A Royal Return After A Difficult Year... Sunday 20th October, 2019.
It was the season finale at Snetterton for the Formula 3 Cup Championship and the University Of Wolverhampton Racing Team (a team ran by students at the Uni) had just rounded the final corner to finish not only the race - but the season too.
The team would finish 2nd in the overall championship standings and were incredibly excited to start the next year on the same foot.
Little to their knowledge, the world was about to be thrown upside down...
In early 2020, a deadly virus would spread out of control - affecting every last corner of the globe.
By March, the UK Government had imposed a national lockdown on the country - only essential workers being allowed to travel.
Not a month later, Motorsport UK also suspended all motorsport activity until July of that year.
On June 22nd, in light of the impending "restarting of motorsport", UWRacing announced that they would not be competing for the remainder of the season - only testing and preparing for the following year.
The safety of students and staff was paramount and the risk of catching or spreading the virus was incredibly significant and deemed not worth the risk with the amount of travelling required.
In late 2020, UWR announced they would be back racing again for the 2021 Formula 3 Cup season.
With a roadmap in place and restrictions easing - April 2021 saw the UWRacing's 2021 debut at Donington, the new 2021 colours only donned in mid-May.
Thursday 13th May, 2021
With testing complete - it was time to get into the fun part...the livery reveal!
Held at the Silverstone Experience (virtually - only half a dozen were there physically) - the brand new F3 Cup was sharing the room with some true icons...icons including: - Prost's iconic 1993 Williams Formula One car which took him to the 1993 Formula One World Championship - David Coulthard's race-winning McLaren Mercedes (1999/2000)
and Mark Webber's 2010 Red Bull Formula One car - the same one that flipped in Valencia, had that INCREDIBLY infamous contact with Sebastian Vettel in Turkey, as well as the car which won the 2010 British Grand Prix - Mark famously saying "Not bad for a number two driver" in response to team-order scuffles previously
In typical modern-day fashion, the unveiling of the livery was held over zoom.
After a few important interviews, the time came to reveal UWR's 2021 challenger.
She was absolutely gorgeous - and certainly a striking livery for the cameras to pick up on!
Saturday 15th May, 2021 - Silverstone National
All the training, teaching and learning had all boiled down to this moment - qualifying. Qualifying
Qualifying began in tricky conditions - Shane Kelly (UWRacing) and Stefanos Leaney (CF Racing) both getting caught out - the former spinning into Brooklands, the latter understeering into the pit-exit wall on (new) cold, slick tyres - snapping his front suspension/steering and his team needing to do a quick repair job in time for the first race.
Race 1 (Saturday)
Starting from the 4th and last row of only 7 cars - Kelly certainly had his work cut out for him. 2020 Driver's Champion Leaney started on the front row in second, being the one to beat.
It was an instant free position for UWR driver Shane Kelly as Tony Bishop stalled off the line.
Kelly's careful driving continued to pay off as he slipped into the top 5 with George Line colliding rear-wards into the wall - putting an end to his race and risking participation in race 2 too.
Kelly would finish 5th overall, but 2nd in class.
Race 2 - Sunday 16th May
Sunday's racing action began much better for UWRacing - Kelly qualifying 6th - 2nd in the "F3 Cup" Class before finishing ahead of Dominic Paul, gifting Kelly a Class win in the second race - the dry conditions suiting UWR much, much better than the damper and trickier Saturday - The 15 minute race flying by for the students.
Race 3 - Sunday
For race 3, the rain return in typical British Style for the final 15 minute race of the weekend.
After starting 5th, Kelly got a mega launch and dived into forth - sniffing the back of the top three positions.
Lap by lap Tony Bishop hunted Kelly down....but Bishop was pushing too hard in the difficult conditions and with only 2 and a half minutes remaining got two wheels on the gravel at the exit of Luffield and spun violently towards the pit-lane wall, Bishop somehow managing to save it before re-joining in 6th behind the other University Of Wolverhampton stickered car of George Line - the duo of Line and Kelly having an incredibly intense battle in the closing moments of the race - Line passing Kelly on the start finish line with less than a minute and a half to go.
7 Cars isn't much of a Grid - even to the extent that on iRacing (a popular racing simulator including the 2017 F3 Car) - any race with 6 or fewer cars is marked as "unofficial" and although it made it easier to avoid calamities (no cars making contact throughout the entire weekend), once the field is spread out, it can make the racing a little dull, as there are far fewer cars to go wheel to wheel racing with.
This is only worsened if there are retirements due to mechanical failures and accidents. This leads to being gifted a podium (in class) for just finishing.
With the "lockdown" restrictions further easing on the 17th of May, allowing spectators to attend circuits/races - it's hoped that there bigger grids as the season goes on.
In terms of the championship
Light Blue: F3 Euro Class
Yellow/Orange: F3 Cup Class
Pink: Invite Class
Leaney's triple win in all three of the races puts him on top of the overall championship.
In the Cup Class, Dominic Paul leads UWRacing's Shane Kelly by four points, with George Line in third in class after a pretty torrid weekend with two DNF's and a 3rd.
James Winslow was only invited for this round, and therefore did not score any points for the championship
The next race on the calendar is at Castle Combe on the 12th of June, and will likely be my first live event of the year, so I am thoroughly looking forward to that.