Liam Venter made an immediate mark on the 2013 European Formula 3 Open championship at Paul Ricard in France last weekend and came away from the season opener with his maiden win and the championship lead.

The Johannesburg-born youngster, who has graduated to F3 this year having spent 2012 competing in the UK Dunlop InterSteps Championship, had been pleased with his pre-season preparations and he continued to progress this weekend culminating with his successes in both races.

After dialling his car in during practice on Friday, Liam qualified fourth in the highly competitive Copa class on Saturday, despite atrocious conditions at Le Castellent, which saw the session delayed. Race one was also affected by the weather, and while Liam found himself running near the back at the end of the opening lap, the 18-year-old kept his calm, and battled back to snatch third and the final podium place.

On Sunday conditions remained wet and Liam again qualified fourth in class in his Team West-Tec-run F308 Dallara, before a superb drive in race two saw him emerge victorious - and finish a very impressive eighth overall out of the 31 competitors in action, 18 of which were running in the quicker and more up-to-date F312 Dallara's.

"I am very happy," said Liam, who was sporting Proudly South African logos for the first time this weekend. "It all went so well. We kept improving and it paid off - despite really tricky weather conditions.

"In qualifying I didn't put all my best sectors together and that meant I didn't qualify as well as I would have liked. It wasn't a big issue however, and didn't affect my confidence, as we knew we had the pace to be further up.

"At the start of race one I got away quite well. I was up into third, but down the back straight I made a move for second, and as I did that another guy tried to come around the outside. We touched and both of us went backwards. That put me near the back and because the race had started under the safety car due to fog, I then only had about 10 minutes to get back through the pack. We had the speed though, and with everyone in front busy squabbling, we came back and took third on the last corner on the last lap.

"The second race was a bit more straightforward - although the weather remained challenging. I got off the line quite well and went straight through to third position. Up front someone cut across another driver and there was a bit of chaos, but I managed to avoid it and by the end of the first lap I was up to second. I was then pressuring the guy in front when he made a mistake and went off. After that I just concentrated on keeping the lead and tried to keep my head down and not mess around too much with the faster F312 cars."

"Overall, it has been really nice to come to the first weekend and get my first podium and my first win and walk away leading the championship. It is a great start for me," added the Accelerate Driver Development Ltd (ADD)-affiliated youngster. "My thanks go to all at Team West-Tec, especially my engineer Andy Welch, mechanics Tom Wood and Jamie Wooder as well as Craig Dolby, my driving coach. Everyone worked really hard and did a great job."

Liam will now resume his campaign in the European Formula 3 Open championship in two weeks time, when the series heads to Portimao in Portugal for round two (May 11-12).

"The weather should be a bit different there - it should be blisteringly hot and dry. We have started well and the aim will be to continue like that. But I don't want to jump too far ahead. We need to keep our feet on the ground and take it one step at a time," he concluded.