Max Chilton led the challenge for the British F3 International Series in qualifying for the annual F3 Masters at Zolder with an impressive sixth place on the grid for the annual non-championship event.
Despite the fact he was tackling the Belgian circuit for the first time and hadn't run on Kumho tyres before, the teenage was able to secure his position in the top 20 shootout following the pre-qualifying sessions and then put his Dallara on the third row of the grid for the race itself, ahead of a number of the fancied runners such as Euroseries points leader Edoardo Mortara.
“It's been a great weekend so far and I'm delighted to finish as quickest of the British guys,” he said. “The car has been mega all weekend and it's great to be so competitive against the very best in Europe. The British series is competitive enough but when you put all the Euroseries runners into the mix too that adds up to a lot of quick drivers. I'm confident of a podium finish tomorrow come rain or shine, but I love the wet so I'll be doing a rain dance tonight!”
Chilton's new team-mate for the weekend Roberto Mehri, called into the team in place of the unavailable Walter Grubmuller, was also able to make it through to the shootout and although he lost time on his quickest run and ended up 17th on the grid, he was still happy with how his day had gone.
“I had a good day and I'm very happy,” he said. “The team has done a great job and the car and engine are fantastic. I had a little problem in the Superpole and lost three tenths on my quickest lap or I think I could have been quicker than my P17. The new car is a lot different to the Class B car, it has a lot more grip and the Mercedes engine is great. Also the Kumho tyres are a lot different to what I'm used to but I have a good feeling with them now. It's hard to overtake at Zolder but I hope to be able to finish in the top ten in the race tomorrow.”
With both of his teenagers having made it into the shootout session, team boss David Hayle declared himself happy with the progress made ahead of the raceand said he was hopeful of a solid run in the race itself.
“Both drivers have driven exceptionally well all weekend,” he said. “It is their first time on the Kumho tyres and they adapted well to the changes. Max was on the pace right from the start and in the earlier wet free practice sessions was running P1 or P2 for most of the session. And in the dry he also underlined the same pace and performance and that ultimately netted him a strong third row start for the race tomorrow.
“Roberto has been particularly impressive considering it's his first time with us, the first time in an International-spec car and his first time on Kumho's. Just to get through the pre-qualifying when several of the top line drivers didn't is a remarkable achievement.”