CDR secure championship runner-up spot with Simmons as GB3 campaign ends on a high

Chris Dittmann Racing ended the 2021 GB3 Championship campaign on a high note at Donington Park last weekend (16-17 October), with Ayrton Simmons securing the runner-up spot in the driver’s championship standings while Branden Oxley and Alex Fores took their best results of the year.

Simmons went into the event with a three point margin over his nearest contenders, but strong results in all three races meant he extended that gap to 10 points, securing the runner-up spot in the standings, his highest finish in the championship.

Oxley took home a best result of fourth in the first race of the weekend and backed that up with eighth place in the second contest as he once again showed his potential.

Fores made his series comeback, and despite it being his first time in the car for several months was only a second away from pole position in qualifying, scored points in the first two contests and then capitalised on a strong grid position in the final event of the year to claim a stunning maiden podium finish.

All three CDR cars showed strong pace in qualifying on Saturday. Simmons took P8 despite being only three tenths of a second away from pole in one of the closest qualifying sessions in the championship’s history. Oxley was less than two tenths of a second further behind and qualified 10th, while Fores was 18th but only half a second away from a top-10 position.

The first race had contrasting fortunes for the trio. A multiple car incident at McLeans on the opening lap forced Simmons into taking evasive action into the gravel, while the same drama cleared the way for Oxley and Fores to make massive progress. Oxley finished the first lap in a fine fourth place, while Fores gained an incredible nine places to ninth place. Both drivers retained their positions until the chequered flag, with Oxley just half a second away from taking a maiden podium, while Fores also applied serious pressure to Frederick Lubin immediately in front, who has significantly more car experience.

Simmons meanwhile dropped to 14th, but set about minimising the damage and gained two spots on lap four and then passed Jonathan Browne to take 11th on lap nine. His charge continued and he was just 0.2 seconds away from a top-10 result.

Race two on Sunday morning was held in wet conditions, which necessitated a safety car start. Simmons started the contest in seventh, but passed Sebastian Alvarez on the first racing lap, and then got involved in a thrilling battle with Arden’s Roman Bilinski, which was eventually settled in the British driver’s favour with a daring opposite lock overtaking move around the outside of the Polish contender at Coppice in one of the moves of the season.

Oxley started from 10th and kept his nose clean in tricky and unfamiliar conditions for the Spanish-based driver, and took advantage of mistakes from drivers in front to climb to eighth place at the flag. Fores started 16th, but made strong progress to climb three spots in the opening couple of laps and finished 13th on the road, but unfortunately dropped to 15th in the final classification after picking up a time penalty for a false start.

The track had dried up by the time the final race started, which was shown live on the Sky Sports F1 Channel. The reverse grid put Fores fourth on the grid, and buoyed by his strong opening laps in the previous two encounters, was optimistic of fighting his way even further up the order. And that’s just what he did, making an excellent start to slice between two cars on the run to the first corner and immediately take second place. He then shadowed the race leader for the entire event, running just a few tenths behind throughout. He was just 0.9 seconds away from the win at the end of the 12 lap affair, but nevertheless claimed a thoroughly deserved second place, his best ever result in the championship.

Simmons meanwhile went into the race equal on points with Christian Mansell, with both drivers looking to claim second place in the championship. But while Mansell encountered trouble more than once, and another contender Reece Ushijima also dropped down the order, Simmons kept his cool to climb from 14th on the grid to run as high as seventh with four laps remaining. All this was achieved with significant front wing damage, and even though the problem worsened in the latter stages, Simmons brought the car home to take 10th and secure second in the championship; best overall results for both the team and the driver.

Oxley started 12th, but with the biggest entry for over five years, there was some chaotic racing around him which he did well to steer clear of to run well inside the midfield. Sadly, he lost his front wing on the final lap which dropped him to the tail of the field, but that didn’t detract from another excellent showing that confirmed him as a clear top-10 contender.

Team Principal Chris Dittmann commented: “We’re thrilled to end the season with the runner-up spot in the championship. As expected, Ayrton did a mega job all season and was a near constant threat for wins and pole positions. Only the champion took more wins and pole positions throughout the year, and it was a pleasure for all of us to work with him again. After his first taste of FIA F3 action in Russia, we hope he gets the backing to move up to that category as we know he’d be really impressive there.

“For Branden and Alex, it was brilliant to see them both capitalise on their potential with their best results in the championship. I think this was Branden’s most impressive event so far; to be half a second away from pole would usually put him around the top-five, so 10th on the grid was actually a bit unlucky. His racecraft and pace was really good all weekend, and fourth place in race one was a real highlight, and only half a second away from a podium. We hope to continue working with him next year, where we reckon he could be a very strong contender.

“Alex finally got the weekend he deserved, scoring points in all three races. He raised a lot of eyebrows with his lap one heroics in the first race, it’s not often a driver gains nine places in a lap! He was strong again at the start of race two, so we were really looking forward to seeing what he could do when starting from the front of race three. Needless to say, he didn’t disappoint, and I think the win was there for him, but it’s hard to pass in these cars when you get stuck in the dirty air. But to take second place having been out the car for over four months just shows what potential he has, and was a great way for us all to end the season.

“As the year comes to a conclusion, I’d like to thank all the staff associated with the team for their incredible work this season, there’s been a few late nights, but it’s all been worth it. We’re all looking forward now to 2022, which will be a landmark year for us as we extend into British F4 and hopefully go for the title in GB3 as well!”

Ayrton Simmons commented: “I left it all on the track! We had to work very hard in race three to get the points needed for P2 in the championship, and I had a bit of wing damage on lap one too. I could notice it but I was still going to give it my absolute all and to try and make as many positions as I could. We got it all the way up to P5 until part of the wing completely fell off on the last lap and I lost a few positions. But it turned out to be enough so I’m very glad. It’s been a positive year, we had that dip in the middle but we got ourselves together again and regained our pace and our mojo. From Snetterton onwards we’ve been on the ball game, we were P7 or P8 in the standings at one stage and we’ve recovered all the way to P2, so I’m very proud of everyone involved with CDR and everyone in my family.”

Alex Fores commented: “What a weekend, I really enjoyed it. It was great to be on track full stop, but to end it on the podium was amazing. I made a good start to race three, got a jump on two drivers ahead of me, put it through the middle and they had to get out the way. I sent it round the outside and got it done. And then it was a case of putting my head down and bringing it home. Thanks to the CDR boys for keeping the faith in me, and for doing a great job, it’s been amazing. Thanks also to Dave Bromfield who has got me all the way into the GB3 Championship, that result was for him too!”

Branden Oxley said: “Over the last few weeks I’ve been really getting into the rhythm and having a lot of fun. I’ve had an awesome last few rounds and I feel like it really came together at Donington with my best qualifying in terms of the pace gap to the front runners. I was able to transfer that performance into the races, and to be only half a second away from a podium in the first race was really encouraging but also frustrating at the same time because it was so close! I’m going to be keeping very busy over the winter with as much seat time and preparation as I can, and I’m very grateful to CDR for all their efforts with my development.”

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