Nelson Piquet Junior won an absolutely amazing British F3 race at Donington Park this afternoon [Saturday]. Despite failing to finish the race after challenging for the lead on the final lap, Alan van der Merwe clinched the British F3 Championship gripped by Avon Tyres title.

On a wet but drying track, Piquet swept ahead of Menu F3 Motorsport's Rob Austin on the final lap after van der Merwe spun when trying to wrest the lead from Austin. Piquet and van der Merwe had opted for slick racing tyres, while Austin was on treaded wet weather tyres.

In the Scholarship class Steven Kane [T Sport] scored an important victory from Ernesto Viso [P1 Motorsport] to stay ahead in the championship.

Heavy rain before the race made tyre choice a real lottery and only four drivers chose to start the race on slicks on a still very wet track. But with the sky clearing and a dry track possible over the closing stages of the race, Piquet [Piquet Sport], van der Merwe [Carlin Motorsport], Richard Antinucci [Promatecme F3] and Rizal Ramli [Team SYR] gambled on slicks.

In the early laps, the slick-shod racers lost a lot of time, but two safety car periods helped reduce the amount of time they lost. Up front, Austin was driving superbly and swept into a clear lead as Fairuz Fauzy [Promatecme F3] fended off a gaggle of challengers for second.

However, by lap 15 the slicks were finally coming good and van der Merwe started moving up, having been outside the top 20 on the opening laps. With Piquet and Antinucci chasing, van der Merwe sliced back up the field and once into second was able to slash six seconds from Austin's once handsome lead in just one lap.

Into the final lap, van der Merwe caught Austin into Redgate, but such was the difference in speed between the cars that van der Merwe had to spin to avoid contact, and was out of the race. "That was an unfortunate end to a good race," said the Carlin driver, "It was like Rob was stopped, I had nowhere to go."

Now it was Piquet romping up to Austin and he swept ahead on the exit of McLeans to score a quite remarkable victory. Antinucci also swept ahead of Austin before the flag, while Will Davison [Fortec Motorsport] just headed Ramli at the flag.

"I was very worried in the first laps and radioed to the team to say we had made the wrong decision," said Piquet Jr. "Then it got quicker and quicker and we were much faster than Austin."

Austin added: "That bloody safety car. I thought I had it, I'm just heart-broken. But there was nothing I could do. One lap less would have done me."

Meanwhile, the Scholarship class produced a fine victory for Kane as Karun Chandhok went out on the first lap and Viso fell further and further back having lost his nose fin in early incidents. "The car was just perfect. I had a bad start, but the car went progressively quicker," said Kane.

 

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