At Brands Hatch today Carlin remained very much the team to beat, although this time it was Jack Harvey who was the dominant force, claiming pole position for both Race 1 and Race 3 of the weekend. Second and third fastest respectively, on the track at least, were Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) and Harry Tincknell (Carlin), though the latter would later have his second fastest time disallowed for disregarding track limits, giving the third spot on the grid to Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport). In the National Class, returnee Adderly Fong (CF Racing) was fastest during the majority of the session, despite whatever Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport) and Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) could throw at him.
As already mentioned, this time out there were 15 runners, with Fong coming back to British F3 for a selection of races, including, logically, this one on the circuit where he has pulled off some remarkable results, no matter that some of them were weather-assisted.
At the start of the session, however, all eyes were on the front-runners, and it was Tincknell who was first out of the box, the Carlin boys getting on it straight away. It wasn’t long before the order read Harvey, Tincknell and Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin) with Fong in a slightly unlikely (though not unprecedented) fourth. A lap later and Jaafar was ahead of his three team-mates with Lynn the first non-Carlin runner, in fifth.
Just as the session was beginning to shape up nicely though, there was a red flag after Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing) stuffed it in the barriers at Stirling five minutes into the session. The order as the rest of them trooped back to the pits was Jaafar from Harvey, Tincknell. Sainz Jr, Lynn, Pietro Fantin (Carlin), Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport), Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing), Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport) and Nick McBride (Three Bond with T-Sport). Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec) was 11th ahead of Fong, Ilyas, Goddard and Padayachee.
With 24:40 remaining on the clock, they were all champing at the bit to get back out, but the retrieval to a place of safety of the Malaysian driver’s car took some time. When the track was finally live again, it didn’t take long for the drivers to start to settle in to a rhythm, with Serralles up to seventh then a lap later to fourth, while van Asseldonk improved to eighth. Meanwhile, Goddard was chasing Fong’s times, as was Padayachee. It didn’t take long for Ilyas to drop to 15th and last.
The Carlin infighting continued throughout the session, with Tincknell moving into second at the expense of Harvey, and the only man of the five-car team not to get in on the act was Fantin, as has been the case more than once this year. The Brazilian was instead disputing seventh with van Asseldonk. He wasn’t the slowest Brazilian though – that was Derani, who seemed to be seriously out of sorts this weekend and was down in 11th. It’s been an up and down season for the youngster and this appeared to be one of the downs.
Fifteen minutes into the session and the pit stops began, by which point Jaafar was still leading from Tincknell, with Harvey 4th, from Sainz Jr, Serralles, Lynn, Fantin, van Asseldonk, Uhrhane and Derani. McBride had slipped to 11th and Fong still held the National Class pole, from Goddard, Padayachee and Ilyas. The top seven were covered by less than 0.8 seconds, but there was then quite a big gap to van Asseldonk who promptly buried the car in the Paddock Hill gravel.
With yellows at Paddock, it reinforced the feeling that now was the time for new tyres. The track was now pretty empty and it would stay that way for quite some time. With hardly anyone left running, Fong was now being reeled in by Goddard, while Sainz Jr suddenly appeared at the top of the order having pulled out 0.068 seconds over Jaafar. To general surprise, though, Uhrhane was up in eighth, and may well be finally getting to grips with the car after his impossibly late season start, which had effectively meant that the early races were used to learn the car, rather than to race.
As Goddard moved ahead of Fong, Sainz Jr finally came in for new tires after that making him almost the last driver to pit. Goddard slammed in another faster lap, though it wasn’t enough for him to get ahead of McBride this time round. Serralles, meanwhile, was also going faster and was fifth briefly until Lynn got ahead of him.
At the front, too, it was all still to play for with Jaafar now winding it up again to try and get ahead of Sainz Jr. Not to be outdone, Serralles dug deeper for fourth while Lynn too found some time from somewhere to make it third. Just to get in on the act, Harvey went even faster to pull ahead of the pack by 0.3 seconds.
The National Class was also wide open as became apparent when Goddard moved up ahead of McBride. That seemed to be the wake-up call McBride needed and he immediately came back to go ninth, while Fong reclaimed the National Class pole. Meanwhile McBride was now eighth, which points to improvements in the Nissan power unit as well a increased confidence in the Australian.
Fantin meanwhile improved to sixth and it was still all go at the front too. Jaafar moved back into second with 8 minutes of the session left, so basically around 5-6 laps available still if the tyres would hold up for that long. Certainly they seemed to be still sticky enough at this stage, as was shown by Tincknell moving up to second, only for Lynn to take it from him. To add insult to injury for Tincknell, Sainz Jr went third and then Jaafar came back to second.
As Serralles made a very late pit stop, McBride improved to seventh but it was Harvey who was really on it today, with a flying run of laps that would give him both poles unless anyone else had anything left to give. It seemed that they didn’t, with Fantin being shown the black and white flag for not respecting track limits, and Tincknell under investigation for the same offence despite moving up to third.
With hardly any time left on the clock, the chances of any improvements were scuppered when Goddard spun out at Stirling. All they could do now was circulate round, with several drivers abandoning the effort early. And so for Race 3, the grid order would be Harvey from Jaafar, Tincknell, Lynn, Sainz Jr, Serralles, McBride, Fantin, Derani and Uhrhane. Van Asseldonk would start 11th from National Class pole man Fong, then Goddard, Padayachee and Ilyas.
For Race 1 today the grid would also be headed by Harvey, again from Jaafar, this time with Lynn third, then Sainz Jr, Tincknell, McBride, Fantin and Uhrhane. Fong (on National Class pole) is 11th, ahead of Goddard, van Asseldonk, Padayachee and Ilyas.