‘Ahmed claimed honours as fog stopped play’
Full F3 Autumn Trophy report,
Ever encroaching fog meant Enaam Ahmed took the BRDC British Formula 3 Autumn Trophy crown a race early as the weather led to the fourth race being cancelled. He edged out rivals Joey Mawson and Dan Ticktum after the Carlin man won two of the three sprints.
With visibility making even the safety car near-impossible to spot just hours before Sunday’s sole race, Ahmed made a superb start from pole to retain the lead ahead of Ticktum.
Ticktum, who was making his UK motorsport return following his oneyear ban handed down by the Motor Sports Association, had readapted to racing swiftly and entered the finale just five points adrift in the standings.
Knowing how difficult it is to pass on the Snetterton 300 layout in perfect conditions, let alone a deep fog, the Double R Racing driver tried an early move at the hairpin.
The move ended with the top two touching, Ticktum sliding onto the grass in retirement, and he blamed Ahmed for the collision.
“I went for a pass on Ahmed and he moved very, very late in the braking zone and closed the door,” he said. “It’s too late for me then, I’ve already committed to the move so I was onto the grass where there’s no grip at all.
“I’ll be taking it to the clerk of the course as it was just bad driving. Something has to be done about it.”
Any such appeal fell on deaf ears, with Ahmed adding: “It was a tricky race and it was very dangerous out there. I went off on the first lap earlier and then Dan and I collided at the hairpin. I didn’t see him; I didn’t know it was him. It was bad visibility, you couldn’t see down the straights and I was also caught out in braking zones as well.”
He wasn’t the only one. That same chaotic opening lap had Ben Hingeley and James Pull colliding and prompting a safety car.
With Ticktum out of the race, it was fellow title contender and reigning German Formula 4 champion Mawson looming in Ahmed’s mirrors as the safety car circulated.
When the race went green, any chance of a lead battle ended when Mawson misjudged his braking and locked up at Riches.
Mawson responded with a fastest lap to take race four pole and leave only 17 points between himself and Ahmed going into it, but the worsening fog ended any hopes of a last race, let alone championship showdown.
“I was so glad there wasn’t another race,” said champion Ahmed. “It was so scary out there. It’s been two nail-biting days but it is so special to win a title, especially against European racers like Callan [O’keeffe], Marcus [Armstrong], Mawson and Ticktum.”
That quartet were right up there with Ahmed from the get-go on Saturday, as the weekend started with the top 10 in the 12-car grid split by just over half a second in qualifying.
Ahmed’s lap, just 0.053s quicker than Ticktum’s, would prove to be crucial at a circuit with overtaking chances at a premium.
On the grid, Ahmed grasped his opportunity, making a lightning start as fellow front-row starter Ticktum made an error and lost second to Mawson.
“I held the clutch too long and I bogged down, it can be put down to the fact I’ve not raced from the grid in a while,” said Ticktum.
Mawson followed Ahmed closely but the distance between the two was too much, as Ticktum was third.
But the Brit wasn’t too disappointed, as the free air in third place meant he was able to set a lap time good enough to take race two pole.
Despite having used four new tyres for the first race, Ticktum managed his older set superbly to ensure he won the next race and kept the pressure on Ahmed’s points lead.
The eventual winner nailed his second attempt at a front-row start, as Mawson took his turn to make a poor start. The Douglas Motorsport man fell to third as Ahmed jumped to second.
Ticktum had estimated that his tyres would lose around a tenth a lap to his title rival, but he was helped by Mawson’s battling with Ahmed with the lost time meaning Ticktum won at his favoured circuit.
“The start was definitely on my mind for the second race,” he said. “I was too concerned with others in that opening race, this time I focused on myself and went for it.
“If you get a good start it’s very hard to be passed. Everyone behind is in dirty air and by the time you reach the hairpin you’ve broken the tow, so it becomes about not making mistakes.”
In the end those fine margins decided the title, with Ticktum’s failed move on Ahmed in the finale ensuring the Carlin driver seized the crown ahead of Mawson and the consistent O’keeffe, who pipped Ticktum to third in the final standings.
Mawson was the only man who ever looked likely to challenge the top two, but he finished behind Ahmed in each race. “I had more pace than Ahmed at times,” said Mawson. “He just kept on finishing ahead of me!”