Donington Park plays host to the 2022 GB3 title decider this weekend, with a season-long battle between Hitech GP’s Luke Browning and Fortec Motorsports’ Joel Granfors hanging in the balance
The pair have swapped places at the top of the standings on six occasions over the campaign, with Browning regaining the advantage last time out at Brands Hatch to lead Granfors by 15.5 points heading into the final round, with Carlin’s Callum Voisin now mathematically out of contention in third place.
Two of those lead changes took place at the series’ previous visit to Donington Park in May, and was also scene of a dramatic retirements for the pair during race one when Browning crashed while taking avoiding action of Granfors, who had been involved in a separate incident.
“Donington is such a strong track [for us],” Browning told Formula Scout.
“In pre-season testing we were rapid. Unfortunately we had a bit of a crash the day before qualifying, and I didn’t manage to get out again. I only qualified a tenth-and-a-half off, but I was P5. So, it wasn’t a great weekend for us last time but the pace was so fast.
Browning finished this week’s pre-event test with the third fastest time overall, and topped one of the sessions on Friday.
“So far this time it’s been good,” he said. “Really strong and positive way to come into the weekend. We will worry about qualifying first. The car is quick, it’s so tight around here [between everyone]. It’s just about pulling it out at the right time really, that’s the most crucial part.”
Despite having ground to make up in this weekend’s final three races, Granfors is also feeling bullish about his chances.
“I like Donington,” said Granfors. “I think we had pole position the last time. But then we of course had the incident in race one which took both me and Luke out of the race. So that was a bit unfortunate. We have good speed around Donington, so I’m looking forward to it.”
While Voisin has been one of a few drivers to outshine the pair on occasion this year, the frontrunning consistency of Browning and Granfors has stood the pair apart from the rest over the campaign.
Granfors has lined up no lower than the second row at every round in races one and two, where grids are based on qualifying times, with Browning only qualifying outside the top four once, with the exception being his and Hitech’s qualifying exclusion at Silverstone in July.
It’s Fortec’s Swede therefore that has had the slight edge in qualifying this year on average, leading the way on both pace and position, and has edged Browning four-two in the head-to-head record over six qualifying sessions (excluding the round where Hitech were disqualified). However, it’s Browning that has scored the most pole positions this year with five to Granfors’ three.
The consistency has also been apparent in the races, with both of them amassing 11 podium finishes, almost twice as many as anybody else has managed.
Despite starting behind his rival more often than not, it’s Browning that has been the slightly better of the pair in races one and two. On four occasions he has passed Granfors on the opening lap (including twice at Brands Hatch last time out). The Briton has the most wins of anybody with five, including doubles at Oulton Park and Spa-Francorchamps.
Granfors has only won twice, but has more than made up for that with consistency. And on average he has had the better fortunes compared to Browning in the third, fully-reversed grid, races of weekends, scoring the most points for positions gained across the season, 11 more than Browning.
Points leader Browning can point to more misfortune through 2022, having been taken out in the reversed-grid race at Oulton Park by Tom Lebbon, who was disqualified for the incident, and also hampered with car damage in race three next time out at Silverstone. His only other non-finish was at Donington, but Granfors’s retirement ensured no ground was lost.
The qualifying exclusion at round six at Silverstone did cost Browning the title lead, but he bounced back at Brands Hatch to regain the ascendancy while a broken front wing prevented Granfors from scoring points in the reversed-grid race.
With the points lead and the better record overall in the races, Browning heads into the weekend as the slight favourite to clinch the crown.
But it’s a title that is far from decided, especially if it goes to the wire in the reversed-grid finale, and with other drivers having the potential to be in the mix at the front.
As well as Voisin, Douglas Motorsport’s Max Esterson (who took his maiden win at Donington) and Brands Hatch victors Tom Lebbon (Elite Motorsport) and Matthew Rees (JHR Developments) are capable of being a thorn in the side of the title contenders. Lebbon’s team-mate John Bennett, who was expected to be strong earlier in the season at Donington only to be hampered by a throttle issue, is another who could spring a surprise and was the fastest driver of all in pre-event testing.