1999 Autosport British Formula Three Championship Round 8 - Brands Hatch, June 19th/ 20th. Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
Further changes to the National Class runners: Martin O'Connell had to step down due to lack of funds and has been replaced at Rowan Racing by Stephen Shanley. Gavin Jones was again running with Rowan as well. In addition, John Bender was back at Carlin and John Ingram was having what may turn out to be a one-off race in a SpeedSport Dallara with intent to keep his racing license up-to-date.
Qualifying: Weather - sunny, dry (session 1), cold, cloudy with the possibility of rain (session 2) There are some very difficult sections of the Grand Prix circuit at Brands Hatch at present though it seems likely that if the British Grand Prix does shift to the Kent circuit then these challenging stretches will vanish forever. There are probably a few F3 drivers who wouldn't mind at all after this weekend. To take the infamous Dingle Dell fast enough to get a good lap in, you will certainly have to get airborne. Unfortunately, the modern F3 car is not designed to take the sort of beating handed out on landing. This fact was brought home to both of the Promatecme drivers in the first and second sessions. Jenson Button was somewhat mystified by the change in handling of his car until it was explained to him that bending a pushrod will do that to your car. It didn't stop him trying hard though. He was up to 3rd in the first session, rather than waiting for the second which seems to be team strategy at present. Team mate Aluizio Coelho was still sticking to the original game plan after an off in the first session left him struggling in 11th right between his team-mates from last year, Doug Bell and Tor Sriachavanon. Al was able to make progress in the second session though for a while it looked like the weather would work against him. Certainly if the TAR and MGF practice sessions had not been so shambolic, the session would have started on time and would undoubtedly have been slower. As it was, by the time they got out the sky was covered in dense grey cloud and the air was cool enough to make for optimum performance. Al went for it and dragged the Promatecme Dallara into 6th place, and might even have made it further up the grid if it hadn't been for Luciano Burti (Stewart Racing). Luciano had put in a stunning lap in the first session to claim provisional pole, and was looking quite comfortable when Narain Karthikeyan, who was sharing the front row with him, started to really put the pressure on. As usual Luciano didn't try to make excuses for what happened next. "I was just cruising round when Narain started to put in faster times. I was the only driver out there with new tyres and I thought it would be embarrassing if he beat me like that. So then I started to push. The only place left that I could try to go faster was Dingle Dell. It didn't work!" It certainly didn't. With less than 3 minutes left he went off in a big way. The red flags were waved and the session came to a slightly premature end. Burti kept his pole, but Karthikeyan was not far off. After the last Brands Hatch meeting, it seems likely that Burti knew he would have a fight on his hands with the young Indian. He could comfort himself with the knowledge that Andrew Kirkaldy (Stewart) was not far behind in 4th place and might be able to run some sort of interference if necessary. After a somewhat up and down start to the season the Scottish youngster seems to be hitting his stride at last and is beginning to get the sort of results that were expected of him. Fifth place went to Matt Davies (Fortec), a fact that didn't please Coelho at all. He has had more than one run in with Davies, as have a number of his fellow competitors. Matt has talent to spare but seems a little too ready to blame everyone around him in the heat of the moment when it all goes wrong. This would be fine if he had someone to take him to one side and get him to calm down before he starts flinging accusations but no one seems prepared to do that, with the result that he is getting an (at least partially) undeserved reputation as a bit of an animal, ironically the word he used to describe Karthikeyan last time the series came to Brands. Brands Hatch seems to be a bit of a problem for Marc Hynes (Manor Motorsport). This time the best the joint series leader could do was 7th place and he wasn't any too happy about it. His father was certainly not hanging around when he returned to the garage and wasn't keen on having to drive back with Marc that evening to their hotel. Hynes himself seemed fairly philosophical about it once he had time to calm down. He was another one who might well have improved further had the second session run the full 30 minutes. He would have to live with it, and with the knowledge that he would probably not be the driver to give Manor their 100th victory in motorsport. He was joined by the driver he once notably described as "a fluffy white haired kid who didn't speak any English," Kristian Kolby (Fortec). Admittedly this applied to the time they met when Kris was about 10 years old. The English is better; the haircut may not be... Kolby's mood seems to be worsening by the meeting, as Fortec seem unable to give him the tools he needs to do the job. That he still hasn't won an F3 race seems incredible and certainly isn't for lack of trying. The trouble is his efforts seem to be going to waste, and he now has the look of a driver who believes that nothing will help. Once you start to think like that, it's hard to get out of the habit and a win becomes ever more unlikely. It seems a shame that he can't be got out of this situation, and no doubt having Davies in front of him really won't help at all. "Bloody Hell!" was the only halfway coherent comment to be got from Tor Sriachavanon (Manor Motorsport) after second practice. The Thai driver has only just scored his first points and that seems to have made all the difference to his confidence levels. He was really trying out there; you could tell from his face as he peeled off his Nomex balaclava; his eyes seemed to be about twice the size they normally are and he looked like he had just run a marathon. The newly inspired Tim Spouge (S S Sport) was also looking pleased with himself. The working relationship with Paulo Carcasci, who some of you may remember from his racing days, is paying dividends now and the car is finally being set up in a way that allows Tim to make the most of it. He was delighted with 10th on the grid, and the team was celebrating by wearing new shirts (which was fine for everyone except Tim's sister - one size doesn't fit everyone it seems). They were even more delighted to discover that Doug Bell (Alan Docking Racing) was two places back. As Doug seems to have left S S Sport on less than friendly terms, you could understand their satisfaction. What took rather more understanding was the fact that the 6th row was occupied by both ADR cars, with Yudai Igarashi in 11th, just ahead of Bell. The fact that Alex Yoong can put an ADR car on the front row here suggests that the problem isn't with the car or the engineering... Michael Bentwood was in 13th, which certainly wasn't lucky for him. His engine had failed in a very messy manner and Carlin were faced with a late night trying to change it. It was as well they had Karthikeyan on the front row or they could have been feeling very depressed by the end of Saturday. As it was they were reasonably cheerful even though they claimed they were wasting valuable drinking time... If things were bad at ADR, they were worse at SpeedSport. Both of their drivers were behind Gavin Jones (Rowan Racing), who, in the absence of Martin O'Connell, took the National Class pole, Toby Scheckter was depressed 15th, alongside teammate (and trainee pilot after his Croft flying lesson) Warren Carway. Warren is spending his own money but it remains to be seen how long Jody will allow this situation to continue before he decides he may be wasting his money and pulls the financial plug on his son. It seems unlikely that the presence of John Ingram in the SpeedSport National class Dallara would improve their mood either, as he was last of all, a good 6 seconds off the pace. The penultimate row went to John Bender (Carlin), returning to the National Class and excused whet would seem to be gofer duties at Carlin so he could drive. He shared this row with Jeremy Smith while behind them, next to Ingram, was debutant Stephen Shanley (Rowan Racing) who should be in the car at Silverstone too. Qualifying Times (First Session): 1st - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:18.674 2nd - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:18.828 3rd - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:18.893 4th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.091 5th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.140 6th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.278 7th - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.281 8th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:19.778 9th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.786 10th - No 8 - Doug Bell, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.831 11th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:19.910 12th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:20.310 13th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:20.433 14th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:20.437 15th - No 52 - Gavin Jones, Rowan Racing, TOM'S F037F TOM'S-Toyota, 1:20.590 16th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:21.306 17th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:21.442 18th - No 75 - Jeremy Smith, Jeremy Smith Racing, Dallara F398 Spiess-Opel, 1:23.657 19th - No 57 - John Ingram, SpeedSport, Dallara F395 Mugen-Honda, 1:25.146 20th - No 51 - Stephen Shanley, Rowan Racing, Dallara F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 1:26.180
