LEIST Jack Cozens

Brazil­ian beats Brits to re­vamped F3 ti­tle. By

Motor Sport News - - British F3 Season Review - POINTS BRDC Bri­tish For­mula 3 Cham­pi­onship

He’s just been a hero.”

That was An­thony ‘Boyo’ Hieatt’s re­ac­tion im­me­di­ately af­ter Matheus Leist se­cured the 2016 BRDC Bri­tish F3 Cham­pi­onship crown. Some­times, as­sess­ments are best left short and sweet.

Hieatt doesn’t ex­actly have a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing an emo­tional man, but there was a boy­ish charm about the Dou­ble R Rac­ing boss in the Don­ing­ton F3 pad­dock in that mo­ment. It wasn’t hard to work out which of his drivers he’d picked up the in­fec­tious smile from, ei­ther.

“It’s been a re­ally nice year – I’ve en­joyed it,” he con­tin­ued, af­ter a long pause. “I’ve en­joyed ev­ery time we’ve been test­ing, which makes a dif­fer­ence. He’s [Leist] a great kid and al­ways happy – even if he didn’t [win the ti­tle], he’d be happy. He’s got a re­ally good per­son­al­ity.”

With four wins to his name, a fur­ther seven podi­ums and two poles, Leist cer­tainly had the abil­ity to back up the per­son­al­ity – not that Hieatt was short of praise on that front ei­ther – but that the ti­tle went to a de­cid­ing round spoke vol­umes about a sea­son char­ac­terised by a strug­gle for con­sis­tency among the lead­ing lights.

As cliched as it might sound, though the fron­trun­ners were there or there­abouts for most of the sea­son, it took a tem­pes­tu­ous fi­nal round at Don­ing­ton to swing the mo­men­tum in Leist’s favour – the Brazil­ian be­com­ing the first cham­pion of a new Bri­tish F3 era af­ter a late deal to up­grade the sta­tus of the cham­pi­onship.

Four drivers en­tered the fi­nal round with ti­tle hopes still in­tact, but while Toby Sow­ery (Lanan Rac­ing) and Douglas Mo­tor­sport’s Thomas Ran­dle both stood rea­son­able chances of claim­ing the crown, the ti­tle was likely al­ways go­ing to be a head-to-head fight be­tween Leist and Car­lin’s Ricky Col­lard, who headed the points stand­ings.

Col­lard un­doubt­edly went into the fi­nal week­end as favourite, and while his Sil­ver­stone and Spa events hadn’t been re­mark­able, his Snet­ter­ton out­ing cer­tainly had – the 20-year-old back­ing up a cru­cial qual­i­fy­ing pole (se­cured on his sec­ond run af­ter an elec­tri­cal glitch had thwarted his first) with two wins, and record­ing the fastest lap of the year at the Nor­folk cir­cuit in the process.

Rid­ing the crest of a wave, Col­lard had a 15-point cush­ion ahead of the Don­ing­ton fi­nale but, in a cruel twist of fate, that was quickly wiped out as the ti­tle grad­u­ally slipped from his grasp over the course of the week­end.

Start­ing a damp first race from fourth, Col­lard’s two-place deficit to Leist was a lit­tle un­nerv­ing, but af­ter run­ning wide at the first cor­ner, then be­ing in­volved in a tan­gle with Enaam Ahmed who’d out­braked him­self, Col­lard was shuf­fled back to 14th by the end of the first lap.

A gritty recovery drive in the fol­low­ing laps brought him back up to sixth by the end of lap five, where he found the tail of Leist’s team-mate Enzo Bor­to­leto. Three laps later and still be­hind the Brazil­ian, Col­lard spied a gap up the in­side on the run to the first cor­ner, and went for the place.

Sec­onds later, the pair were in the gravel at Redgate. Col­lard had hit a wet patch un­der brak­ing and lost con­trol, col­lect­ing Bor­to­leto and wip­ing the pair of them, and his points lead, out.

Sud­denly, Leist was in the pound seat. The 19-year-old had gone off the road while Col­lard and Bor­to­leto’s cars were re­cov­ered, briefly hand­ing Har­ri­son Scott the lead, but was awarded the race one vic­tory af­ter the re­sult was counted back.

With Col­lard scor­ing no points, Leist found him­self with a 20 point lead.

Five more were added to that ad­van­tage in race two, with Col­lard only able to re­cover to 10th hav­ing started from the back, mean­ing Leist only needed a 10th-place fin­ish in race three to grab the ti­tle, re­gard­less of Col­lard’s progress.

Start­ing sixth, Col­lard stayed close through­out, but couldn’t haul in his ad­ver­sary – fifth place in­stead enough for Leist to com­fort­ably seal the deal, three days af­ter cel­e­brat­ing his 19th birth­day.

“It was just amaz­ing,” he said. “The whole sea­son we worked so hard for this. There are no words to de­scribe this feel­ing right now.

“It’s al­ways about Car­lin – I’m happy I could prove that Dou­ble R is a mega team, which did a bril­liant job.”

Leist’s afore­men­tioned wins – mark­ing him­self out as a ti­tle con­tender with early suc­cess at Snet­ter­ton, Brands Hatch, Sil­ver­stone plus Don­ing­ton – and the way he car­ried him­self through the fi­nal week­end meant he was fully de­serv­ing of the ti­tle, even if his win­ning mar­gin of 27 points was per­haps a flat­ter­ing one.

A glance at the round-by-round points ( see side­bar) should be enough to tell you that Col­lard can con­sider him­self un­lucky not to have claimed the ti­tle, hav­ing led the

Leist clinched ti­tle at Don­ing­ton Teenager cel­e­brates ti­tle

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