Although the weather had held so far, it was becoming ominously dark as the clock ticked round towards the start of Round 12. The weather forecast had suggested that there would be thunderstorms during the afternoon, and it began to look as if it might actually be correct for once. Whatever was lurking, meteorology wise, it wasn't about to put pole sitter Danny Watts (Hitech Racing) off his game this time. After he threw away the lead in round 11, he was keen to make up for it and nothing less than the top step of the podium would do. There was the odd spot of rain as the field formed up on the grid, but it amounted to nothing. And so the lights turned green again, the race was underway and Watts got off to a flying start, leading away from Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport). The Swede made an attempt to get past the Englishman as they headed round to Quarry; he was repulsed and settled in to 2nd place, ahead of Adam Carroll (Menu Motorsport), who was still a bit unsettled after an encounter with a particularly aggressive security guard at the circuit gates.
Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) was outsmarted by Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) who moved into 4th place, while Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) and Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports) were fighting over 6th place. At the back of the field, Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) had failed to get away when everyone else did and was now stuck in the middle of the Malaysian Team SYR drivers, and not looking at all happy about it.
Once again Watts began to break away from the pack; this time though he was somewhat more cautious about it, not wanting to embarrass himself a second time. Carroll was hanging on to Dahlgren for all he was worth, while van der Merwe was maintaining a healthy distance. Just in case it all went awry. Ronnie Bremer was behind his South African teammate, which at least protected Alan from Austin, who had managed to lose a place to Bremer too. Piccione and Piquet were in the way of Richard Antinucci (Carlin Motorsport) and Jamie Green (Carlin) but they seemed too busy with each other, while just behind them Billy Asaro managed to come to grief in the cornfield.
Luckily, he was far enough in that he wasn't in anyone's way and so all that was needed was a waved yellow flag for a short while. It was a shame he couldn't get back on, as Thompson was making his way back up the order but looked like he could do with some company. He was stuck behind Tor Graves (Manor Motorsport), and couldn't seem to get any further. Meanwhile, just behind Scholarship Class leader Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport), Will Power (Fortec Motorsport) and Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport) were fighting for 11th place, and considering they wouldn't even get a point for that position, there was a great deal of enthusiasm going into the scrap. It was just as well, because otherwise there wasn't much in the way of entertainment out there apart from Green's efforts to pass Antinucci, which ultimately came to nothing.
Elsewhere and almost unnoticed, Farriz Fauzy (Team SYR) had gone missing. He was off in the fields, and about the only evidence of his departure was the frantically waved yellow flag just after Quarry. As he had been running last anyway it wasn't of much significance to anyone other than his team.
At the front, things were now livening up at last. Carroll had decided that he really wanted to be 2nd if he could, and was setting about Dahlgren. Dahlgren, on the other hand, had already been 3rd in Round 11 and he wasn't keen to repeat the experience. Carroll has considerable race craft, learned in Formula Ford, but unfortunately for him, so does Dahlgren, and on a track as narrow as Combe, there aren't that many places where an overtaking manoeuvre can be made to stick, and most of those seemed to have waved yellows whenever the opportunity arose.
Watts was building up his lead and was quite clearly not going to be easily dislodged this time. He was far enough ahead not to have to worry too much, but he must have been wishing that the 20 laps would soon be over. His teammate, Thompson, was still floundering around near the back, having dropped a couple of places. He was now trying to pass Justin Sherwood (Performance Racing) and was not finding it at all easy. In fact he managed to get so sideways in his attempts that he came close to throwing it all away at Quarry. He survived, but it was a very wobbly moment.
Austin was now coming under attack from Piquet when suddenly the Brazilian lost it altogether, spinning off and coming to rest on the kerbs on the outside of the circuit. Unable to get going again, the youngster was stuck in a very dangerous position and sensibly abandoned ship, retreating rapidly to the safety of the pits. Of course this left the rest of the field in some danger from the sky blue Dallara and the officials, bearing in mind that the race was over three quarters complete, hung out the red flags and declared a result as at lap 16, though without the unfortunate Piquet, as he was not longer running of course. So that meant Watts took his first F3 victory, in his debut season and with a new team. It looks unlikely to be his last either. Dahlgren held on for 2nd, despite Carroll's efforts, and van der Merwe was 4th, leaving the Wiltshire circuit in the lead of the championship by 64 points.
The podium was a somewhat riotous affair, as Watts arrived eating a well- deserved ice cream cone, which Carroll promptly snatched from him, only to push it onto Watts' nose. Later, Adam obviously felt that Danny needed cooling down further, and upended the remains of his celebratory Champagne into the hip pocket of the Hitech driver's overalls.It made a change from the sort of poker faced behaviour that we often get on the podium these days. However, they really ought to stop this - if the FIA catch them having fun they'll never make it to F1.
-Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers