Under cloudy skies, almost 6 hours later than the morning session, the F3 boys were allowed out to play again, this session at least starting bang on time despite the best efforts of that staircase of talent, the Formula Palmer Audi championship.
Under cloudy skies, almost 6 hours later than the morning session, the F3 boys were allowed out to play again, this session at least starting bang on time despite the best efforts of that staircase of talent, the Formula Palmer Audi championship. The long gap had been advantageous for some, especially Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing), who'd managed to modify his Dallara rather heavily in qualifying for round 15. It also benefited Stephen Jelley, because it gave Menu Motorsport time to try and cure the misfire his Opel-Spiess had developed that morning.
This time, the two invitation class runners were first out, Michael Herck (Junior Racing Team) and Alejandro Nunez (HBR Motorsport) looking keen though not especially fast compared to the Silverstone regulars. In fact, they were soon bumped down the order by Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) doing what now seems to be his usual "go-fast-early-on-then-slide-down-the-order" stunt. He was quickly joined by Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing), the Englishman showing no sign of the knee injury he supposedly picked up while surfing last week ("He's not limping as far as I can see," muttered team boss Anthony Hieatt, when asked about it). In addition, Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) and Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) were also showing early pace, each of them topping the times briefly. Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) was also showing signs of speed, the Hitech car finally looking as if it might have the pace to match the Carlin Motorsport entered beasties. At least that's the way it seemed until Alvaro Parente sortied out for his first flying lap in the Number 14 Carlin car. It was less a practice lap and more a statement of intent really. That first lap was a flyer, beating now second-placed Clarke by 1.3 seconds. In fact it was only just shy of his morning session time. It was hard to imagine that anyone would beat him to pole, though stranger things have happened.
Certainly we could expect some improvements, as National Class provisional pole was in the hands of Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport). That suggested two things; one was that Duran had hit the pace very early on, and would be unlikely to go much faster. The other was that he couldn't expect to stay in 3rd overall. He didn't. Almost immediately Bruno Senna (Double R Racing) claimed 2nd place with a neatly executed run. His team- mate Clarke quickly bettered it, and then they both lost places to Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport), the American having spent the afternoon attempting a rain-dance in the paddock (it wasn't working, thankfully).
Bridgman, meanwhile, finally seemed to decide to go out. Complaining of a cold, and slouching miserably round the paddock with a bottle of cold cure medicine clutched in his hot, sweaty hand, he'd looked as if he'd rather be anywhere else than a race track; when he went out, he didn't look any better, frankly. He ended his first flying lap in 11th, and it looked like it wouldn't get much better. However, that may have been a source of relief to Asmer, who is keen to stay as far away from Bridgman as possible after Monza. He was near the front and had every intention of staying there if he could. Senna was also still running well, grabbing 2nd back from Kimball, though Kimball wasted no time getting it back again. Bridgman was also trying to join in, and shot up to 6th a lap later. He was edged back again, when Lewis moved into 5th. Everyone was now edging towards Parente's time, though no one had quite cracked it yet.
The National Class battle was nowhere near finished either, though they seemed to be fighting for 2nd, Duran's time being well above what anyone else seemed able to manage. At this stage, Ben Clucas (Fluid Motorsport) and Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing) were 2nd and 3rd, though Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) was beginning to reel them in, and was looking increasingly threatening. While the Yorkshireman gained rapidly on the Mexican - who was loafing around the pits looking strangely unconcerned - in the Championship Class Asmer had finally got the better of Parente to claim pole.
James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) seemed to be awake again too, once more setting a time to get into the top 10. He seems to have taken most of this season to get back to where he was at the end of last season, which doesn't bode well for his future. Unlike him, Kane was up at the very sharp end, trying to get on terms with the pole man. He was now 4th, which suggests that the Lolas are now working properly after an extended early/mid-season blip (if you were feeling unkind, of course, you could suggest that the double victory at Donington at the start of the season was actually the blip). Whatever the case, Kane has never stopped trying, and that wasn't about to change for anything.
Meanwhile, Jelley was moving up the order, though he was still involved inadvertently with the National Class battle and was currently splitting Duran and Hollings. This put him in a less-than-stunning 13th, but it was at least better than the morning. To prove the Lola thesis, Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) suddenly appeared in 6th, possibly trying to join up with his Monza sparring partner, Conway, while Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), who had been strangely absent from the top twenty all session, at least managed to drag himself round to claim 14th, just behind Jelley. It wasn't good, and by the sound of things, neither was his engine. The team would change it after the session, but that wasn't helping the young Dane at the moment. His team-mates were already out of their cars, both Kimball and Parente sitting in the pits. Parente was showing no sign of intending to go out, presumably feeling there was nothing more to be got from his Avons. He might well have been right. Certainly there were very few improvements in the last ten minutes, though some of them were of some significance.
Senna was still on the move and made a stab at hanging onto 5th, while Conway looked like he might improve yet. He was right up there beside Senna and still pushing on, while Asmer gave up and pitted. Bakkerud, on the other hand, didn't give up, and managed to claw his way to 12th. It was when Conway edged into 3rd that Kimball decided he might need to go back out onto the track and try and get his place back. It became even more imperative when Dirani went 4th. It was too late however; his first instinct proved to be correct. There was nothing left in the tyres. In fact, the only change now came when Walker edged up to 8th, while in the National Class Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) finally managed to set a decent time, having spent most of the session in the pits with mechanics all over the car. He came from dead last to 3rd in the closing minutes, while Hollings had to settle for 2nd just behind Duran.
And so Asmer claimed pole position, but series leader Parente was not concerned at only being 2nd. Scrapping buddies Conway and Dirani were together on the second row, while Kimball was 5th, from Kane, Senna, Walker, Clarke and Lewis. Bridgman was 11th, from Bakkerud, Herck, Duran, Hollings, Jelley, Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing), Kennard, Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), Nunez and Barton Mawer (T-Sport). 21st was Clucas, from Annala, Josh Fisher (Team SWR), Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) - in pain from damaged ribs after a big off in testing - Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) and the inevitable Nick Jones (Team SWR).