Cameron Twynham moved to the top of the European F3 Open Copa Class standings thanks to his second victory of the season at the historic Spa-Francorchamps circuit last weekend.
That was some achievement given this was the Market Harborough driver’s maiden visit to the revered Belgian Grand Prix venue which boasts the feared Eau Rouge and Pouhon corners amid its fast and flowing 4.3-mile layout. Indeed, the weekend’s second race would serve as a reminder of the circuit’s potential pitfalls…
With just six points between Twynham and the championship top spot ahead of this season’s final three rounds, Spa represented an ideal opportunity to claw back even more ground. And the Team West-Tec driver duly obliged during the weekend’s opening race on Saturday.
Spa’s daunting 20-turn rollercoaster had posed few problems during the morning’s qualifying session, with Twynham claiming an excellent second on the grid. A customary strong start then helped the 17-year-old immediately vault into the class lead at La Source, an advantage he would maintain over the first six laps.
After looking comfortable out front a problem with the left-rear tyre began to dramatically affect his car’s handling. But with crucial championship points at stake he battled on, stoutly defending his position over the remaining laps to notch up victory and, with it, assume the championship lead by four points.
“Initially I didn’t realise I’d won!” revealed Twynham. “With my car handling so badly I was unable to hold off one of the other Copa cars and thought I was second. It wasn’t until I got back to the pits that I realised the driver was actually unlapping himself, which made me the winner. To score victory at a circuit as special as Spa on my very first appearance here is a fantastic feeling, especially given how hard I’d fought with the tyre problem for much of the race. Dunlop introduced a new softer compound this weekend and, as normal, we decided to run two sets in qualifying and then one of those for the first race. Unbeknown to us the extra mileage meant it wasn’t capable of lasting the distance, so while everyone around me – including my main title rivals – started with a fresh set and were fine, by mid-race I had run out of grip.”
Sunday morning’s qualifying session took place in wet conditions, another new experience for Twynham whose response was to set the fastest lap by over a second before red flags temporarily halted the session. When it resumed the drying track would benefit those last to set a time, and although Cameron improved to provisionally claim pole, two subsequent late laps from others would push him down to third, albeit still ahead of his championship rivals.
Come the race any thoughts of adding to his championship lead were swiftly eradicated when a heavy accident at Les Combes on the opening lap necessitated a Safety Car. As the leaders braked hard those in the tightly bunched pack behind were unable to react quickly enough.
“Everyone was very close together and although I hit the brakes in time those behind weren’t as quick,” recounts Cameron. “Someone went right over the back of my car and began to roll, while the chain reaction continued across the track. We were very lucky that no one was seriously injured. A lot of people came off worse than me but my car was wrecked and out on the spot.”
With his main championship rival finishing fourth, the pair head to Monza in Italy on October 5/6 joint top of the standings, with a total of 40 points still available from the remaining two rounds.
“Overall I’m really happy with the weekend,” added Cameron. “We couldn’t have achieved anything more given the circumstances and have successfully closed the championship gap. Consistency will be key over the final four races so it’s imperative that we finish well in all of them. We’re now right in contention.”