We've had a series of odd weather conditions of late, and this morning's race at Silverstone was no exception. The weather overnight had been appalling, and although it had dried out a little, it was still wet enough that everyone...
We've had a series of odd weather conditions of late, and this morning's race at Silverstone was no exception. The weather overnight had been appalling, and although it had dried out a little, it was still wet enough that everyone needed to go out on wet weather tyres. Given the state of the slicks Avon supplied for this weekend (grained and disintegrating after half a dozen or so laps) it may have been just as well. Anyway, the field lined up, and at the lights Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) made an appalling start and both Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport) were able to drive round him. They had the advantage of starting on a vaguely drying line, but even so, Conway clearly had some work to do to get back on top. Further down the order, Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) spun in the middle of the cloud of spray that was the pack, and fell away to almost last. He wasn't the only one, as Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) slid away from his high starting position. Meanwhile, Conway was busy staging a comeback, and at Stowe he snatched 2nd back from Jarvis, His luck was clearly running, because Senna then went wide, and that was all the opportunity Conway needed. He took the lead back and started to break away from Senna from then on.
Just behind the leaders, Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport) was all over James Walker (Hitech Racing) for 5th, the Dutchman having gained 5 places in the first lap melee. And now he wanted to pass Walker. This looked like it might get very entertaining before the two of them were done but was at least letting Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) get on with being 4th. There was then a very long gap back to Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), who was holding off Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing), the Mexican having apparently jumped the start but then lost ground. Not that far behind him was Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport), the Swede leading the National Class and running 10th overall, to the surprise of most people. There were suggestions that he might have taken a short cut somewhere!
Among those who had fallen back, Kennard had sorted himself out the best, and was 16th, but had most of the National Class runners to cope with, while Engel was 19th and Stuart Hall (T-Sport) was absolutely last and struggling to find a way through the traffic. He was back there with the usual National Class leader Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), and Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), the pair of them being implicated in the mayhem that was lap 1. The worst hit was Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), the Angolan not even completing a lap. Into the bargain, Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing) was having something of a moment, spinning and T- boning Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport). He was able to continue while the Japanese was out on the spot. Perhaps not surprisingly, Avila didn't seem too upset about it afterwards!
As the race developed, we were treated to a battle between Walker and Jelley, the pair of the scrapping over 4th place. Further back, Engel was still recovering nicely, and was now up to 14th, while Gonzalez was also on his way back up the order. Jarvis, meanwhile, had a queue developing behind him as he hung onto 3rd place, while Conway was steadily breaking away from Senna, the Brazilian unable to quite match his team-mate's pace, but easily running clear of Jarvis. Jarvis, in the mean time, was now given a little breathing space when Jelley passed Walker, and then Buurman caught up with Walker. That left Walker with a major problem as the hard-charging Dutchman set about looking for a way through. There are those who don't believe you can overtake in F3; Buurman clearly has no truck with that theory. At Luffield he made a lunge at the Hitech driver, but couldn't quite make it stick. He settled back in to wait for an opportunity to present itself.
Meanwhile, Christian Bakkerud was losing ground, and had slipped back behind Duran. It looked as if the Dane's luck had struck again; it also looked as if he might lose even more ground before this was over. He wasn't the only one losing ground. Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing) was also losing ground in the tricky conditions, and was disputing 11th place with his team-mate, Kennard, while Engel suddenly appeared behind them. He passed Kennard and then dealt with the Australian equally effectively to get himself back into the top ten (though he was 11th overall, having now arrived behind Kudzak, the National Class leader). And that left Kennard and Reindler scrapping in a manner that you don't often see from team- mates.
Someone else still battling their way back into contention was Gonzalez, the Venezuelan having recovered to 3rd in the National Class. While Kudzak continued to lead, Gonzalez was now trying to catch Juho Annala (Performance Racing) for 2nd, but the Finn was still a long way ahead at this point. Someone who wouldn't be recovering was Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport), also in the National Class, the South African running with a very battered from wing that couldn't possibly be helping the handling at all.
