British F3 finally kicked-off its 2021 season: at the first triple-header of Brands Hatch, Reema Juffali made her series debut, as the first ever Saudi female racer stepped up from British F4.
It was finally the week that British F3 took to the track: at the season opener in support of the popular British GT Championship, the iconic Brands Hatch circuit hosted the first triple-header for the BRDC-supported series that this season will also see a female driver among its entrants: fan-favourite Reema Juffali, as the Saudi driver will step up from the British F4 for and will contest the 2021 season with Douglas Motorsport.
On Saturday morning, Ayrton Simmons (Chris Dittmann Racing) took a record-breaking pole position for the first and second races, ahead of rookie Oliver Bearman and Zak O'Sullivan.
Reema Juffali was set to start from P19 in the afternoon's race and P17 for Sunday's Race 2.
In Race 1, pole sitter Ayrton Simmons had a great start and held his position. Horsten managed to move up into fourth place when Lebbon dropped back to tenth.
Also, Roberto Faria had a slow start and lost his fourth starting position; he would find himself in thirteenth after the opening stages.
Juffali made progress and managed to overtake two competitors.
At the same time, Elite Motorsport's Jose Garfias went off into the gravel and retired.
Bearman, who is also completing a double-program in Italian Formula 4, was second in his first series appearance and tried to close the gap on Simmons; both were followed closely by O'Sullivan.
Reema Juffali remained in P17 until Alex Fores (Chris Dittmann Racing) lost out in the fight with Christian Mansell, before making contact with Faria on the last lap of the race. The Saudi driver came home in P15, while the three front-runners remained unchallenged and crossed the line to claim theri podium fiishes.
The grid for the second race was determined by the second-fastest time from qualifying. Pole sitter remained unchanged - Ayrton Simmons. Juffali could count on a better starting place, on row 9 of the grid.
Not un uncommon sight at the Kent venue, drops of rain started to fall on the racetrackright before the start of Race 2. The challenging conditions were proved by Alex Fores, who crashed on the formation lap and delayed the start. Race control reduced the distance to 11 laps, or a maximum running time of 18 minutes.
Ayrton Simmons had a difficult start, which caused three cars to go side-by-side line into the first corner - the famous Paddock Hill Bend. Horsten and Simmons collided and the Chriss Dittmann Racing car landed on the top of the Hitech machine.
Juffali moved up to 14th place when Horsten finally pitted, with race-ending damage.
O'Sullivan moved into the lead and the Safety Car was deployed, leaving just four laps to go at the restart.
Bearman tried hard to catch O'Sullivan, both followed by Ushijima. At the same time, Faria was fighting with Lebbon for sicth place. Unfortunately, Reema Juffali lost two positions - she would finish her second ever F3 race in P16.
On Race 3, Reema had the eyes of the whole grid on her: due to the reverse grid format, the Saudi racer started from pole.
"I'm really excited, it's the first time I will have started from pole so it's going to be a new experience for me." - she commented. "I'm really hoping I can make the best out of it and get the best result I can."
Starting alongside Juffali in second, Max Marzorati (Chris Dittmann Racing) had a very good start and jumped ahead of the Douglas Motorsport driver. She was then overtaken by Mansell and Sagrera as well, but the action was soon neutralized by the Safety Car when Alvarez ended up into the gravel. Juffali could climb back up to third following Marzorati's pit stop, the latter having picked up damage for a contact.
At the restart, Juffali tried to hang on but dropped to sixth place in the hectic stages. Coming into the final sector of the track, Alex Fores drove into the back of the #10 Douglas motirsport car, taking Juffali out. Stuck in the gravel, they both retired and the Safety Car was once again called out to allow the marshalls to retrieve the stricken cars.
The green flag was finally shown with seven minutes to go - Christian Mansell led in the Carlin entry, followed by Sagrera and Patterson. Aron was also trying to fight his way up to third place, but without success.
Mansell crossed the finish line and won the last race of the weekend, 2 seconds clear of Sagrera and four seconds ahead of Patterson. Aron and Gruntwig rounded out the top five.
Despite the challenging results, Reema Juffali had a learning-oriented weekend in Brands Hatch, which will ultimately prove crucial in the next rounds of the season.
“Honestly I have learned a lot this weekend and there’s a lot to take away from it." - she commented. "It was not the way I wanted the weekend to end but I did put my elbows out in the last race. We’ll come away with knowledge and look towards the next one knowing we have positives to take away from it."
"I think I need some more experience in the wet which will come with time, and I can chip away. I’m enjoying it and I’ll take it as it comes." - concluded Juffali.
the next BRDC British F3 round will get underway at the Silverstone GP circuit, on 26/27 June.