Up and coming British racing driver Cameron Twynham ended his European F3 Open campaign as Copa Class championship runner-up last weekend thanks to a ninth podium of the year at the Barcelona season finale.
The 17-year-old went into the event with only an outside chance of overturning the 13-point deficit that would have landed him the title, and was ultimately forced to settle for second in the standings after the opening race on Saturday.
Twynham had put himself in contention to fight for a much-needed victory during morning qualifying by going third fastest. But unlike his rivals, the Team West-Tec driver had used just one set of tyres during the session, ensuring he would start the afternoon’s race on completely fresh rubber.
Initially that bold decision looked like paying off, with Twynham setting fastest lap of the race in his pursuit of the leaders. However, the newer tyres soon began to fall away – inexplicably far quicker than those used by others during qualifying – leaving the MSA Academy driver powerless to finish any higher than fourth in class.
With the championship mathematically out of reach, the Market Harborough racer focused on securing second place in the standings, which was now under threat from race one winner Tommaso Menchini whose team frequently use Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for testing. Sensing the danger, Twynham again qualified strongly in third directly behind the Italian, before pulling off an exceptional passing manoeuvre around the outside of the final hairpin on the opening lap of Sunday’s race.
Despite the high rate of tyre degradation, which produced lap times some five seconds slower than qualifying, Twynham was still shadowing the leader at half-distance when he was hit from behind by Menchini, forcing him wide at one of the final corners. While his Dallara F308 was fortunate not to sustain terminal damage, the compromised exit saw Cameron lose crucial momentum and second position.
Thereafter Twynham was more than content to protect his third place and the six points that would secure his runner-up position in the standings.
“We all really struggled with the tyres this weekend,” explained Twynham. “Considering we’d used the same set throughout qualifying I was very confident of making up the difference on fresher rubber in Saturday’s race, but the grip levels just fell away after five or six laps. The car lost its balance and I was really struggling towards the end to just stay on track. It wasn’t a great way to concede the title but the tyres were gone.
“On Sunday we essentially had nothing to lose, and I was going along very well in second when I was hit from behind. The contact was enough to break the rear wing and part of the floor, and forced me to run wide, lose momentum out of the corner and get passed along the main straight. After that it was important to sit tight and make sure of third, especially as the tyres were again getting past their best.”
Despite just falling short of the Copa Class title, Twynham was nevertheless pleased with his season’s work.
“It was always going to be tough this weekend as, even if I’d won both races, the championship leader was probably going to need a non-score,” he added. “He’s raced here several times before so that was unlikely, and in any case that’s not the way I’d like to have won it. Finishing second is still a fantastic achievement, especially considering the difference in experience between the champion and me, not to mention the rest of the field. I’ve learnt a lot and will be taking that, as well as all the positives, into next season.
“Congratulations to Richard [Gonda] though: he’s had an excellent year. I’d also like to thank Team West-Tec and my coach Ollie Millroy, as well as my commercial partners and family for their hard work throughout the season.”
An excellent record of 16 podium finishes and two victories from 23 races* in his first year of F3 competition has proven Twynham’s credentials as a star of the future. Now, with the help of his family and partners, he will spend the next couple of months assessing his options for the 2014 season.
*Full season of European F3 Open and selected British F3 rounds.