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F3 Cup 2012 Season Review: The quest to become the inaugural champion

Tuesday, December 18 2012

The F3 Cup breathed new life into the UK national single seater scene in 2012 and it proved to be a season to remember for Chris Dittmann.

After receiving championship status from the MSA and allowing 2007 spec cars to enter, the championship welcomed 42 drivers in all, including future F1 prospects Antonio Felix Da Costa and Alex Lynn. But the story of the season was the championship battle between Dittmann, Tristan Cliffe and Gino Ussi which provided plenty of thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing. The championship saw cars constructed from 1980-2007 compete in three classes; Cup (2002-2007), Trophy (1997-2001) and Masters (1980-1996). 

A wet Oulton Park opened the new era for the MSVR-run F3 Cup culminating in a double win for ex-British GT4 champion Jamie Stanley. Despite increased competition, 2011 regulars Mark Harrison and Chris Needham claimed Class victories to start their campaigns on a high.

Torrential rain plagued the following round at Donington Park but it failed to worry former British Formula Ford race winner Linton Stutely, as he took the spoils on his debut. He would score another double at Snetterton 300 in June and become a real contender in the Trophy Class. However, the championship was starting to take shape with Cliffe enjoying a double class victory and Ussi picking up podium finishes.

Sunshine at Silverstone National in May gave the huge 25 car grid a new variable to deal with. The meeting proved to be the closest fight of the season and Dittmann's victory in race one sent a message to his rivals. The 23-year-old followed the result up with a second behind 2011 F3 Cup race winner Louis Hamilton-Smith in race two. Meanwhile Cliffe and Ussi's consistency marked them out as early title contenders.

The halfway point of the season saw several guest drivers dominate at the front beginning with British F3 star Alex Lynn recording a double win at Spa Francorchamps in both wet and dry conditions. This meeting saw the title swing in the direction of Cliffe as Dittmann suffered a puncture, inflicted by Ussi, which forced him into retirement. Two fourth place finishes certainly boosted Cliffe's title hopes. 

FIA Formula Two driver Kourosh Khani secured double success at Brands Hatch GP for Lanan Racing while Ussi stepped up his challenge with two second place finishes. An uncharacteristic mistake for Dittmann in race one saw the title battle take another twist.

Rising star Sean Walkinshaw made his competitive F3 debut at Anglesey and he didn't waste any time in showcasing his potential. The 18-year-old scooped two convincing victories from a weekend to forget for the title contenders. Dittmann suffered an engine failure in Friday testing and both Ussi and Cliffe failed to make the most of his absence. Young guns dominated the weekend with Prajesh Shah and James Abbott securing their maiden podium finishes.    

Despite the influx of guest drivers during the summer, the championship battle ebbed and flowed. Retirements for Dittmann allowed Cliffe to hold a slender 13.5 point lead heading into the penultimate round. Three consecutive second place finishes hauled Ussi into the title mix too.

However, Dittmann's double class win at Silverstone GP left him in pole position to claim the title. But he was unable to completely shake off Cliffe and Ussi who remained in contention for glory. Guest drivers Khani and ex-British Formula 3 national champion Jay Bridger grabbed the headlines with the former heading a double one-two finish.    

Despite almost stalling at the start, Dittmann came through to win his class and take the title at the Snetterton 300 finale in October. Red Bull F1 test driver Da Costa, who was preparing for the Macau GP with Carlin, stormed to two race wins. A valiant effort from Cliffe saw him finish just 3.5 points shy of the new champion after recording two class victories. An eventful weekend for Ussi forced him to settle for third in the championship.

The title for Dittmann will live long in his memory with this being his first championship triumph in his motorsport career. Elsewhere, Omicron Motorsport won the Teams' Championship courtesy of consistent finishes from their drivers Cliffe and Tony Bishop. MotorSport Vision Chief Executive Jonathan Palmer presented Dittmann with his trophy while Trevor Carlin, head of the successful Carlin racing team, was on hand to congratulate Omicron Motorsport.

Cliffe also picked up the honour of winning the Cup Class, Dittmann claimed the Trophy Class and veteran Dave Karaskas topped the Masters Class.     

After such a successful first year a s championship, the F3 Cup championship is set to continue its growth in 2013.

For more information on F3 Cup, please click here

Images courtesy of Jonathan Hatfield, Andrew Cliffe and Ollie Read 

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Dittmann Leads Cliffe

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