DRIVER NEWS: Niall Breen was back on the podium in Round 18 of the Lloyds TSB Insurance British Formula 3 Championship at Thruxton Circuit on Sunday following a promising weekend saw the Dundalk driver really back in his stride and top Carlin Motorsport driver in the race.
Starting from sixth on the grid, Breen made a brilliant start, taking both Stephen Jelley and Marko Asmer off the line and Greg Mansell into the first corner. He then passed team mate, Maro Engel up the straight before the safety car emerged for two laps.
Now in second place behind Atte Mustonen, as the race progressed a slow puncture prevented Breen getting on terms and in the closing stages, Rudolfo Gonzales closed on him as the Bar One Racing Dallara started oversteering badly. Niall kept it all together to hold onto a fine second place behind Mustonen and ahead of Gonzales, Engel and Asmer.
The earlier race, Round 17 looked like another podium place or possibly even victory. However it was not to be. Starting from third on the grid but as he challenged Sebastian Hohenthal for the lead, there was a real ding dong between the pair. First Breen hit the Swede up the back and then they touched again as Niall made a move to take the lead, and this time his back wing was re-arranged.
He dropped back again onto Hohenthal’s tail, who then braked early and Breen’s front wing was badly broken in the impact with both cars spinning out. Niall recovered in 23rd and was left to play catch up while Hohenthal was forced to retire. Despite damage to the Bar One Racing Dallara, Breen fought his way back valiantly to finish 12th overall. The story started during testing on Friday when he was quickest in the first test session. When it came to official qualifying on Saturday for Round 17, he finished third fastest behind Hohenthal and Mustonen, and first of the Carlin Motorsport squad on the grid ahead of Sam Bird. In Saturday’s second qualifying for Round 18, the 2006 Formula BMW Champion was sixth fastest behind Mustonen, Greg Mansell, Carlin team mate Engel and series leader Asmer.
“It was a pretty good weekend considering, and I really like Thruxton but it would have been even better to have finished the first race on the podium”, said Breen. “At least second place gave me another 15 points and the next round is at Croft, another track where I go well.
With only four rounds left, Niall still holds sixth place with 122 points behind Asmer (250), Engel (178), Bird (150), Jelley (155) and Jonathan Kennard (130). Croft takes place on 8/9th September when Breen aims to move back up to fifth.