Changes: No Charlie Hollings (Fortec Motorsport) after his budget ran out in the wake of the devastation wreaked at Pau. Whether he'll be back or not is anyone's guess but the money is gone now. Qualifying Report: The session started early of...
No Charlie Hollings (Fortec Motorsport) after his budget ran out in the wake of the devastation wreaked at Pau. Whether he'll be back or not is anyone's guess but the money is gone now.
The session started early of schedule - and without any advance warning as no one thought to tell the chief pit marshal - and as a result only the Alan Docking Racing pair of Karl Reindler and Jonathan Kennard were actually ready to go out. They were joined almost immediately by Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing), and that was about it for the next 5 or 6 minutes as everyone else scrabbled to get strapped in. The result was almost constant traffic for the remaining useful part of the session, and a lot of annoyed team bosses. Ricardo Teixeira and Juho Annala also got out pretty promptly which proved that Performance Racing were on the ball.
At around the six-minute mark Kennard was in the 1.03s, but that was the moment when the first of the major players managed to get their acts together and join in. For Kennard, that signalled the end of his provisional pole, though it was a while before he had to relinquish it completely. The first person to edge the ADR drivers out was Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) whose first flying lap was enough to get him up to 2nd. He was joined almost immediately by Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), who was 3rd, just ahead of Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), who seemed determined to add yet another National Class pole position to his already impressive tally for the year.
A lap later and Senna was on pole, while James Walker (Hitech Racing), buoyed by his performance in the Euroseries F3 rounds at Brands Hatch recently, was also showing strongly and was up in 3rd. The current strength of Carlin Motorsport was being demonstrated most impressively, with Christian Bakkerud beginning to show well as well. The Dane moved into 5th place and looked as if there was a great deal more pace to come if he could just get clear of the traffic that was causing everyone so much trouble. Engel just served to reinforce the point about Carlin when he shot into provisional pole. The Double R Racing boys, on the other hand, were having difficulties, it seemed. Mike Conway seemed to be having a great deal of difficulty getting a clear lap, while Senna was now sliding down the order. To add to the team's woes, Stephen Jelley never got anywhere near the front of the order, and was having problems with a recalcitrant car. Later checks by the team revealed a fault with the car, so at least Stephen knew it wasn't him! It wasn't much consolation.
The apparent Carlin resurgence was further emphasised by Oliver Jarvis taking that provisional pole position away from his own team-mate, Engel. Kennard was still showing quite strongly which seemed a bit strange. However, life at Snetterton is often quite strange, so maybe we shouldn't have been too surprised. Walker was now 4th, ahead of Conway, Senna, Bakkerud, Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport), Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing), James Jakes (Hitech Racing), Stuart Hall (Fortec Motorsport), a very frustrated Jelley and National Class leader Gonzalez.
As the heat increased, thus reducing the effectiveness of the engines, it became a matter of second-guessing the traffic and reducing the rear wing as much as possible. While all this was going on, Jakes put in a bid for pole, which got him onto the front row, at least temporarily.
Meanwhile, Engel was proving very fast yet again, amply demonstrating that you don't need to know a circuit to be fast. Nor, for that matter do you need a Mercedes engine. The young German has been fast everywhere he's been, and Snetterton was seemingly not going to be an exception. Meanwhile, Double R were still floundering somewhat, with Conway and Senna 8th and 9th and Jelley 13th.
It was still all change at the top though, with Jarvis now on pole, ahead of Walker and Bakkerud, who had both just done identical times of 1:02.335, putting them a scant 0.004 seconds off pole. It was close with the top 13 covered by less than one second.
The next change saw Buurman snatch provisional pole, the Dutchman another one who is looking increasingly impressive as the season wears on. Also looking impressive as usual was Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), the Venezuelan leading Annala for the National Class pole and looking as no one was going to challenge him any time soon. At the front we got yet another change as Bakkerud snatched provisional pole, edging towards a time in the 1:01. The target was now 1:02.184, and everyone was still pushing on. Senna was still struggling to get ahead, and was now 7th, while his team-mates were even further back, in 10th (Conway) and 11th (Jelley). Whatever they were trying at Double R it didn't seem to be working.
At the front it was getting steadily odder, with Jakes now 2nd, 0.028 behind Bakkerud. Meanwhile, Jarvis pitted for tyre pressures and less wing, then went straight back out. While he was doing that, Conway put in a determined effort and moved to what he considers to be his proper place in the scheme of things and grabbed pole, but that 1:01 was still proving elusive.
And then it all went a bit stationery at the front. The improvements just stopped, which wasn't really that much of a surprise given the weather conditions. Walker managed to squeeze a small improvement to go 6th, while Senna was still only 8th despite setting a personal best first sector time. When the Brazilian pulled into the pits and got out, unable to find any time from anywhere, he was utterly furious with life and not talking to anyone. Later he would complain of the inevitable traffic. It probably didn't help that Conway managed to go even quicker before the end of the session, though it made no difference to his overall position. It just meant he cemented his grip on pole.
A general dive for the pits ensued with most of the front runners deciding that really there was no point wasting tyres. Only the truly desperate were still out there now, among them Jelley, who looked as if he might be able to do something, but who then crossed the line with what sounded like a dreadfully sick car a lap later. He wasn't the only one pushing hard either; Engel was another who wanted to go faster but who was having a bit of trouble. In his case, the trouble involved running into Jarvis on his final lap. It was a bit embarrassing, but neither of them seemed too unhappy about it afterwards. And so we coasted to he flag with very little happening - Annala managed to get a faster lap time but didn't move up - and at the flag it was Conway from Bakkerud, Jakes, Engel, Buurman, Walker, Jarvis, Senna, Kennard and Duran. Jelley was a rather distant 11th ahead of Stuart Hall (Fortec Motorsport), Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3), Reindler, Gonzalez, Annala, Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport), Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Teixeira and Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3), Avila and Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport).