Chris Dittmann Racing had a successful visit to Snetterton last weekend (7-8 August) as the 2021 GB3 Championship season entered it’s second half.
Ayrton Simmons salvaged a brilliant trio of top-seven results despite a tricky qualifying session that saw him start all three races well down the grid, while newcomer Branden Lee Oxley delivered a massively impressive set of results despite the event being his first experience of the car and the circuit.
Saturday morning’s qualifying session was one of the more bizarre in recent memory. It started in damp conditions but with rain on the way, it was important to get a good lap in quickly. Simmons’ best lap came on just his second tour of the three-mile circuit, and when set for an improvement, was forced to back off to avoid traffic. Moments later, the heavens opened and any chance for an improvement was scuppered, leaving him 16th, 12th and 16th on the grid for the three races.
In contrast, Oxley was fifth fastest in the session, which translated to fourth on the grid for the first race after a penalty for another driver was brought into effect, while also securing 11th for race two and seventh for the final contest.
Despite his lack of experience, Oxley more than held his own against a competitive field. He fell to eighth by lap two, but kept his cool to rise through the order and move back into the top five just two laps later, a position he held until the flag. Simmons’ progress was superb, climbing to 12th on lap one, eighth by lap four and then up to sixth on lap five. From there he slotted in safely behind his new teammate, with the pair circulating together thereafter until the chequered flag.
Race two saw more reasons to be positive, as Simmons jumped from 11th on the grid to eighth on the first lap, and climbing to seventh on lap four. He held that position until the chequered flag, finishing just six tenths of a second away from a second successive top-six result. Oxley meanwhile held his position for the first few laps and ran as high as tenth by the mid-race point. He was shuffled down to 14th by the significantly more experienced field on the next lap, but still brought his car home to bank more strong points.
The final race on Sunday afternoon was held in tricky conditions as a pre-race rain shower threatened to derail any strategy calls. Ultimately, despite a bit of drizzle, all 18 drivers opted for slick tyres, though conditions remained less than ideal. Oxley was in the thick of the battle throughout, dropping to 16th after some tight racing in the pack, but showed lots of fight to drag his way back up the order and finish 12th after a forceful last lap overtake when rain was falling steadily.
Simmons replicated his race one charge to gain 10 places in the race, and the additional overtaking bonus points that come in the final contest of the weekend. He moved up to 11th after just one lap, ninth on lap two and then steadily picked his way through the order, despite the rough and tumble nature of the reverse grid. A sixth place finish saw him claim 10 bonus points for his positions gained, the highest score in the field.
The team now heads to Silverstone next weekend (14-15 August) with high hopes after a very promising event in East Anglia.
Team Principal Chris Dittmann commented: “What looked like being a tough weekend after a tricky qualifying session actually resulted in one of the most positive weekends of the season. Both drivers showed excellent fighting qualities in all three races despite a lot of uncertain conditions.
“With the speed Ayrton showed, I’m sure he could have had podiums at least this weekend, but qualifying was basically a lottery and was all about track position, which couldn’t be controlled. But the way he fought back in all three races was so impressive, and it was a great way for him to start a fightback in the championship standings as we get deeper into the season.
“Branden was outstanding on his debut weekend. He took everything onboard and his speed and racecraft was exceptional, especially when you consider that he had never driven the car before Thursday, and had never visited the circuit before. We are massively excited to see what he can do with us for the rest of the season, starting at Silverstone this weekend.”
Simmons said: “It wasn’t a bad recovery after a tricky qualifying! We showed that we have top four pace throughout the practice sessions and there was lots of potential. We were also quickest in the wet so when it turned out that qualifying was in similar conditions we were happy. It was very unfortunate that the track was at its driest for one lap and on that lap I decided to build a gap to the car in front to try and push for that second lap. But during the next lap it started raining half way through it, and that meant we qualified P16, P12 and P16 again, as we didn’t make 103% for the race three reversal, so we couldn’t even start at the front for race three.
“Even though we were so far back we still managed to overtake a huge amount of cars in each race, with two P6s and a P7. I’m happy with that, very consistent points and results, and if you’d told me that I’d be finishing within the top six after that qualifying I’d have taken it any day of the week, especially when we knew how hard it is to overtake around Snetterton. I’m happy with the recovery and happy that we’ve made a huge step forward pace-wise from Spa and previous rounds. It’s a quick turnaround now with back to back weekends, and I’m looking forward to Silverstone.”
Oxley said: “It has been a positive but challenging weekend with the constantly changing weather conditions, some of which I had never experienced before so it was certainly eventful. Being my first time in this car and track, the pace certainly looks promising, especially in the rain, as I qualified on the second row.
“The races were definitely the biggest challenge of the weekend and also where I learnt the most. It was definitely war out there so taking home fifth in the race was positive especially having to fight my way back to the position. The other two races were certainly a lot more testing with the mixed conditions, however this is the main reason I’m doing the rest of this season, to learn and get as much experience as I can being my first season in single seaters.
“Now I’m looking upwards and onwards to my next race weekend at Silverstone. I’m very excited as I’ve always wanted to race there so I can’t wait. I’m confident as a team we will put on another strong showing, they’ve been helping me develop and learn.”