Jon Lancaster put the disappointment of qualifying behind him to finish the first of this weekend's two F3 Euroseries races at Brands Hatch inside the top ten in ninth position – and with the honour of top rookie and top Brit on home soil to boot.
After lining up twelfth in the 26-car field, the Leeds teenager made a superb start from the outside of the sixth row to gain two spots as the pack filed into the first corner en masse
. However, a coming-together between his ART Grand Prix team-mate James Jakes and countryman Sam Bird on the entry to Paddock halted the 19-year-old's charge and dropped him back down to where he had started once more.
A pass on Kazuya Oshima for eleventh place on lap three was negated when contact with Niall Breen pushed Lancaster wide and allowed both the Irishman and Jean-Karl Vernay through, but five laps later he had regained P11 when an over-ambitious overtaking attempt by Stefano Coletti at Druids failed as the Prema Powerteam ace carried too much speed into the corner and collided with Oshima, spinning them both out of the race.
Lancaster would gain a further couple of spots when two drivers ahead of him were hit with drive-through penalties for speeding under yellow flags, but though he proved to be consistently amongst the quickest drivers on the track in the closing stages, eighth place and the final points-scoring position remained a tantalising six tenths of a second out of reach at the chequered flag.
“I got a fantastic start, which was great as that was something we've been working on,” the Multiflight-backed star mused afterwards, “and I had got past Breen who was two rows in front. Unfortunately when Sam Bird went off at the first corner he came back across in front of where I was and just stopped there, so I came out of Paddock in twelfth, which was not good as I could have come out of there in ninth.
“I made a good move on Oshima for eleventh, and then caught back up to Breen within two laps as I was easily quicker than him. I got right alongside him at the first corner, but he just turned in and crashed into me so I dropped back to 13th. At the next corner I had a bit of luck as Stefano Coletti tried to pass me but came into Druids way too fast and crashed into Oshima, which was the first bit of good luck I've had!
“A few laps later I was looking to get Breen back again at Graham Hill Bend, but on the exit he suddenly jinked left and got it all out of shape, which allowed Vernay to get alongside and both of them got past. That cost me a front row start for Sunday's race, so I'm not too happy about it.
“I made up three places, although it could have been six, so I'll be aiming for another good start in race two and hopefully I can get easily into the top six and secure some more points.”
Having agonisingly just missed out on the reverse top eight pole position, Lancaster will begin Sunday's outing from ninth on the grid as he bids to repeat his sensational breakthrough Nürburgring victory of last month.