Despite showing strong race pace and securing a new outright lap record in both Race 2 and 3, Callum Ilott endured a frustrating time at the Norisring street circuit in Germany. The European F3 championship contender arrived at the historic venue intent on building on his victory last time out but success in this weekend’s three races proved elusive for the teenage driver.
Qualifying is always close given the nature of the Norisring circuit with drivers looking to gain time through slipstreaming but at the same time not get held up by a slowing driver. Race 1 qualifying saw Ilott secure fifth position for the opening race, safe in the knowledge that overtaking was possible at the Norisring. However, Ilott’s hopes were dashed as early as the first corner when his Prema Powerteam Dallara was harpooned by a rival with Ilott and a number of other cars taken out of race contention. After sustaining car damage, pitting and now languishing at the back of the field, Ilott pushed hard to gain valuable track time but further contact when he went to pass a much slower car, forced him to retire.
Starting 12th, as the result of a harsh penalty for Race 2 on Sunday morning, Ilott faced the prospect of a tough race to gain positions. Keen to secure points to maintain momentum in the championship hunt, Ilott carefully picked off his rivals and enjoyed a fierce but clean battle with rival Joel Eriksson. Having closed a gap of over 1.5 seconds to Eriksson, Ilott set up his move at Turn 1, ultimately pressuring the Swede to yield as the pair rounded the chicane at Turn 2. Ilott’s efforts were rewarded with ninth place and two Championship points.
The final race of the weekend saw Ilott start ninth. A slow get away off the line meant Ilott was under siege at Turn 1 and having to back off to avoid another race ending collision, Ilott was now back in 15th position. With the television cameras focusing on an exciting battle at the front of the race, Ilott created some excitement of his own as he made forward progress with strong race pace and some excellent moves of his own. Ilott battled hard and endured an early brush with the concrete forced by one driver eager to defend his position. Lapping faster than the race leader, Ilott improved on the lap record he had set in a Race 2 and closed a gap of over three seconds on his teammate in tenth. With three laps to go he was able to pass two drivers in a single lap to secure ninth and collect two further points.
“We showed that we had excellent race pace this weekend underlined by getting the fastest lap twice, including a track record” says Ilott. “I’m also pleased that despite starting further back than usual, I could make up places with some nice moves. I cannot hide the fact that we should have scored more points than we did but the margins are small and not in our favour this weekend. We lost a little ground in the title fight but it’s still all to play for as we’ve only just reached the halfway stage. I’m confident that together with the team we’ll push hard and be back at the front next time out.”