in F3 cup.) It was a big blow to her championship hopes with her rivals finishing first and second of the F3 cup cars (Cliffe from Craven) Alice was feeling down but not out yet; “I really needed a good start for that race, it was okay but I could have done with getting ahead of Harrison. I didn’t have enough heat in my tyres to start with and then I couldn’t get past Harrison. Every time I tried a move he had it covered. Tomorrow’s race grid is decided from fastest lap times so hopefully that means I should be ahead of him. With Craven finishing ahead of me and Cliffe winning it’s not looking good for the championship but we have to keep pushing as anything could happen.”

Race 2 was at 1:30pm on Sunday and it was again a dry race. Alice was starting 7th this time, 4th of the Cup cars as the grid was decided on lap times in race one. Her main championship rival, Craven was just ahead of her with Cliffe another row further forward. As the lights changed, up ahead, Felix Da Costa had stalled on the grid. The three championship rivals avoided the stranded car but some of the other runners weren’t so lucky and there was a pile up. The race was instantly stopped and the cars lined up again for another try without the damaged cars. Alice got a great start and was 5th overall on the first lap. Up ahead Cliffe had made an amazing start, taking the lead overall but his championship bid was about to come undone. Coming through Coram, he drove over an unexpected patch of fluid. This spun his car off and he was out. The championship was now between Alice and Alex Craven. Alice was just behind Craven with them now running 3rd and 4th overall (2nd and 3rd of the F3 Cup cars) Although finishing ahead of Craven wasn’t enough take the title alone, finishing behind him would definitely mean being runner up so for the second race running Alice set off in pursuit.

Craven was an even tougher opponent than Harrison in race 1 and whenever Alice made an impression on the gap, Craven would speed up and match her lap times. The race was shorter due to the delays caused by the earlier pile up so Alice had very little time left to make a move. She pushed as hard as she could, setting faster and faster lap times but Craven kept responding. In the end there just wasn’t enough time and Alice crossed the line in 4th overall, taking 3rd in the F3 Cup class.

Although Craven had taken the championship, Alice was runner up and had beaten fellow contender Cliffe. As a small consolation, her team, Mark Bailey racing won the team championship.

Alice was disappointed to have just lost out but was optimistic; “We had some braking issues, which were a hindrance and time loss. However, Alex did a great job this weekend; we started the season off strong, but had some problems mid-season and struggled since then. It is not what I wanted, but coming in Vice Champion is still a good achievement and a huge thank you to the MBR team and my fantastic sponsors, for the brilliant support. I could not have done anything without them. Moving forward, I need to work hard over the winter to try and raise funds for the next step”.

Alice’s plans for 2014 are still undecided but she will be aiming to be pushing hard on track again in 2014 whatever she is racing.  By Marc Waller

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