Christian Mansell achieves second-place in crazy FIA F3 race at Spa-Francorchamps

The Australian mastered tricky conditions on Sunday’s feature race. Martí, who snatched the pole position, scored points and remains in Vice-championship contention. Barter took 6th place in the sprint race

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Campos Racing delivered another strong weekend in terms of performance at Spa-Francorchamps, which hosted the penultimate round of the 2023 FIA Formula 3 Championship season. The Spanish-based racing team had one of their drivers on the podium as Australian Christian Mansell finished in second place in the Ardennes, following a brilliant driving under very difficult changeable weather. Spaniard Pepe Martí grabbed the pole position on Friday but he couldn’t take the most out of it on Sunday as he made the start on slick tires. Australian Hugh Barter also made another solid step forward and brought a sixth-place home at Spa-Francorchamps matching his previous best result of the season.

On Friday, rain already welcomed the drivers with the single free practice session taking place in wet conditions in the morning. Martí clocked the 4th-fastest time with his lap of 2m23.420s. Barter ranked 11th with a personal best time of 2m24.055s and his fellow countryman posted a lap time of 2m25.036s. Qualifying proved not to be an easier task in the afternoon with the drivers still struggling for grip on wet tires. In the first half of the session, Marti had already taken the top place in the timesheets with a lap of 2m25.604s. Conditions further improved in the dying minutes and Martí found extra pace on his very last flying lap and set a lap time of 2m22.160s to beat Leonardo Fornaroli to pole position by a mere 16 thousandths of a second. Besides, he secured the extra point of the pole. Barter clocked a lap time of 2m23.104s and rounded out the top-12, which also gave him the pole position on the reverse grid for Saturday. Mansell couldn’t improve his lap of 2m24.334s and set to start from 23rd.

The Sprint race was extremely difficult as a shower in the pre-race dampened the Belgian asphalt and the drivers were forced to start on slick tires. Barter focused on avoiding any mistake in the first lap and, despite losing a couple of places, he remained in the top-5. Martí had moved up to 11th with Mansell being forced to make a pit stop as he was hit from the back by another driver and punctured one of his tires. The safety car was immediately deployed due to contact involving Sebas Montoya and Rafael Villagómez. At the restart on lap 4, Martí was overtaking Gabriele Mini on the outside when the Italian lost the rear of his car and collected the driver of Campos Racing. When Martí was trying to rejoin the track, Ido Cohen crashed into him and forced both drivers to retire. From then onwards, the safety car was deployed two further times, with Barter finally crossing the finish line in sixth place. Mansell ended up in 19th place.

On Sunday, rain forced to make difficult decisions before the race. With no rain but a damp track, most drivers up the front including pole-sitter Martí chose to start on slick tires. Others, Mansell himself, started on the wet tire in the back of the field. When the safety car headed into the pit lane, as it was a rolling start instead of a standing one, Martí led the pack at Eau Rouge before being overtaken by Paul Aron in the second sector as the Estonian was one of those on wet tires. Mansell was another man charging through the field and the Australian had moved up to fourth after a single lap. Mansell swept past Mari Boya for third in lap 4 when Oliver Goethe crashed into the barriers and the safety car was deployed. Some drivers, including race leader Aron, made a pit stop and switched to slick tires. Mansell instead remained on track and gained another place. The last one was the right call. Leader Taylor Barnard and Mansell pulled away and was a head-to-head battle to the end. Despite Mansell tried to overtake Barnard on Kemmel, it was a very risky movement and the Australian secured the second place at the checkered flag. Martí’s put in a remarkable drive to finish 9th but adding an extra point due to setting the fastest lap. Barter had a clash with Oliver Gray, the Briton being penalized afterwards, at Bus Stop and the Australian talent ended up in 22nd.

With a single round to go, Martí is P3 in the drivers’ standings on 105 points, a mere point behind of 2nd-classified Aron. Mansell now sits 12th in the standings on 52 points. Campos Racing gains a place in the teams’ standings and is now 3rd on 171 points.

The season finale will take place at Monza on 3-4 September, right after the summer break.