Kiwi racing driver Brendon Leitch is reflecting on fourth overall in his first major international single seater campaign and says he has learned a lot from this season’s Asian Formula 3 championship.
The Dayle ITM-backed Invercargill driver has been competitive at each of the five rounds but has been dogged by bad luck- and the last round over the weekend at the Shanghai circuit in China was no exception. Despite the tough run of luck, he helped his BlackArts team to its best ever result in the series, moving from last place last year to third overall in the team’s title race this season.
“The first race of the weekend wasn’t too bad. I was a bit cautious on the start and held fourth place, but we had good long run pace so I felt confident,” he explained. “I started to gain on Ukyo Sasahara in third place halfway through. I conserved my tyres but he battled too hard trying to get past Jack Doohan and that meant I caught him up. I got a really good run on Ukyo down the back straight but he defended and took me onto the dirty part of the track. I came out of the final corner and told Joshua my engineer over the radio that the car felt like it had some tyre pick-up.
“I knew I didn’t quite have the pace to catch the front runners but third was a done deal as far as I was concerned. I got alongside Ukyo down the front straight but as I turned in I felt the rear end go funny and then the right front locked up and I was in the run-off. It was another puncture, my third one this season. We had to pit for new tyres and just finish the race.
“After the disappointment of Friday, Saturday was looking more promising. I made a ripper start from the second row in fourth and stuck it around the outside of everyone to get into second place. I was determined to catch Daniel Cao, and it looked like we were going to get him. I had really good pace but then the Safety Car came out. It’s hard to get rid of pick-up on the tyres used in the Asian F3 Championship and so on the restart I had nothing for Cao and he edged away from me, so I stayed put in second. I was happy to get the podium, but I definitely felt like we could have got the win if not for the Safety Car.
“The last race of the weekend and the season was a disappointment to say the least! After being fast on and off all weekend I had this expectation of myself to win. We had the pace on used tyres and we were on an older set, so this race was supposed to be great. The car didn’t feel terrible, but it just had absolutely no pace. Ukyo and Jackson Walls battled really hard and I nearly got by them both early on in the race, but I just wanted to finish. The tyres fell off really badly towards the end of the race but I wasn’t the only one who struggled. The margins blew out quite a bit. I was pleased to bring it home, but it certainly felt like another weekend of what could have been.
“I’ve got to be satisfied with fourth in the points. We took a podium at every round. We were a small team in the championship competing against bigger players with more experience of the tracks, the car and the set up. In addition I’ve had to learn all the tracks as we go. Nevertheless it’s a season of huge positives for me and the only real downer is that we didn’t secure a race win, when we had the outright pace to do so on a number of occasions.
“Fortunately we managed to bring home third place in the Teams’ Championship, which is pretty cool considering we’re a small team with nowhere near the resource or data that the other two leading teams have. I’m pretty proud that we could make that happen for them.”
Sasahara was crowned 2019 F3 Asian Champion ahead of Hitech GP team mate and championship rival, 16-year-old Jack Doohan. Taking eight victories in 15 races, the title is the first single seater championship win for the highly-regarded Japanese talent.
Leitch now switches focus to his other campaign this season in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo Asia and the world finals in Spain at the end of the month.