Liam Venter shone in the European Formula 3 Open championship during round two of the Winter Series at Jerez in Spain last weekend, but was robbed of his first podium finish with just a few laps to go.

Liam, who has made the step up to F3 this season, went into the event - his first race at this level - eager to build on the potential shown last month during testing at Paul Ricard and the Team West-Tec youngster didn't disappoint.

Indeed in practice on Friday, after using the opening two sessions to learn the track and bed in his F308 Dallara, he upped the pace in sessions three and four, eventually finishing P4 third in the highly competitive Copa class.

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The South African teenager then continued to progress in final practice on the Saturday and was second in class on a 1 minute 38.934 seconds, just 0.054 seconds off the top time.

Unfortunately, qualifying didn't go so well and Liam had to settle for sixth, but he bounced back in the race and made an amazing start moving up to second in class on the opening lap.

The 18-year-old then ran in that position until just four laps from the end, when one of his rivals ran into him at turn 1 and punctured his right rear tyre, cruelly denying him his maiden F3 rostrum result. Despite that disappointment, however, Liam was still happy with the weekend.

"It is a shame how things finished, but I am still pleased," he said. "We looked good and were on it from the off. To finish third in class on the first day was very encouraging and practice on Saturday morning was great too. We were really confident going into qualifying but it didn't go to plan. I just wasn't in the same mode as I was in practice. I used the race to make up for it though, and I made a great start and on the first lap gained seven or eight places in total.

"Then there was a safety car on lap 3 and I was behind a massive group of twelve cars. They were all fighting amongst themselves. I thought it wasn't really worth taking any risks and ruining my race, so I tried to restrain myself a bit, but still maintained the gap to the person behind me in third. Unfortunately I then had a surge issue with the engine and fell back a bit and had to defend.

"It was all going well. It is quite a tricky place to overtake. So I just needed to make sure my car placing was okay and keep my feet on the ground and not get too stressed. But with about three laps to go, as I descended into the first corner and as I got to my apex, the driver behind me made contact and pushed me straight on. His front wing sliced quite a massive hole in my rear right tyre and cracked the rim. So that was the end of my race."

"It was unfortunate, but we showed the pace and the potential is there and that is what we were looking for from the Winter Series. We were just looking to get on the pace and see where we were. I am very happy we did that," added the Accelerate Driver Development Ltd (ADD)-affiliated youngster. "I think everyone around me, Craig Dolby, my driving coach and the team, were pleased. We just need to iron out a few issues and then we will get stronger and stronger."

Liam will now head home to South Africa for a bit, before returning to Europe for a series of three tests ahead of the start of the European Formula 3 Open championship 'proper' at Paul Ricard on April 26-28.

"I am popping back to Johannesburg because after this it is really, really busy. I will be in South Africa for six days then I fly straight to Barcelona for a two-day test. Then within a week or two of that, we test at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium and then we go to Silverstone to test on the grand prix circuit. So even though the next race is a month and a half away, we are still going to be very busy.

"Overall, I'd say doing these two Winter Series events have been very useful and I have learnt loads. I am very happy with everything. I don't think we expected to be as competitive as we are and I am really looking forward to going back to Paul Ricard next month for the first official championship race.

"We were so close to success at Jerez that I just really want to get out there again now and try and finish the job off," he concluded.