Christian Mansell showed his overtaking prowess with three fighting recovery drives in the latest rounds of the re-named GB3 championship - formerly known as BRDC British Formula 3 - at Snetterton circuit last weekend (7/8 August).
The 16-year-old from Newcastle, New South Wales, returned to the UK circuits following a wonderful outing at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium two weekends ago, where he added a second race victory of his rookie season.
That strong pace looked to be continuing for the AJM Transport, Castrol, Vawdrey Trailers, VISA Global Logistics and Infinity Sports Management backed driver after two days of practice on Thursday and Friday; Mansell among the top six in the times before turning his attentions to qualifying the following morning under darker clouds.
Rain did arrive before qualifying to ensure all cars started on wet tyres for the 20-minute sessions, but as it got heavier it meant that the opening two laps would be vital. Mansell saw a quick early effort, potentially good enough for the top three, lost due to track limits, before he was then caught out by traffic and the worsening conditions. Finishing 15th, it left the Australian up for a fight to recover in the weekend's three races.
The recovery that followed from the Carlin driver was impressive in the first of those three GB3 contests later that afternoon. With slick tyres bolted on for all drivers despite the threat of rain still around, Mansell worked his way quickly up the order with a demon start and an aggressive opening pair of laps, before swiftly moving his way up past Tommy Smith and Javier Sagrera to put himself into the top 10.
An incident ahead further helped his cause, chasing the battle for fifth hard in the second half of the race but unable to get close enough in the dirty air of the two cars to make a decisive lunge. Improving eight places to seventh, Mansell had done enough to move up to second in the championship going into Sunday's double header.
The Rush Performance, IOR Petroleum, Locker 27 and AMSL Diabetes Australia-backed star again had work to do in the second race from 14th on the grid, and once more he made progress. Gaining places initially, he completed a lunge on fellow Australian Bart Horsten at Wilson hairpin to move up to 11th place where he would stay until the chequered flag.
A mixed up race three reverse grid caused by cars - Mansell included - falling foul the 103% rule as a result of the increasing rain in qualifying, meant that Mansell again was left out of position in 15th on the grid, with rain finally threatening before the start of the contest.
That rain would eventually arrive, but only in the closing stages as Mansell joined a frenetic battle between up to 10 cars battling for second place onwards. The Carlin driver made his way by a struggling Javier Sagrera and briefly attacked Ayrton Simmons successfully to move into the top 10, before battling with Reece Ushijima for 10th in the slippery conditions and securing the place with a move on the final lap.
Despite his qualifying setback, Mansell's recoveries added up to a net gain of 15 places from his starting positions over the weekend, leaving Snetterton sitting in second place in the championship standings with three meetings to go.
Christian Mansell:“To be honest, to say that weekend was bad is wrong, but to say that it was good is wrong as well.
"Qualifying was a tough one as it came just when the rain had arrived, meaning that we needed to be the first across the line to get high enough up the grid for the first two races. The fact they got worse meant we missed out on a possible podium with the reverse grid rule being made redundant (103% rule) effectively, otherwise I think we were quick enough to be in that battle for the win.
"In the first race we had great pace. I made a good start and just tried to take advantage when the tyres were cold to make some passes on people. We came through the field and got us some important points in the first race, which keeps us in the hunt for second in the championship. What matters is we went forward in every race.
"I've had everything this weekend, but the most important thing is that we are P2 in the points and I'm feeling good about Silverstone. Onwards and upwards."
A quick turnaround for Mansell and Carlin means they will be back out in action this coming weekend (14/15 August) for a second visit of the season to Silverstone.
Image from Jakob Ebrey Photography.