DRIVER NEWS: T-Sport debut sees strong points-haul for Salman Al Khalifa
Salman Al Khalifa talks about his move to T Sport and his new sponsor prior to the weekend at Brands Hatch.
DRIVER NEWS: Bahraini racing driver Salman Al Khalifa marked his return to the British Formula 3 International series at the weekend with a strong points-haul from his two races at Brands Hatch.
Al Khalifa secured two fifth-place National Class finishes for his new team T-Sport, collecting 16 points across the weekend, a return only bettered by championship chasing duo Sergio Perez and Frankie Cheng. That haul was enough to see him climb back up the championship table to sixth overall, despite the fact that the 2005 Formula BMW Asia champion missed the last round of the championship at Monza.
Having started race one from seventh on the National Class grid, Salman made a superb getaway passing four cars in the first few corners, two of them being championship-class runners. He then set about chasing the third-place battle of Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing) and Michael Meadows (Double R Racing) before ultimately settling for fifth.
Race two saw Salman again make progress through the field from seventh on the class-grid to collect a solid fifth place finish, although, as he explained, the two races were in stark contrast to each other.
Salman said: “I started seventh and finished fifth in both races, but things couldn’t have been more different really. The first race went really well. I made a good start to overtake four cars in the first couple of laps. The car set-up was amazing and enabled me to produce consistent lap times throughout the race and run on the same pace of the guys ahead. In race two though the track temperature went up by 8 to 10 degrees and changed the way the car responded. It was quite loose and meant I was unable to achieve the kind of lap times I’d been managing in race one. However, we still brought the car home in fifth and 16 points over the weekend is a decent return.”
Al Khalifa, who unveiled a brand new ‘gold sponsor’ in the shape of Unicorn Investment Bank in the build-up to the weekend, admitted it was fantastic to be back in action after six weeks since his last race. “It was really good to be back in the championship and back racing. At the start of the Race one I felt that buzz again that I’ve been missing for the past six weeks. The team couldn’t possibly have made me feel more welcome than they did, the guys welcomed me as if I’d been with them all season.
“Together we have identified some key areas of my driving which I can improve upon and I just can’t wait for the next round at Spa where hopefully we can challenge for the podium.”
T-Sport Team Prinicipal Russell Eacott was satisfied with a solid weekend from his new driver and admitted he was looking forward to working with Al Khalifa before the next round at Spa. “To come away with two fifth places is a pretty strong base to start building from. It wasn’t easy because everything was new to him in terms of the team and the car. He’s also never been round the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit before and it’s a pretty daunting place even for someone who has experience of it. However, we now know what we have to work on and we’re going testing with Salman at Pembrey this week after which we hope to see some more improvement.”
Rounds 13 and 14 of the British Formula 3 International Series take place at Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, on Friday 27 and Saturday 28 July, supporting the famous Spa 24 Hours endurance event.