Qualifying Report: Weather: Warm, cloudy, dry. There had been a brief rain shower immediately after the session for Round 11 ended, and off and on we'd seen more rain, with the weather cooling off drastically as the day went on. However, the...
Weather: Warm, cloudy, dry.
There had been a brief rain shower immediately after the session for Round 11 ended, and off and on we'd seen more rain, with the weather cooling off drastically as the day went on. However, the skies were relatively light at the start of the second qualifying session of the day. The biggest cloud around was probably that from a dead GT car - a Corvette to be exact - that had expired halfway along the pit lane entrance. Needless to say it had to be removed before the F3s could go out to play.
This session saw Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) heading out there first, closely followed by Fairuz Fauzy (Menu Motorsport), the Malaysian therefore being the early pace setter. Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) was still looking for a good result too, and went to pole with a 1:03.358, about 4 and a half seconds slower than the morning pole time. Clearly there was more to come, with this most likely being the faster of the two sessions. James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) was taking no chances this time out either, getting himself a banker lap quite early on, and grabbing pole from Power. Meanwhile, Fauzy was in for an unscheduled pit stop, sporting two jauntily angled floppy corner markers wrapped around his front wing. If you keep doing that, the officials at Combe tend to get upset and show you the black- and-white unsportsmanlike driving flag. Why they do this is anyone's guess as the general consensus is that driving over the kerbs there simply slows you down, you gain no advantage, so why bother with the markers, which are constantly being knocked down and destroyed by drivers in every conceivable formula.
Like Rossiter, Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) was soon out and trying for a time, taking pole from Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport), who in turn was ahead of Rossiter. Another driver trying to improve on a dismal morning session was Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport), the Brazilian slotting in to 3rd, while Danny Watts tried to add a second pole position to his haul for the day. Rossiter began an extended pit visit as Watts speeded up, leading the times now from Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) and Piquet.
With the pit visits now coming thick and fast, there was more space for those who did stay out, traffic being a common complaint after the first session. This meant improvements were still likely, and the next major one came from Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport), the Portuguese snatching pole from Watts. Watts, being the fighter that he is, wasn't about to take that lying down. He pitted for a quick adjustment or two and then went back out to take pole back from Parente, bettering the Carlin driver's time by 89 thousandths of a second. He promptly went even faster as the session progressed, and it began to look as if a sub 59 seconds time was possible. And sure enough, it was. Watts banging in a 58.979 before his tyres finally lost interest. However, it still wasn't over. Carroll turned out to have even more speed on hand, and as the session drew to a close he topped Watts' time, with a 58.965. There wasn't a lot in it, but it gave Carroll a big boost psychologically if nothing else, even if Watts did mock-strangle him afterwards.well, we think he was joking!
Meanwhile, Power had wrestled his was back up to 5th, only to get edged back down again by when Rossiter seemed to finally wake up and realise that if he didn't do something - and quickly - he'd be starting so far back he'd be lucky if he could see the lights on the starting gantry. Suddenly he was on the pace, shooting back up the order to go 10th, and then improving to go 5th a lap later. Power was amongst those who paid the price for Rossiter's revival. He wasn't the only one.
Meanwhile, after a very long stop, Fauzy was finally back on track too, though he didn't stay there for long, taking an unscheduled trip behind the marshal's post at Old Paddock. This isn't exactly the approved line, and needless to say it didn't do anything for his times. Clearly he'd forgotten whatever advice Alain Menu had given him in the morning session.
Someone else in need of advice was Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), the Indian not having a good afternoon at all. And now here he was haring back into the pits with a deranged gurney flap on the front left-hand wing of his car; with very little time left, there would be little he could do to improve his position, even if he did manage to get back out before the session finished. At least he wasn't likely to lose out too badly, as it seemed the improvements had now evaporated, at least for the time being. In fact, the only two improvements left came from Carroll, who snatched pole from Watts with a couple of minutes left, and from di Grassi, who moved up to 6th. This wasn't what the Brazilian was looking for after Snetterton, but he would have to settle for it and hope for the best.
Meanwhile, the inevitable had happened yet again in the Scholarship Class, with Lewis beating Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing) to pole position - yes, I know it's boring, but we've had a word with Lewis and he doesn't want to make it interesting if he can possibly avoid doing so, so it looks as if we'll just have to live with it. Not unsurprisingly either, Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3) was third and last in the class, one of the few to set a slower time than in the earlier session.
And so, we would go into round 12 with Carroll on pole, from Watts, Parente, Viso, Rossiter, Piccione, di Grassi, Power, Piquet and Chandhok. 11th was Dirani, ahead of Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing), his team-mate Marko Asmer, Fauzy, the last Hitech Racing driver in the shape of James Walker, and Marcus Marshall (Fortec Motorsport). It was fair to say that to fans of single seaters in the UK, the presence of Watts and Carroll on the front row made the race on Sunday afternoon seem like a very tempting proposition.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite