Sharp leads GB3 Championship after top debut round at Oulton Park

Tipped by many to be a future Formula One star, Louis Sharp further endorsed his credentials with a sensational debut in the GB3 Championship at Oulton Park over the Easter weekend.

Building on his title winning British F4 campaign in 2023, this season the young New Zealander has graduated to GB3 – the next logical step on the ladder towards F1. Despite now competing against older and far more experienced rivals from no fewer than 11 other nations all in evenly-matched 250bhp Tatuus MSV-022 single-seaters, the 16-year-old rising star wasted no time making his mark.

Having been among the pacesetters in Friday’s Free Practice session, Sharp was unstoppable on Saturday aboard his number 7 Rodin Motorsport entry. In the morning’s qualifying session he posted the two fastest lap times to take a double pole position for the opening two rounds of the season – the third race features a reverse grid. Even more impressively, his pole margin was the largest in the GB3 series at Oulton Park since 2016.

Further belying his rookie status, as the lights went out the talented teenager made a good getaway from his pole position and fended off a strong challenge from fellow front row starter John Bennett – the Englishman now starting his third GB3 campaign. Having secured the lead, Sharp performed faultlessly, setting a succession of fastest laps to seal a phenomenal debut victory. Not even the intervention of a Safety Car could halt his stellar progress.

“It’s a dream start to the championship,” enthused last year’s British F4 champion. “After practice I knew our pace was going to be good. To get pole position by three tenths of a second was a bit of a surprise for me actually, and it showed the pace that we did had in the dry.

“It was a good race. My first start in GB3 wasn’t ideal and I had a bit of pressure from John into the first two corners, but I was able to just stay in front from that point onwards. Obviously there was a Safety Car restart too, so I’ve pretty much experienced it all in the first race! But I kept it clean, minimised mistakes and I knew the pace was good.”

A wet Oulton Park greeted drivers on Easter Monday

With no racing on Easter Sunday, the GB3 runners reassembled at a now chilly and sodden Oulton Park for two more races on Easter Monday. With the rain falling the morning’s showdown started from behind the Safety Car, Sharp leading the pack from his second pole position.

Once again displaying maturity and skill well beyond his age in such tricky conditions, the Rodin racer made the perfect start when the Safety Car pitted to herald the race’s start. Sharp then serenely pulled away from the chasing pack and seemed well placed for famous back-to-back wins before losing his early advantage when a midfield incident saw the Safety Car reintroduced.

With the field now bunched up, the Kiwi rising star found himself under immediate attack from the restart – this time the courageous Bennett maximised his extensive GB3 experience, pulling off an audacious move for lead on the treacherously wet track. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valour at this stage of the season, Sharp settled for second and another highly commendable podium – even more so in the daunting conditions.

“This race was a little bit frustrating,” admitted Louis. “I had built up a nice gap but, on the second restart, I was really struggling for grip and gave John a chance to get round me. At that point I probably could’ve been more aggressive to try and stay ahead but, to be honest, I’m thinking about the championship. I’ve learnt from my mistakes in British F4 last year, it’s not about winning every race, especially in this championship, you’ve just got to have consistent podiums and top-five finishes. It would’ve been nice to get a win, but with a P2 I can’t complain too much.”

With the top 12 from qualifying then reversed on the grid for the weekend’s final race, Sharp lined up on the sixth row with a mountain to climb in what were even wetter track conditions. He made a great start, though, and was up to eighth by the end of the first lap. Another place was gained on lap two. With so much spray being lifted by the cars ahead further progress, though, was impossible.

However, with two of those in front suffering technical issues, Sharp splashed past the chequered flag in a fine fifth position to lead the championship after what had been a sensational debut weekend in GB3.

“I’ve got to be pleased with fifth in final race,” he confirmed. “I got a great start but, once the race settled down, the visibility was so poor it just became impossible to overtake anyone in front.

“Overall it has been a really encouraging weekend and I’ve got to give a big thank you to the Rodin Motorsport team for everything they’ve done in preparation for the season,” acknowledged Sharp. “I can’t really have asked for a better start to my first year in GB3. It was obviously great to score a win in my very first race and it is even better now to be leading the championship. There is, of course, still a long way to go but we can take lots of positives from this promising start and I’m already looking to build on these results when we get to Silverstone.”

With one eye firmly on the future, the next five GB3 rounds are staged on Grand Prix tracks. Silverstone comes first at the end of this month, followed by visits to Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, the Hungaroring in Hungary and Zandvoort in Holland before a return to Silverstone at the end of July. Two further rounds in the UK at Donington Park and Brands Hatch will bring the season to what should be a thrilling finale.

See also: Double pole and win for Sharp at GB3 opening round

2024 GB3 Championship (after three of 24 races)
1/ Louis Sharp (NZ) 82 points
2/ Ugo Ugochukwu (USA) 67
3/ John Bennett (GBR) 66
4/ Will Macintyre (GBR) 53
5/ McKenzy Cresswell (GBR) 51
6/ Gerrard Xie (CHN) 46

GB3 Championship, partnered by the BRDC, Oulton Park race one provisional result:
1/ Louis Sharp, Rodin Motorsport, 11 laps
2/ John Bennett, JHR Developments, +1.433s
3/ Ugo Ugochukwu, Rodin Motorsport, +3.440s
4/ Gerrard Xie, Hitech Pulse-Eight, +4.044s
5/ McKenzy Cresswell, Elite Motorsport, +4.920s
6/ Tymek Kucharczyk, Hitech Pulse-Eight, +5.663s

GB3 Championship, partnered by the BRDC, Oulton Park race two top-six:
1/ John Bennett, JHR Developments, 10 laps
2/ Louis Sharp, Rodin Motorsport, +2.898s
3/ McKenzy Cresswell, Elite Motorsport, +7.084s
4/ Ugo Ugochukwu, Rodin Motorsport, +8.489s
5/ Gerrard Xie, Hitech Pulse-Eight, +12.837s
6/ Will MacIntyre, Hitech Pulse-Eight, +13.440s

GB3 Championship, partnered by the BRDC, Oulton Park race three top-six:
1/ Will Macintyre, Hitech Pulse-Eight, 12 laps
2/ Jarrod Waberski, Elite Motorsport, +4.082s
3/ Ugo Ugochukwu, Rodin Motorsport, +4.899s
4/ Tymek Kucharczyk, Hitech Pulse-Eight, +6.516s
5/ Louis Sharp, Rodin Motorsport, +7.059s
6/ Arthur Rogeon, Rodin Motorsport, +7.504s

GB3 Championship, partnered by the BRDC, team’s standings after race three of 24
1/ Rodin Motorsport, 149pts
2/ Hitech Pulse-Eight, 114pts
3/ Elite Motorsport, 95pts
4/ JHR Developments, 88pts
5/ VRD Racing by Arden, 42pts
6/ Chris Dittmann Racing, 38pts

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