Changes: Salman Al Khalifa obviously wasn't missing last time out because of budgetary issues, as he has now moved from Promatecme to T-Sport though he remains in the National Class. Albert Costa (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) will not ...
Salman Al Khalifa obviously wasn't missing last time out because of budgetary issues, as he has now moved from Promatecme to T-Sport though he remains in the National Class.
Albert Costa (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) will not be racing this weekend, and may not be seen again in this season.
Johnny Cecotto Junior, who will be racing at Brands in the International Formula Master series later this year, is in for this meeting at Raikkonen Robertson Racing, and is the only Invitation Class runner.
Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) is now in the garage at the opposite end of the pitlane to the Mansells (Fortec Motorsport) after being yelled at by Nigel in Bucharest and allegedly punched by Greg at Monza.
As is often the case, Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) first out along with team-mate Jonathan Kennard. It's always a good idea on the long Brands Hatch circuit, because a tow can sometimes make all the difference to your qualifying effort. It wasn't long before the times really started to come down very rapidly, resulting in Kennard grabbing provisional pole, with Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) just behind him, followed by Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport), Jelley, and then Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing).
In the National Class, Sergio Perez (T-Sport) was leading from Alex Waters (Promatecme F3), or at least until "Frankie" Cong Fu Cheng (Performance Racing) managed to get between them.
The order soon changed again, with Jelley going to pole ahead of Kennard, Engel, Breen and Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport). Rodolfo Gonzalez (T- Sport), meanwhile, was the best of the rest though there was still a lot of time left. Bird and Breen swapped places, while Greg Mansell improved to go 6th. Bird was another digging deep, and he was soon 2nd, while Hohenthal, who'd been in the low 20s, suddenly shot up the order to 9th. Mustonen was the next to reshuffle the order, and was now 4th.
Things were progressing in an orderly manner, and it looked like we might be in line for that rarest of sessions, a Brands Hatch practice session not interrupted by red flags. Breen did his best to derail things, when he managed a complete 360 rotation at Paddock and had to slow down drastically and wait for a space in the traffic, but otherwise things were going well.
The order was now Jelley, from Bird, Kennard, Mustonen and Gonzalez, but then the inevitable happened. Alex Waters (Promatecme F3) went off into the gravel at Druids and bogged down, though he was being extricated when Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport) skittered off at Paddock, then walloped the barriers. The red flags were promptly hauled out, and the survivors all staggered back slowly into the pits.
At this stage, around 13 minutes in, the order was Jelley, from Bird, Kennard, Mustonen, Hohenthal, Gonzalez, Engel, Breen, Greg Mansell, Cheng and Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing). 11th was Valerio, ahead of John Martin (Alan Docking Racing), Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport), Perez, Cecotto, Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing) and Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing). In 21st was Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport), leading Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport) Al Khalifa, Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Waters, Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Leo Mansell and Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport). Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), who hadn't actually completed a lap, was last.
Initially the clock continued to tick down, but then someone realised and it was set back to the remaining time when the flags were thrown (around 17 minutes), but was almost immediately reset again to 15 minutes. After Valerio was removed from the gravel, we got underway again, but for most people it was too late. It wasn't, however, too late for Asmer who finally found the pace he seemed to have mislaid early on. He gained a dozen or more places to go into the top 10, while Devaney finally got out and set a lap time, moving up to 20th.
A minor shuffle in the middle of the top ten was next, with Mustonen now going 3rd, and Engel improving to 6th. The next improvement came from Asmer, who was blindingly fast in the first sector and followed it up by grabbing provisional pole. Meanwhile, Devaney was beginning to show on the leader board and was 11th. Jelley made an attempt to wrest pole from Asmer, and while he went faster, it wasn't enough to get him ahead of the Estonian.
An unexpected improvement, perhaps, came from the baby of the field, with Chilton going 14th. However, no one was watching that, not with Jelley back in the pits and Mustonen showing a mightily impressive turn of speed in the early part of the lap. Again it wasn't quite enough to displace Asmer, but it did push Jelley down a place. In theory there was still enough time left to get an improvement, as Gonzalez proved by leaping back up to 6th. However, Cecotto had other ideas, the Venezuelan teenager spinning off hard at Hawthorns and making a terrible mess of the car.
There was supposedly more than 5 minutes left on the clock, but clearly the officials had decided they couldn't be trusted. After a pause the chequered flag was shown.
The final order, then, was Asmer, from Mustonen, Jelley, Bird, Kennard, Gonzalez, Hohenthal, Engel, Breen and Guerrieri. 11th was Greg Mansell, from Devaney, Martin, National Class pole man Cheng, Chilton, Grubmuller, Valerio, Cecotto, Moraes and Perez. Teixeira was 21st, ahead of Petterson, Meadows, Al Fardan, Jensen, Mansell, Jackson, Castellacci, Al- Khalifa and Waters, with Garcia Samano occupying the final place.