Qualifying Times (Overall): 1st - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:18.637 2nd - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:18.754 3rd - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:18.867 4th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.091 5th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.140 6th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:19.172 7th - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.178 8th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.278 9th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.287 10th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:19.560 11th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.786 12th - No 8 - Doug Bell, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.831 13th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:20.048 14th - No 52 - Gavin Jones, Rowan Racing, TOM'S F037F TOM'S-Toyota, 1:20.244 (National Class Pole) 15th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:20.437 16th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:21.045 17th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:21.102 18th - No 75 - Jeremy Smith, Jeremy Smith Racing, Dallara F398 Spiess-Opel, 1:23.657 19th - No 51 - Stephen Shanley, Rowan Racing, Dallara F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 1:24.663 20th - No 57 - John Ingram, SpeedSport, Dallara F395 Mugen-Honda, 1:25.146
Race: Weather: sunny, dry. Perhaps predictably, at the start of the race, Luciano Burti (Stewart Racing) made a good getaway, but it wasn't enough to stop Narain Karthikeyan (Carlin Motorsport). The young Indian shot away from the line and into the lead almost before you could blink. Afterwards, Luciano was rueful but not surprised. "Maybe I could have fought a bit harder. If it had been Hynes, I wouldn't have backed off. But with Narain, I had to back off because I knew he wouldn't! I couldn't keep with him. I lost the race at the start. I made a good start but he made a rocket one. I don't know what he does and he won't tell me!" Further down the order things were nowhere near as clear cut. Aluizio Coelho (Promatecme UK) was mugged by the two Fortec cars of Kristian Kolby and Matt Davies. Davies hit him and damaged the front wing, leaving Little Al with an ill-handling car for the remainder of the race and no choice but to drop back to 8th. Later, Davies would say it was all Al's fault. This relationship is getting increasingly strained and something needs to be done about it now. John Ingram (Carlin Motorsport) went off on the first lap, ending up stranded at the exit if Graham Hill Bend. Also somewhere out there was the missing half of Gavin Jones' (Rowan Racing) front wing. John Bender (Carlin Motorsport) had a birds eye view of it all. "The start was really exciting. They were three abreast through Paddock, knocking each others' wings off!" However, the real trouble developed further back. Warren Carway (SpeedSport) arrived at Paddock to find Yudai Igarashi (Alan Docking Racing) sideways across the track. Carway found himself with no place to go and the two of them were straight off into the gravel and out of the race. In addition, Tim Spouge (S S Sport) was punted off by Doug Bell (Alan Docking Racing) in a move that left Bell stranded on a kerb and having to be rescued by the marshals. He rejoined at the back of the field with a series of tyre marks down the right hand side of the car while Spouge limped off into retirement making a total of four and a bit cars scattered around the scenery. The S S Sport driver was certain it was deliberate although it looked more as if it was merely overoptimistic. Even so Spouge and his team would lodge a protest later that day, though it wouldn't help him at all as he was unable to complete the race. By the start of lap 4 it became obvious that all the wreckage was going to take a bit of clearing and the officials were left with no option but to send out the Safety Car. And it stayed out until lap 9, leading the field round and round while the marshals worked overtime repairing the tyre walls and barriers and generally clearing up. Unfortunately for a lot of drivers, a restart at half distance just did not leave enough time for any real progress. One who was trying hard was Marc Hynes (Manor Motorsport) who was determined that Burti wasn't going to get too far away from him if he could help it. To try to make up ground he had to deal with Jenson Button (Promatecme UK), an overtaking manoeuvre that Hynes really enjoyed. "That was very satisfying!" he said afterwards. Of course Button had a slightly different view of events and was even less delighted at being passed by Matt Davies as well, the Fortec driver demoting him to 6th. Button wasn't having a good afternoon at all, having originally lost out to Andrew Kirkaldy (Stewart) at the start. Certainly no one seemed to have any respect at all for his reputation. And while all this was going on, Narain Karthikeyan simply drove away from the rest, acting as if he was out on a casual Sunday drive. The rest of the field simply settled into a series of clusters, with 3rd through to 7th placed drivers bunched up behind him and getting ever more frustrated. Hynes was stick just behind Kirkaldy who was protecting his team mate, while Davies was all over Hynes but couldn't make a move because he had Button right behind him. He couldn't afford a mistake and he