BRANDS HATCH 26 APRIL 1998 by Stella Maria Thomas

Autosport British F3 Championship 1998 - Round 5, Brands Hatch, April 25/26.

Weather: cold, sunny, clear.

Qualifying 1st No. 2 Mario Haberfeld, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 40.711 2nd No. 6 Marc Hynes, Dallara F398 Renault 40.749 3rd No. 21 Warren Hughes, Dallara F398 Renault 40.765 4th No. 1 Luciano Burti, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 40.786 5th No. 5 Enrique Bernoldi, Dallara F398 Renault 40.834 6th No. 14 Jamie Spence, Dallara F398 Renault 40.863 7th No. 16 Martin O'Connell, Dallara F398 TOMS Toyota 40.867 8th No. 4 Kristian Kolby, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 40.873 9th No. 7 Ricardo Mauricio, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 40.935 10th No. 27 Ben Collins, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 40.945 11th No. 18 David Cook, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 41.056 12th No. 19 Paula Cook, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 41.171 13th No. 22 Alexander Yoong, Dallara F398 Renault 41.179 14th No. 9 Michael Bentwood, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 41.183 15th No. 8 Yudai Igarashi, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 41.273 16th No. 3 Andrej Pavicevic, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 41.363 17th No. 52 Phillip Scifleet, Dallara F396 TOM'S Toyota (National Pole) 41.457 18th No. 20 Tim Spouge, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 41.562 19th No. 42 Adam Wilcox, Great Britain, TOM'S 037F TOM'S Toyota 41.588 20th No. 51 Warren Carway, Dallara F396 TOM'S Toyota 41.749 21st No. 53 Stephen White, Dallara F395/6 Mugen Honda 42.278

If Round 4 was affected by weather, this was a race affected storm clouds of a rather different nature. A post-practice punch up in the assembly area between Luciano Burti, who was a long way from his normally seemingly unflappable self all weekend, and compatriot Enrique Bernoldi had led to a fine of £500 being imposed on Burti. Burti, who felt that Bernoldi had deliberately blocked him, also had his licence endorsed. He was lucky, as there had been talk of excluding him from the meeting, which would have meant he missed both rounds.

Anyway, matters settled down slightly, the race got underway in fine, dry but cold conditions, and everyone seemed much calmer. However, that was an illusion. Into Druids for the first time, Haberfeld, Hynes and Bernoldi all tried to occupy the same piece of tarmac. Three into one doesn't go, particularly around Druids and only Haberfeld came out, Hynes running right over the back of Bernoldi. Afterwards Bernoldi was furious, blaming Hynes. Hynes was rather calmer about the whole affair and if the Promatecme team were not exactly overjoyed at losing both their drivers within 20 seconds of the green flag, Serge Saulnier took the view that it was a racing incident. At least in public.

Haberfeld had got away with it and promptly settled down to consolidate his lead. Behind him, Burti was pushing hard, making up for his earlier showing with a determined drive. He was going to need that determination since immediately behind him Warren Hughes was snapping at the PSR Dallara's wheeltracks, while at the same time he was being harassed by Martin O'Connell who had taken advantage of the first lap confusion to dive through into 4th place. There followed a tremendous scrap for the lead, Jamie Spence soon getting on the tail of the pack and joining in too. Martin was giving his full attention to Hughes but the experienced Geordie was never going to be easy to pass. "I knew where I could overtake him," said O'Connell afterwards, "but I also knew I wouldn't get a second chance if it didn't work!" Hughes defended and thereafter O'Connell was at a loss for an answer. "Even so, there wasn't a moments peace," Hughes remarked, clearly having enjoyed his afternoon.

Shortly afterwards, Spence had a go at O'Connell but the latter was having none of it. He held his line and Spence let him go. It could so easily have ended in tears. "He gave me the line. He could have taken it himself, so I guess I owe him one now," said O'Connell. "You have to be fair, and he was."

Suddenly, on Lap 14, the lead changed, Haberfeld's Mugen Honda blowing up big time as the field screamed into Paddock Hill Bend. The stricken Brazilian was out of the race and his team mate now had the lead. Burti had tried to take the lead twice before and admitted he was not unhappy to see Mario go. "I know it's bad for the team but I have to say it!" Driving a defensive race from now on, Burti was never to relinquish the lead. He had problems with the car into Clearways which meant the pack got ever closer to him, and the four way fight became even more intense when Mauricio and Collins caught up to provide one of the closest finishes ever in British F3.

Another pair having an intense battle were Phillip Scifleet and Warren Carway, the latter leading the National Class by a whisker from Scifleet. It seems the Irishman's experience at this circuit paid off though, as he took the Class victory although Scifleet set fastest lap in the category. At least Carway is now challenging which ought to stop Phillip from getting bored.

Results

1st Luciano Burti, F398 Mugen Honda - - Time 20:52.548 30 laps, Speed 167.14 k.p.h./103.85 m.p.h. 2nd Warren Hughes, F398 Renault - Gap: 0.780 3rd Martin O'Connell, F398 TOMS Toyota - Gap: 1.037 4th Jamie Spence, F398 Renault - Gap: 1.504 5th Ricardo Mauricio, F398 Mugen Honda - Gap: 2.772 6th Ben Collins, F398 Opel Spiess - Gap: 3.155 7th David Cook, F398 Opel Spiess - Gap: 9.116 8th Alexander Yoong, F398 Renault - Gap: 9.917 9th Paula Cook, F398 Opel Spiess - Gap: 10.567 10th Andrej Pavicevic, F398 Mugen Honda - Gap: 16.499 11th Michael Bentwood, F398 Mugen Honda - Gap: 17.254 12th Adam Wilcox, F398 Mugen Honda - Gap: 31.670 13th Warren Carway, F396 TOMS Toyota - Gap: 32.911, Speed 162.86 k.p.h./101.19 m.p.h. (National Class winner) 14th Phillip Scifleet, F396 TOMS Toyota - Gap: 33.065 15th Tim Spouge, F398 Mugen Honda - Gap: 33.025 16th Yudai Igarashi, F398 Mugen Honda - Gap: 34.093 17th Stephen White, F395/6 Mugen Honda - Gap: 1 Lap

DNF Marc Hynes - Lap 1 - Accident with Bernoldi Enrique Bernoldi, Lap 1 - Accident with Hynes Kristian Kolby, Lap 12 - Pulled off Mario Haberfeld, Lap 14 - Engine blow up

Fastest Laps: Burti - Lap 3, 41.116, speed 169.59 k.p.h./103.78 m.p.h. Scifleet - Lap 11, 42.038, speed 165.87 k.p.h./103.07 m.p.h. (National Class Lap Record)

Points after 5 rounds: International Class 1st Bernoldi, 77 points 2nd O'Connell, 57 points 3rd Haberfeld, 53 points 4th Hughes, 45 points 5th Burti, 43 points 6th Hynes, 26 points 7th Spence, 24 points 8th Mauricio, 20 points 9th Collins, 17 points 10th Yoong, 15 points 11th Kolby, 10 points 12th D Cook, 7 points 13th Igarashi/P Cook, 5 points 15th Karthikeyan, 4 points 16th Pavicevic, 2 points

National Class 1st Scifleet, 102 points 2nd Carway, 50 points 3rd White, 12 points