Rising star Tom Lebbon found himself in the heart of the action once again as the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship headed for the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium for the fourth round of the season.
The Bury St Edmunds-based teenager headed for the home of the Belgian Grand Prix on the back of a breakthrough weekend at Donington Park, where he secured his first single-seater podium finish at the wheel of his Elite Motorsport-run car.
Tom was on the pace from the outset once the field hit the track for pre-event testing, setting top ten lap times in all three sessions in his We Finance Any Car-backed machine, and he qualified less than half a second away from pole position in an encouraging sixth place.
A penalty for one of the drivers ahead ensured that Tom would line up in fifth place for the opening race of the weekend, and he immediately made up a place at the start in tricky wet conditions to take fourth through turn one.
Getting a run on Bart Horsten on the run up the Kemmel Straight on lap three, Tom then moved ahead of the Australian into third place and he held the position through to the penultimate lap, when Roman Bilinski benefitted from the tow at the same part of the circuit to jump ahead.
Fourth place still meant good points on the board for Tom going into race two, where he would line up eighth on the grid thanks to his second best time from qualifying.
Although he retained his place through the opening lap, Tom found himself shuffled back down to eleventh in the early stages, but climbed back into the top ten when team-mate Jose Garfias ran off the road. Chasing down and passing Roberto Faria on the Kemmel Straight Tom took ninth spot on lap six, and he then repeated the move a lap later to take eighth from Ayrton Simmons.
Tom would cross the line in eighth spot although a time penalty for Reece Ushijima for exceeding track limits meant he would be classified seventh in the final results.
The reverse grid final race started with Tom in tenth spot and as in race two, he would be shuffled down the order early on to end the opening lap in 13th place. The talented youngster wasted little time in working his way forwards however, breaking into the top ten by lap four despite an unfortunate clash with Simmons at the final corner that left him with a damaged nose.
Even with that damage, Tom was able to climb up into the top six but would ultimately be powerless to keep some of his quicker rivals at bay as he slipped behind race winner Christian Mansell and points leader Zak O’Sullivan by the finish.
Whilst he would take the flag in eighth spot, a post-race time penalty for the incident with Simmons dropped Tom to twelfth in the end results although his still ends the weekend having moved up a place to eighth in the championship standings, level on points with Simmons and just seven away from the top six.
With the season now at the half way stage, next up for Tom is the trip to home circuit Snetterton on 7/8 August.
“To race at a famous circuit like Spa was an amazing experience and I think it was another productive weekend,” he said. “Considering that I had never been to the circuit before, we were in the mix from the start of practice and a good result in qualifying meant we were in a position to challenge for some strong race results.
“Coming close to another podium in race one was a good result and I was pleased with how I recovered places in races two and three after a tricky start. The penalty in race three was unfortunate, but these things can happen in racing and we still come away from the weekend having moved up a place in the points.
“With Snetterton being my home circuit, and the home circuit for the team, I’m really looking forward to the next round and hopefully we can be right in the fight for some more silverware.”