This was the race to disprove any suggestions that F3 is processional and boring. There was way more excitement than anyone could have wished for, even without Danny Watts (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). He withdrew from the race, largely because ...
This was the race to disprove any suggestions that F3 is processional and boring. There was way more excitement than anyone could have wished for, even without Danny Watts (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). He withdrew from the race, largely because there was nothing he could do to help team- mate Bruno Senna to 2nd in the title chase because Senna had qualified so far back that he couldn't even see rival Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport) from there. As the field lined up for the final race of the 2006 series, the clouds were as dense and threatening as ever, which meant most people opted to start on wet weather tyres. All, that is, except for Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3), the Brazilian team opting to put slicks on. It was quite a gamble, and in the next 30 minutes they were either going to end up looking like heroes or complete idiots. Only time would tell.
Someone in trouble before the start was Alex Waters (Promatecme F3) who missed the start of the green flag lap and thus had to start from the very back of the grid. Apart from him, everyone else took their places, with Watts' space being filled as everyone moved up to close the gap. Pole man Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) made the most appalling start, letting team-mate Oliver Jarvis snatch the lead, only to lose it to Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), the Englishman very keen to try and take his first race win in F3. Behind the two of them, James Jakes (Hitech Racing) was 3rd, and Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) also got the jump on Engel, who was 5th by the time he started finding any grip, though he did dip down as far as 8th. Even further back, Valerio had seemingly made the wrong choice, at least at present, because he too was losing ground. As the track dried it was likely he would be able to recover, but that was yet to come. First he had to survive the next few laps.
In the National Class, Juho Annala (Performance Racing) was leading comfortably, and was hoping to end his stay in the category with a fourth win. It looked as if he might actually get it this time. Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport) had made a good start from 8th and was now all over Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) for 5th, the Dane also making a good start. They had Engel with them, but it was all getting a bit messy in the middle of the pack. It wasn't much better at the back, Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing) spinning at the Chicane and just missing being collected by Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport). Senna, meanwhile, was staging something of a fight back and was busy giving Stuart Hall (T-Sport) a very hard time, attempting to get round the outside at the Chicane, only to have the door firmly shut. While Conway was busy setting the fastest lap of the race, while the track was still wet enough to suit the tyres, Jakes took himself out of contention for the lead when he spun. He ended up behind Engel, which rather wrecked his hopes of a podium.
While Jarvis pressured Jelley, Buurman was again trying to find a way past Bakkerud. Repeated attempts in the slippery mayhem saw him through to 4th, his speed impressive as ever. In the midst of all this, Engel had another moment, the end result being a change of National Class leader. The unfortunate Annala arrived to find Engel across the track in front of him, and went off onto the grass. Engel eventually recovered to drive back to the pits and collect a set of slicks, and Annala did the same, thus handing the class lead to Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport). The Finn was most annoyed afterwards. The Invitation Class runners and the National Class were all mixed up now, Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) dropping back before getting embroiled in a furious scrap with his brother Leo, the latter also driving for Fortec Motorsport. They were joined by Oliver Turvey (Team Loctite), though the youngster was in a two-year old car, unlike the brothers who were driving 2006 cars that are in effect Championship Class cars.
The track was drying at quite a rate now, and that meant Valerio was now lapping a lot faster, though he would need to find more speed yet if he was to capitalise on his tyre choice, and ahead of him Buurman was all over Conway for 3rd. The next thing Conway knew, they were side-by-side into the Chicane. Conway tried his best to hold his position, but Buurman had the edge on him and forced his way through. Now Bakkerud was all over him too, despite having just set the fastest lap. Conway was in even more trouble now, because Bakkerud mounted a determined attack, and demoted him another place. The lead was in dispute too, with Jarvis trying to get past Jelley. They both got a bit crossed up and lost speed, though there was no change of positions.
Both Valerio and Engel were now lapping far faster than the others, and Valerio quickly passed Stuart Hall (T-Sport) and a lap later Jakes as well. Engel was climbing back through the order too, but he had an awful lot of ground to make up. Only Bakkerud seemed able to match their pace, and he was on wet tyres. Meanwhile, like a shark scenting blood, Buurman was on the tail of Jarvis, and they both had Bakkerud to worry about, the Dane braking unbelievably late as he pursued the two ahead of him. Valerio was still coming up too, though his chase was about to disintegrate. He spun off at the Chicane, spun again when he tried to rejoin, smacked the tyre barriers, and skewed his rear wing badly. By the time he rejoined the race, he was just ahead of Gonzalez, and his hopes of a win were gone.
That left the top four glued together like some sort of high-speed train. And the excitement wasn't over yet. Jarvis had a go at going round the outside of Jelley, while Bakkerud attacked Buurman. Buurman ran out of road while Bakkerud got through, and at the same time Jarvis wrested the lead from the bitterly disappointed Jelley. With a brief smattering of rain falling, Buurman dropped back a little, though it was obvious he wasn't finished yet. However, for the moment Bakkerud was free to try and find a way past Jelley. The Dane clearly wanted the place and Jelley equally clearly didn't want him to have it. Finally Bakkerud made his move, going round the outside of Jelley just as they came up to lap the backmarkers. In a display of internecine struggle, Bakkerud promptly set about Jarvis, while further down Engel set a new fastest race lap. In the aftermath of all of that, Buurman took 3rd away from Jelley, whose tyres were now pretty much done, and who really had no answer to the Flying Dutchman.
The top four were now bunched up as they came up to lap Avila. While they were scrapping Valerio, despite his damaged wing, set a new fastest lap, but all eyes were on Jarvis and company. With Avila in his sights, Jarvis could now see Buurman in his mirrors, the Fortec driver now 0.3 seconds away, with Bakkerud now behind him. Meanwhile, Engel and Jelley tangled, Engel trying to unlap himself. The result was an instant retirement for the German and more grief for Jelley. Further back Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) was the latest runner to set a fastest race lap, only to lose it again to Valerio, who was busy trying to salvage something from his pre-race gamble.
In the National Class, a somewhat surprised Morgado had just inherited the lead after Gonzalez pulled over with a technical problem. He was able to get to get going again, but he was now out of contention, and Waters was a delighted 2nd, ahead of Avila. It wasn't what Gonzalez wanted to end his championship season, but he wasn't too disappointed.
Time was ticking away but there was more to come. Buurman had a go at parting Jarvis from the lead, but Jarvis fought back, repulsing the Fortec driver this time. It was pretty obvious he wasn't done yet though. On the final lap, as they headed into the Chicane for the last time, Buurman sling- shotted past the Carlin car, and to the utter frustration of Jarvis, Bakkerud saw his chance too. With Jarvis too wide on the kerbs, Bakkerud went through too, dumping Oliver down to 3rd with less than 100 yards to go. It had been quite a race.
Buurman claimed his 2nd win, again taking it within sight of the flag, while Bakkerud was pleased with 2nd. Jarvis, in 3rd, was confirmed as the runner up, as well as the Rookie of the Year title. Conway was 4th, with Jelley hanging on ahead of Senna, Valerio, Jakes, Kennard and Hall. Walker was 11th, ahead of National Class winner Morgado, and Invitation Class winner Leo Mansell. Waters was 2nd in the National Class, and 14th overall, from Ihara, Turvey (2nd in the Invitation Class), Avila (3rd in the National Class) and Greg Mansell, 3rd in the Invitation Class despite a pit stop.
The extra points for the fastest laps went to Valerio (Championship Class) and Gonzalez (Championship Class).
Next Race Meeting: April 2007.