didn't make one either, displaying his driving ability quite clearly as well as his attacking approach. Meanwhile, Coelho was holding off the other Manor Motorsport driver, Tor Sriachavanon and Michael Bentwood (Carlin Motorsport) while wrestling with a recalcitrant Dallara, the broken bit of front wing dragging on the Tarmac. The National Class was being fought out by John Bender (Carlin Motorsport) and Gavin Jones (Rowan Racing), the American finally getting the better of Jones although not without a fierce fight and the need for a very brave manoeuvre. It didn't help that both Doug Bell and Toby Scheckter were participants in this scrap at various points, the young South African struggling to make up places, while Bell was still furious after his earlier off. Bender gave Carlin double cause for celebration but was very relaxed about it afterwards. "I was able to go round Jones after that and could take it from there. "I'm here because this is one of the toughest categories of racing anywhere. I want to race against the best." He had certainly done that during the weekend. Karthikeyan was delighted with his win. "Brands Hatch has been very good to me. The car was very good in the second session and I was able to improve my time on old tyres. I drove a good race. I made a very good start and was able to drive away from the others." When someone asked him if he could repeat this pace at Silverstone, Burti interrupted to mutter "I hope not!" Narain wasn't fooling himself into thinking it was going to be easy. "We haven't done a lot of testing for the GP support race but I did go well at Pembrey. We will be quick but Luciano is quick too." As for Burti, he was satisfied that he had done the best he could under the circumstances. "The car was not the same after the rebuild. It lacked grip and was oversteering. I had a moment or two trying to keep with him so I backed off and tried to do the sensible thing. I'm just glad I was ahead of Hynes." Second place was less then he wanted but more than he might have hoped for, given that the team didn't finish rebuilding the wreck until the small hours of Sunday morning. Kirkaldy, on the other hand, was delighted with his result. "I went a lot better than last time we were here. To get 3rd was excellent. I got past Jenson and was pretty much in control from then. I couldn't do much more. I didn't want to be the man who knocked his teammate off the track, especially as he's leading the championship! I think we made a bit of a false start with Thruxton. After that it was obvious I still had quite a bit to learn. Formula Three cars take a bit of getting used to."
Results: 1st - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 29:00.707, 97.67 mph 2nd - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 5.848 3rd - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 6.781 4th - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 7.189 5th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 7.632 6th - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Gap: 8.039 7th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 10.399 8th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Gap: 18.604 9th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 21.838 10th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 22.201 11th - No 8 - Doug Bell, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 24.236 12th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 37.654 13th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin, F398 Mugen-Honda, 29:49.524, 9501 mph (National Class Winner) 14th - No 52 - Gavin Jones, Rowan, F037F TOMS'S-Toyota, Gap: 1:00.131 15th - No 51 - Stephen Shanley, Rowan, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, Gap: 1:02.646 16th - No 75 - Jeremy Smith, JSR, F398 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 1:02.932 Not Classified: No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, Lap 2, Crash with Bell No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, Lap 2, Crash with Carway No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda - Lap 2, Crash with Igarashi No 57 - John Ingram, SpeedSport, Dallara F395 Mugen-Honda, Lap 1
Fastest laps: Championship Class - No 12, Narain Karthikeyan, 1:19.859, 190.28 kph, 118.23 mph National Class - No. 54, John Bender, 1.23.065, 182.94 kph, 113.67 mph
Standings: Championship Class: 1st - Luciano Burti - 109 points 2nd - Marc Hynes - 104 points 3rd - Narain Karthikeyan - 80 points 4th - Jenson Button - 67 points 5th - Kristian Kolby - 59 points 6th - Matt Davies - 50 points 7th - Andrew Kirkaldy - 46 points 8th - Alex Yoong - 37 points 9th - Michael Bentwood - 28 points 10th - Aluizio Coelho - 24 points 11th - Tim Spouge - 16 points 12th - Doug Bell - 12 points 13th - Yudai Igarashi - 11 points 14th - Tor Sriachavanon, 8 points 15th - Toby Scheckter - 5 points 16th - Warren Carway - 2 points
National Class: 1st - Martin O'Connell - 127 points 2nd - Jeremy Smith - 111 points 3rd - John Bender, 51 points 4th - Gavin Jones, 30 points 5th - Stephen Shanley, 12 points
Next Round: Silverstone (Grand Prix Support Meeting) - July 8th/9th/10th 1999