1999 Autosport British Formula Three Championship - Rounds 4 & 5 - Brands Hatch, April 24th/25th. Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas
Note: Doug Bell has parted from S S Sport. According to him the reason is nothing to do with budgetary constraints. According to the team he missed a payment. At present, there are rumours that he will drive for ADR or Fortec but it should be stressed that these are only rumours right now. SS Sport are therefore down to one driver only at present.
In testing Jenson Button (Promatecme) had been the fastest driver out there while Narain Karthikeyan was again in the wars. The Carlin Motorsport driver had a huge off at Paddock, caught out by the winter changes to the track. He bounced off the rumble strip and flew over the gravel into the barriers. As testing was on Friday, rather than the more usual mid-week session, this left his team with an awful lot of work to do for Saturday morning. It would prove to be more than worth the trouble though.
Qualifying (Round 4): Weather - dry, sunny When practice started, the track, which had been damp, was pretty close to dried out. It certainly wasn't a problem for the drivers, as the remarkably tight spread of times by the end of the session would show. Unfortunately, however, the changes to Paddock Bend were still proving a bit of a problem, especially for Kristian Kolby (Fortec Motorsport). Like Karthikeyan, he too hit the rumble strip and the gravel "sucked me in like a vacuum cleaner!" Kris was shaken but unhurt, which was more than could be said for his Dallara. The tub was wrecked and he would take no further part in the day's events. A suggestion that he use the spare S S Sport car was vetoed by Stewart Racing. The deal was that the officials were prepared to agree to Kris swapping cars but all the teams had to agree. Stewarts were the first to be asked and said no. No one bothered asking any further after that, and the unlucky Dane was left sitting in his garage pondering what might have been. It wasn't Fortec's best ever day. Matt Davies' car seemed to have been taken over by aliens as his dashboard kept giving out false information, initially claiming that the engine was overheating when it clearly wasn't. In the end he ignored it and got on with the job, setting his best qualifying time so far. It was desperately close at the front and the potential pole kept swapping around until close to the end when suddenly Karthikeyan pulled an extra half second from somewhere to take the top slot to grab what looked like being Carlin's first ever pole. Although the others got very close in the last five minutes, it was hard to see them bettering 42.253 and sure enough they didn't, although Luciano Burti (Stewart Racing) got close enough to take second. In 4th was Jenson Button, who looked to be trying much too hard. Still, with the circus that now surrounds this phenomenally talented youngster it's a miracle he can concentrate at all. Returnee Alex Yoong (Alan Docking Racing) was feeling pretty pleased with himself too. He was 5th and suspected there was more to come. Series leader Marc Hynes (Manor Motorsport) on the other hand, was way down in the sumps. 'We engineered ourselves out of a decent starting position' he grumbled afterwards. He was resigned to leaving Brands Hatch with very little glory and would settle for as many points as he could muster. The unfortunate Kolby was 7th with National class man Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing) alongside him and then came Andrew Kirkaldy (Stewart Racing) and Aluizio Coelho (Promatecme); both of them have a hard act to follow being team-mates to Burti and Button respectively. Even so they were less than half a second of the pole time, which gives you and idea of the quality of this field this year. Most seasons have only two or three potential winners. This one has about 10. It's a difficult year to do the category, as Sunday's race would demonstrate.
Qualifying Times (Round 4): 1st - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.253 2nd - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.305 3rd - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.349 4th - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 42.378 5th - No 8 - Alex Yoong, Alan Docking Racing, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.385 6th - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.385 7th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.535 8th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan Racing, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 42.391 9th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.642 10th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 42.743 11th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.796 12th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.945 13th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 43.054 14th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 43.166 15th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S. S. Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, 43.187 16th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 43.494 17th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin, F398 Mugen-Honda, 43.540 18th - No 75 - Jeremy Smith, JSR, F398 Spiess-Opel, 44.233
Qualifying (Round 5): Weather - dry, sunny This was a typical second session in that it was slightly slower than the first one. This time, of course, it didn't matter as it was for the second race. Once again Karthikeyan really pulled out all the stops. He felt that the car was a near perfect as it could be and promptly set a time that no one could get near, although for a while this time it looked as if Alex Yoong might be able to stop him. In the end though, Burti again found the extra needed to grab the 2nd slot, which many feel is the better starting place at Brands. Yoong was bumped down to 3rd with Matt Davies along side him. It looked like it was the men from the East who were fastest (Burti aside), with Karthikeyan (India), Yoong (Malaysia) and Davies (Essex - well, it should count) all looking very strong. Yoong was disappointed though, having felt that he could get pole with the car the way it was. Meanwhile, no one could quite figure out how Narain had done a time over a quarter of a second faster than anyone else. It was mightily impressive and one seasoned observer was heard to comment that as far as he could tell, Narain only had to be told about a mistake once to stop doing it. Others were not having quite such a good time of it. Button was again unable to recreate his testing form and was 5th while Coelho made a nonsense of Surtees just as he was shaping up for the final five minutes of the session. The Brazilian went off backwards, doing extensive damage to the 'the sort of small bits you just don't keep in stock'. The queue at the Dallara truck was swelled further by Tor Sriachavanon (Manor Motorsport) going off at Paddock and ripping part of the floor off. In addition the Fortec boys were expecting Kolby's replacement tub sometime in the middle of the night and had cornered the market in spares. Hynes was also still struggling although Kirkaldy was probably pleased to get up to 7th after his earlier showing.