As Conway went on his way untroubled towards the flag, Bakkerud was in deep trouble, slipping back into the clutches of James Jakes (Hitech Racing). He really wasn't having the best of mornings. Buurman, in contrast, was now past Walker and had Jelley in his sights. Jelley, though, was looking to get Jarvis and make it a Double R Racing 1-2-3. Certainly Conway was doing his bit by setting a fastest race lap that improved on the one Senna had previously set.
Given the conditions, it was surprising that it hadn't gone pear- shaped enough to warrant a Safety Car. It looked as if there might need to be one when Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3) went off from somewhere in the rear of the field. He went cross country at Abbey and ended up stranded on the kerbs, which wasn't calculated to make team boss Chris Weller happy. However, it wasn't enough to cause more than a localised yellow flag. That came a little later.
Before then, Bakkerud lost yet another place, and Jarvis came back and Jelley, only to have the Double R driver take the place back almost immediately. And now Jarvis had Buurman to deal with, which is not easy. Just for good measure Walker was still there, waiting in the wings. And then the rain started to fall again.
While Engel made up another place by getting past Bakkerud, and Senna increased his speed, Reindler was attacked by Annala, the National Class Finn wanting to come through. He got ahead at Abbey then got into a spin, and accidentally wiped out Reindler, who was frankly an innocent bystander. Annala did himself no good either, with a hole in the nose, and bits falling off the wings. He wasn't about to quit just because of a bit of "cosmetic" damage however! It did let Gonzalez through into National Class 2nd place, though they were both still an awful long way from catching Kudzak.
Just for good measure, Jelley then made a mistake and went skittering off at Stowe. He was able to continue, but that let Jarvis back into 3rd. He also came close to cutting Buurman off abruptly, though the Dutchman lived to fight another lap. At the same time, Alberto Valerio (Cesario Formula UK) pulled into the pits for minor repairs to the back end. The team fixed it very quickly and sent the tall, gangly Brazilian back out into the fray. At the front, the gap had come down from Senna to Conway, and Buurman was all over Jelley. And then the Safety Car came out.
We were 10 laps into the race at this stage, and the last thing Conway really wanted was a restart. However, he settled in behind the Safety Car, leading the field round. Senna was second, ahead of Jarvis, Buurman, Walker, Duran, Jakes, Jelley, Engel and Bakkerud. Kennard was now 11th, from Stuart Hall (T-Sport), while Kudzak was still leading the National Class. Gonzalez was next up, ahead of Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), Annala (who had dropped another place after another moment at Abbey when he simply ran out of road!), Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing) and Basil Shaaban (Comtec Formula 3). Morgado took the opportunity to pit and have his broken wing dealt with.
The rain stopped while the Safety Car shepherded them round, and at the restart Senna had a go at Conway (the Brazilian had just set the fastest race lap before the Safety Car came out) but the race leader had all the answers and almost immediately started to pull away again. Meanwhile, Buurman blasted past Jarvis to snatch a podium place from the most recent Autosport Young Driver of the Year before setting off after Senna. Jarvis tried very hard to defend himself but he couldn't quite manage it. To add to his woes, he now had Walker also looking for a way past. It's fair to say he wasn't having that. Jelley managed to recover a place from Jakes, while Hall got the drop on Engel. Also on that frantic restart lap Gonzalez grabbed the National Class lead from Kudzak, with only two minutes left in which to finish this race. Annala, by contrast, was hanging on by his fingernails, ignoring the team's suggestion that he might wish to pit. He wasn't coming in for anyone. He was rewarded when Gonzalez took it upon himself to try and pass Bakkerud, and ended up spinning out of the class lead. With Jarvis just holding Walker off (the two of them were side-by-side on the final lap) the race ended short of full distance after we ran out of time.
And so Conway came home to yet another victory, ahead of Senna and Buurman. Jarvis was 4th from Walker, Duran, Jelley, Walker, Hall and Engel. Kennard was 11th from Bakkerud, Moraes, National Class winner Kudzak, Annala, Morgado, Avila and Shaaban.
The extra points for fastest laps went to Senna and Gonzalez.