Chris Dittmann Racing begins GB3 Championship season with quintet of top-ten finishes

Chris Dittmann Racing began the 2022 GB3 Championship season with a strong weekend at Oulton Park, recording five top-ten finishes – with two top-five results – giving both drivers and the team a good boost for the rest of the year.

At a venue which is both spectacular but also tricky on which to cleanly overtake, qualifying was going to be extremely important. With the top 15 cars finishing the session within one and a half seconds of each other, small gains would pay dividends.

There was drama for Branden Oxley at the start of the 20-minute qualifying session as he suffered damage to his front right suspension after contact from another car, necessitating frantic repairs from the team in the pit lane. Their hard work and skill meant he was able to return to the session, eventually recording times which would leave him 13th on the grid for race one and 15th for race two, while McKenzy Cresswell went seventh quickest, just two tenths of a second from third.

Pre-race penalties for other drivers meant McKenzy started race one from fifth and he got away well, moving up to fourth, while behind him Branden had an excellent opening lap, avoiding dramas around him, to run in eighth. Sadly, with dirty air from cars ahead making a big difference around the tricky Cheshire venue, neither driver could improve further though both claimed a good haul of points to open their campaigns.

McKenzy had a strong start to race two on Monday but found himself boxed in as he flew up from eighth on the grid to be challenging for sixth, but once again from there onwards he could not make further progress. Branden also started well, taking two places to run 13th, but his race ended early when he received contact from Alex Connor on the fast Island bend, running off track and bouncing through the grass, back across the track, and into the gravel where he retired.

Race three was the reversed grid contest which would be a tough ask for both drivers. McKenzy made another good start, gaining three positions, but found himself boxed behind Javier Sagrera. Getting a good run down to the Hislop’s chicane on lap 11 of 14, he pulled alongside but Sagrera moved over, banging wheels with McKenzy, sending him off the circuit, and losing a position in the process, though he would regain it when a post-race penalty was applied.

Branden also had a good start to the final race, gaining one place and then was locked in a close battle with Zak Taylor. The Thai-British driver pulled alongside his rival several times, finding himself eased onto the grass, before making a superb move at Lodge, the final corner, to get past. He quickly pulled clear and closed in on fourth position but having used the best of his tyres couldn’t make up any more places before the flag.

The GB3 Championship side of the team will now have a short rest before the season resumes at Silverstone over the weekend of May 7/8, but there’s a short turnaround as the F4 British Championship season begins this coming weekend, April 23/24, at Donington Park.

McKenzy Cresswell, #8

G1 – 5, R1 – 4
G2 – 8, R2 – 7
G3 – 13, R3 – 10

Championship: 6 (45 points)

“There’s a long way to go in the season, so my main aim in race one was to stay where I was and maybe move up a little bit. I had a good start, got past [Callum] Voisin into turn one, but then it’s so difficult to overtake around here so that was sort of the end of the race at that point. The team has all worked very hard, and it was really nice to give them a good result to reward them for their hard work. The car has been getting better and better throughout testing.

“I had a good start to race two but kind of boxed myself in as it is quite narrow on the pit straight, but my starts haven’t been great in testing, so I was glad it was where it needed to be, and the car felt really good. You can’t really overtake after lap one at Oulton, so you have to force a mistake or have a risky move, which we don’t want to be doing this early in the season.

“Race three wasn’t bad and I made up a few spots at the start, getting up to P10 from 13th which is not too bad. I went for a move on the outside of the chicane and the driver turned left a little bit which lost me a lot of ground, so I was a bit disappointed but that’s the way it is around Oulton, you have to go for those moves but it didn’t pay off. The steering was slightly damaged, but I was quick in clean air, so it wasn’t too bad.

“For the first race weekend in this series and leaving sixth in the championship, it’s not a bad outcome. We know there is a lot more pace in the car so it’s a good base to build from. I’m looking forward to Silverstone and I think we’re in quite a good shape for the rest of the season.”

Branden Oxley, #68

G1 – 13, R1 – 8
G2 – 15, R2 – DNF
G3 – 7, R3 – 5

Championship: 9 (26 points)

“I did qualifying with a car half bent on one side! When I came into the pitlane the wheel fell off because of contact, though the other driver got a penalty for it. It was damage limitation from that point, and I knew I had to make up as many positions as possible. It is very difficult to overtake here, even if you’re more than a second quicker you struggle, because once you get close to another car you get in the dirty air. I got a few places at the start and again with an incident, but it wasn’t where I should have started but we all have our bad weekends.

“Race two was very difficult and it was a racing incident. We were side by side and we hit wheels. In theory he should have left room but, it’s fine, I would have done the same.

“Zak [Taylor] was checking his mirrors all the time in race three, so I knew that move was definitely going to be on. Every time I got side by side he shoved me onto the grass, which is fair enough, if that’s what he wants to do, so all I had to do was show the car and yeah, I got that move done. After that, I caught the guys ahead really quickly, but by then I killed all the momentum I had with the tyres, and when I caught the dirty air, it was hard to stay within half a tenth to make a clean move.”

Chris Dittmann, Team Owner

Teams’ Championship: 5 (71 points)

“The pace was pretty solid all week. McKenzy did well in qualifying and with a few more tenths could have been right up there in P3, but P7 and P9 for races one and two was good, and it meant he started race one in fifth with the penalties. Branden had a bit of a tougher one as another driver came together with him, which was very unfortunate. It wasn’t really on, but the team did an amazing job in the pit lane with only a few minutes to go and he managed to get out and qualify P13 which was outstanding.

“It was a bit of a damage limitation for Branden this weekend and he had a solid race one, getting up to P8, but an incident in race two unfortunately meant he didn’t finish. He had a mighty fine race three with a mega move into the last corner, which was probably the only genuine overtake the whole race and shows his racing pedigree and his drive to succeed.

“McKenzy showed a very level head this weekend picking up points while others made mistakes. He had a small incident in the last race with another driver which has been investigated, so I think all in all, it was a solid weekend. It’s not 100% where I think the team or the drivers want to be, but picking up a bag of points from the first round? We’ll take that and look forward to Silverstone.”

About the author: Jamie