Qualifying Times (Round 5): 1st - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.325 2nd - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.620 3rd - No 8 - Alex Yoong, Alan Docking Racing, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.636 4th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.677 5th - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 42.726 6th - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.741 7th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.883 8th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan Racing, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 42.919 9th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 42.951 10th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 42.956 11th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, 43.049 12th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 43.059 13th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S. S. Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, 43.222 14th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 43.604 15th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 43.623 16th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin, F398 Mugen-Honda, 43.699 17th - No 75 - Jeremy Smith, JSR, F398 Spiess-Opel, 44.601
No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, No time set - starts from the back of the grid with a 10 second penalty
Race (Round 4): There's a theory that you always get a nice calm race for the first part of a double-header. Well not this time. It looked like they had all forgotten that there was a second race that afternoon and the result was one of the closest fought F3 races I have ever seen. At the start there was trouble. Andrew Kirkaldy was desperately waving at the officials, trying to indicate that he had stalled. It looked as if the start would be aborted, but, as often happens at Brands Hatch, it was too late. The lights went green and for good measure Jenson Button stalled too. In the resulting chaos, Matt Davies and Alex Yoong had a minor coming together as Yoong charged up alongside Davies and Davies turned across him, probably not having seem him. The young Malaysian was furious afterwards but it didn't look deliberate and the stewards didn't see the need to take action. It seems to keep happening to Davies, since he has what might be described as a rather robust driving style that may not win him friends on track but does off it. Unfortunately for Davies that wasn't the end of the matter. Karthikeyan made a fine getaway, as did Burti but then the young Indian made a mistake going into Graham Hill Bend. "I carried too much speed into Graham Hill Bend and all the usual stuff," he said later. It was enough for Burti and he was through into the lead. Davies tried to go too and Karthikeyan chopped across him, taking half of the front wing off the Fortec Dallara. Davies claimed that Narain was an animal but the calmed down and admitted that he probably hadn't seen him. It didn't alter the fact that he was out of the race while Karthikeyan carried on in pursuit of Burti. Meanwhile, Kolby was in the wars again. His new car arrived at 9am and the team had gone flat out to build it up for him. This time he managed to spin and lost so many places that it was unlikely he would get much for his efforts. You have to wonder who he upset in a former life because his luck is almost as bad as Chris Amon's used to be... At the front, there was very little that Narain could do about Burti apart from trying to force him into a mistake. And so he piled on the pressure, feinting one way then another for lap after lap. Every time Burti looked in his mirrors the Carlin car was there. And it wasn't the only one. It soon became clear that Luciano's aim was to win in the slowest possible time (shades of Alan Jones here?) and as a result there were soon 8 cars in a tight cluster behind him. This groups included Marc Hynes and Martin O'Connell locked into a furious tussle for 3rd on the road, Marc having seemingly forgotten that Martin is in the National Class and that it might, therefore, be more sensible to let him through. In a way it was a shame about this since it took attention from a couple of mightily impressive drives happening further back. Jenson Button was carving his way up through the field with surgical precision while Kolby was doing the same and so was Yoong. In fact the latter provided the moment of the race, mercilessly dispatching Michael Bentwood on the final lap as the pair of them approached Surtees. It gained the Malaysian youngster 5th place on the road (4th in class) which was well deserved for a sterling effort. Andrew Kirkaldy was another who stalled of course. But for him it was merely the next stage in a truly horrible weekend that saw him go off attempting to pass Jeremy Smith after leaving his braking too late. He will probably want to forget about this weekend altogether, as it didn't get any better. Afterwards, Burti was happy to have got his first victory of the season. 'I knew I had to get into the lead on the first lap,' he said, although the view in his mirrors was not reassuring! 'You can see a lot in those mirrors. Going through Clearways one time I looked and he (Karthikeyan) was completely sideways!' It was an impressively cool performance under enormous pressure and even a missed gear wasn't enough to cost him the race. Narain was very fast and very impressive and Luciano wasn't looking forward to having him on pole again for the second race. Nor were the others when he announced that he knew what he'd done wrong the first time and wouldn't do it again. Hynes certainly was concerned although he was happy to have netted 3rd place. 'I'm a bit worried now that Narain says he knows what he has to do next time. Still, we got more than we expected today'. He had quite enjoyed fighting with O'Connell, who was also gracious about the battle afterwards. 'To pass Hynes I'd have had to push him out of my way, and I didn't want to do that,' he said.
