Dragon HitechGP continued its unbroken run of success in the new F3 Asian Championship Certified by FIA, as the team took its fourth and fifth consecutive wins of the season. Briton Ben Hingeley won Race 4 on his series debut, while compatriot Raoul Hyman earned a hard-fought maiden series victory in Race 5 at China’s Ningbo International Speedpark.
Runner-up in both Races 4 and 5 was Absolute Racing’s Jaden Conwright, the pole sitter for the start of both 15-lap races. The American, however, still has one more opportunity to convert his qualifying advantage into a race win as he will start from pole position in tomorrow’s Race 6. Third in Race 4 was Super License driver Tomoki Takahashi of Japan, taking his first championship podium finish.
With a stewards’ enquiry into an incident between Absolute Racing’s Akash Nandy of Malaysia and Takahashi in the closing stages of Race 5 continuing, results remain provisional.
Conwright lost the lead to his rivals off the start, dropping back to fourth after the first two corners. Hyman, who started alongside Conwright on the first row, also dropped back down the order. Takahashi made a superb getaway from fourth on the grid, blasting into the lead before dropping back to third by the end of the first lap. Hingeley, fifth on the grid, was up to third by the first corner before snatching the race lead from Conwright, who had recovered from his poor start to move into second place.
Speaking of his win, Ben Hingeley was pleased about his start. “Starts are usually one of my good points in the last couple of series I’ve done and luckily I’ve carried that over here. Starting from fifth was pretty difficult, I think me and the team struggled to dial it in pretty quickly, but we made a massive step for the race and got into third for the first corner and managed to get into first for the long right-hander and then just managed to pull away which is really quite satisfying after the way we’ve been the last two days.”
Although Conwright tried to stay with Hingeley, the Briton managed to pull clear. His pace would prove unbeatable for the remainder of the 15-lap race, taking the chequered flag by 4.784 seconds from Conwright.
Meanwhile, a race-long battle for the final podium position soon emerged between Takahashi and Hyman. Hyman closed up against his rival and tried to find a way past the Japanese driver, but a determined Takahashi kept his focus and refused to succumb to the pressure, ultimately crossing the line three-tenths of a second ahead of Hyman.
With the fastest lap times from Race 4 determining the grid for Race 5, Conwright again found himself starting from pole in today’s second 15-lap race. Lining up alongside Conwright was Hyman, with Hingeley and Takahashi on the second row. Nandy and Monaco’s Louis Prette of BlackArts Racing formed the third row.
With a less-than-perfect start in Race 4, Conwright was determined not to let history repeat itself. This time, as the lights went out, Conwright’s start went to plan and he fended off his rivals to hold the lead from Hyman. Takahashi moved up a position into third, with Hingeley dropping back to fourth, ahead of Nandy and ZEN Motorsport driver Yu Kuai.
“It was a tough race,” said Raoul Hyman, winner of race 5. “The plan was to get a good start and try to get the job done there, but Jaden made a great start and started pulling away so after that, just gather everything together and start hunting down. My Dragon HitechGP car was massively quick. I tried a few times [to get past Jaden], but it’s quite difficult to overtake here. Eventually Jaden ran a bit wide and I managed to capitalize on that. I knew we had the pace to pull away so a big thanks to the team, who have done a really great job.”
In the opening stages of the race, Conwright remained ahead of Hyman although by the end of Lap 6, the Briton had reduced the gap to seven-tenths of a second. Meanwhile, Hingeley was doing his best to find a way past Takahashi, ultimately succeeding on Lap 8.
Mid-way through the race, Conwright and Hyman were racing wheel-to-wheel, with Conwright just able to hold onto the lead. But Hyman continued to pile on the pressure and eventually found a way past on Lap 12. From there, Hyman had a clear run to the chequered flag, winning ahead of Conwright by 2.513 seconds.
While Hingeley had got past Takahashi and was catching the race leaders by a second a lap, a gearbox issue forced him into the pits, halting his challenge. Takahashi and Nandy were also battling for position and the pair made contact, a spin prematurely ending Takahashi’s race. Nandy moved into the final podium position to finish ahead of Yu and Leong.
Sunday’s Race 6 begins at 11:35 local time (03:35 GMT) and will be live-steamed on the official website (www.f3asia.com) and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/F3AsianChampionship.