A brace of second places in his maiden outing at Belgium’s renowned Spa-Francorchamps circuit saw Gloucestershire’s Zak O’Sullivan extend his lead in the British F3 Championship to more than 75 points after four rounds.
After sitting in pole position for much of the qualifying period, 16-year-old Carlin driver O’Sullivan was usurped by Australian Bart Horsten, who saved his quickest two laps until inside the final five minutes of the session, with O’Sullivan starting alongside him on the front row for the first two outings.
It was an excellent start to the race weekend for the talented teenager, who looked at home in his first outing at Spa, the longest track on the British F3 calendar.
It was not Horsten, though, but Carlin teammate Christian Mansell who O’Sullivan, from Withington, near Cirencester, duelled with during a wet first race, with the teenager coming home in second place, four seconds behind Mansell.
O’Sullivan once again showed maturity and race awareness as he drove impressively during a dry second race.
The #51 Carlin finished above both Horsten and Mansell, and just an agonising 0.866 seconds behind eventual winner Roman Bilinski after an exciting race in which the Gloucestershire man pushed his rival at every turn.
The only slight disappointment of the weekend for O’Sullivan was a seventh-place finish in the final race, following a five-second penalty for track line infringements in the reverse-grid finale, which was littered with stewards’ decisions and ultimately won by Roberto Faria.
Overall, it was another hugely impressive round for O’Sullivan, who now leads second-placed Reece Ushijima by 294 points to 216 in the standings after 12 races.
O’Sullivan said: “I really enjoyed my first weekend at Spa. The Friday was obviously a big learning curve for me having to get to know the track and also qualify, so that was a tricky one, but second on the grid was a good result.
“In race one, I made a good start and actually took the lead. It was a great battle in the rain and to finish on the podium in my first race outing there was a pretty pleasing result.
“Race two dried out and after a good start I was slip-stream passed, so it was more of a recovery drive and to finish second was actually a really good result.
“The Spa track allows a lot of overtaking and I think that added to what is always a bit chaotic in the reverse-grid third race but to finish seventh in amongst all that was a decent end to the weekend.
“I got some good points overall, extended the championship lead and it was a strong weekend.”
Next up in the calendar is round five at Snetterton (August 7-8), as O’Sullivan looks to build on what is an already outstanding campaign.
He said: “As a UK track, Snetterton is somewhere I know well. I don’t particularly enjoy it quite as much as some of the others but in the past I have always gone well there, so I’m looking forward to it.
“We’ll approach it in just the same way as the other rounds and will enjoy a bit more time at the track to prepare, so I hope it will be another productive weekend.”