Results (Round 4): 1st - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 18:18.430, 100.53 mph 2nd - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 0.237 3rd - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 0.728 4th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan Racing, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, Gap: 1.057 (National Class winner) 5th - No 8 - Alex Yoong, Alan Docking Racing, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 2.294 6th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 2.570 7th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 3.438 8th - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Gap: 7.358 9th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 9.574 10th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 10.085 11th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Gap: 10.448 12th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 19.532 13th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S. S. Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 19.770 14th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin, F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 28.381 15th - No 75 - Jeremy Smith, JSR, F398 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 37.092 Not Classified: No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Lap 7 No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Lap 2 - Accident damage No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, Lap 1
Fastest laps: Championship Class - No 12, Narain Karthikeyan, 42.901, 165.59 kph, 102.89 mph (Lap 14) National Class - No. 51, Martin O'Connell, 43.148, 164.64 kph, 102.30 mph (Lap 8)
Race (Round 5): This time out Karthikeyan wasn't going to make any mistakes and shot into the lead and from then on just drove away from the rest of them. Meanwhile Andrew Kirkaldy was in trouble again, going off on his own at exactly the same spot as he had in the first race. It was embarrassing, especially as Jackie Stewart was in evidence and can't have been too impressed, but at least he was able to get going again this time, although as this was about two laps later, this wasn't a lot of help. Alex Yoong was 2nd and was able to hold his place with relatively little trouble while Burti, in 3rd was again being harassed, this time by Matt Davies, who just wouldn't go away. A similar battle for 5th was raging with Marc Hynes again being troubled by Martin O'Connell, the National Class man finally getting the better of the championship leader after Hynes tried to get past Davies for 4th. Obviously it made no difference to the points and Hynes was still pleased to have got enough of them to remain ahead of Burti. It has to be said though, that Manor need to improve their qualifying performances on the circuits they are not so familiar with if they are not to lose the advantage they currently have. As races go, this one was pretty processional with the exception of Kolby who was a man on a mission after having to start from the back with a 10-second penalty. Sadly, he eventually got stuck behind Toby Scheckter who was also not having a very good weekend. The Dane would progress no further which wasn't really surprising given that the car can hardly have been set up at its best since it hadn't been tested. And so Karthikeyan took his and Carlin's first F3 win. Afterwards, the young Indian was absolutely delighted. 'It's been a very good day for me and for my country. It's the first time an Indian driver has won an international race,' he said. 'Perhaps now I can get some sponsorship.' Yoong too was more than happy to land his first F3 podium place. He would have liked to have won but the car just wasn't good enough for him to stay with Narain and he was having problems getting through Clearways. He was quick to give credit to the winner even so. 'Narain was in a different class today'. Alex too has had difficulties getting a budget together 'because the idea of racing is very new in Malaysia. Perhaps this will help. I hope so!' For his efforts he was also named Driver of the Day and, with the exception of Karthikeyan, no one was happier. Luciano Burti was back in his third man role again, steadily racking up points. He knew he couldn't do anything about the leading duo as his car was suffering from understeer to begin with and later from oversteer. And anyway Davies was right there behind him if he even thought about making a mistake. And if Davies didn't get him, there was a chance that Hynes would. He had been aware of the latter for most of the race until lap 21 when O'Connell came through. O'Connell had had a pretty good weekend too. 'There's only about one chance a weekend to pass anyone here,' he said. 'And I managed to get Marc.' Among the disappointed was Jenson Button who seemed strangely out of sorts all weekend, as did his team mate Aluizio Coelho. The claims that the Renault power unit is not delivering enough grunt seem to have been borne out. The irony of this is that the one year that Promatecme have a pair of drivers who could not be described as hot-headed or stupidly impulsive, they are going to be let down by the engines.
Results (Round 5): 1st - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 18:00.604, 102.18 mph 2nd - No 8 - Alex Yoong, Alan Docking Racing, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 7.277 3rd - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 8.810 4th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 8.921 5th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan Racing, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, Gap: 10.621 (National Class winner) 6th - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 11.564 7th - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Gap: 12.237 8th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 14.325 9th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 18.882 10th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Gap: 19.320 11th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S. S. Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 20.220 12th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 27.509 13th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 28.248 14th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin, F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 36.144 15th - No 75 - Jeremy Smith, JSR, F398 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 1 lap 16th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 2 laps Not Classified: No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, Lap 22 - Accident with Sriachavanon No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Lap 22 - Accident with Carway
Fastest laps: Championship Class - No. 12, Narain Karthikeyan, 42.617, 166.69 kph, 103.58 mph (Lap 8) National Class - No. 51, Martin O'Connell, 42.992, 165.24 kph, 102.67 mph (Lap 1)
Standings: Championship Class: 1st - Marc Hynes - 73 points 2nd - Jenson Button - 53 points 3rd - Luciano Burti - 57 points 4th - Narain Karthikeyan - 47 points 5th - Kristian Kolby - 40 points 6th - Alex Yoong - 31 points 7th - Matt Davies - 30 points 8th - Andrew Kirkaldy - 23 points 9th - Michael Bentwood - 20 points 10th - Doug Bell - 10 points 11th - Aluizio Coelho - 9 points 12th - Yudai Igarashi - 8 points 13th - Toby Scheckter - 5 points 14th - Tim Spouge - 4 points 15th - Warren Carway - 1 point
National Class: 1st - Martin O'Connell - 85 points 2nd - Jeremy Smith - 74 points 3rd - John Bender, 30 points
Next Round: Oulton Park - May 2nd/3rd