Rising star Tom Lebbon enjoyed a solid start to his single-seater career with three top ten finishes from the opening meeting of the 2021 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship season at Brands Hatch.
The Bury St Edmunds-based teenager headed for the Kent circuit hoping to impress in his Elite Motorsport-run car, running in one of the most striking liveries on the grid thanks to a new and exciting sponsorship deal announced on the eve of the race weekend with car finance brokers We Finance Any Car.
Friday testing around the short Brands Hatch Indy circuit saw Tom post the eleventh quickest time before the action switched to the longer Grand Prix layout for the race weekend itself.
Eighth quickest in tricky wet conditions during free practice, Tom then produced a strong performance in qualifying to lap quicker than a number of more experienced rivals and secure ninth on the grid for race one, with his second fastest time ensuring he would start race two from seventh.
Although he would lose a place at the start of the opening race, the reigning Ginetta Junior champion ran well in the midfield and kept his nose clean to secure ninth place finish and a solid finish on his first single-seater outing.
A brief shower before the start of race two led to one of Tom’s rival spinning off on the formation lap and a delayed start, with the two leaders then clashing at Druids when the action did get underway to bring out the safety car.
Tom had managed to avoid the drama to retain seventh spot and when racing resumed, he fought hard with the more experienced pairing of Roberto Faria and Sebastian Alvarez to end the race where he started; improving on his fastest lap from race one by three-tenths of a second in the process.
Race three featured a full reverse grid based on qualifying times, meaning Tom started from eleventh but with a number of quicker drivers behind.
Staying out of trouble when the lights went out, Tom avoided an incident at turn one to move into tenth spot, and then moved up into ninth in between two early safety car periods.
Although he would lose a place to Oliver Bearman just after the half-way stage, Tom produced an impressive defensive drive on old tyres to keep Frederik Lubin at bay, posting the second fastest lap of the race as he wrapped up the weekend with a tenth place finish.
The three top ten finishes mean Tom heads away from Brands Hatch sitting twelfth in the standings, but is only three points away from the top eight ahead of round two at Silverstone in a month.
"I feel like Brands Hatch has been a very successful first weekend in BRDC British F3," he said. "After a reasonable performance in qualifying, I picked up three solid results in the races despite having to cope with a lot of pressure, and it was great to end things with the second fastest lap in race three despite the fact I was running on old tyres.
"I think that is a sign of the progress made over the weekend, and there are a lot of positives to take away from the opening round. Although it wasn’t perfect and I made a few little mistakes, I was able to keep the car on track and stay out of trouble, and have been able to learn a huge amount that will help me improve as the season goes on.
"After a solid start, hopefully it is onwards and upwards from here."