At Snetterton this afternoon Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport) claimed his first victory in the British F3 International Series in fine style, leading home Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) after the two of them muscled past early leader...
At Snetterton this afternoon Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport) claimed his first victory in the British F3 International Series in fine style, leading home Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) after the two of them muscled past early leader Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), leaving the Austrian to finish a disappointed 3rd. The National Class was taken by Gabriel Dias (T-Sport), who thus edged a little closer to Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) in the championship chase, after the latter finished 2nd, while 3rd in class was series debutant Aaron Steele (Litespeed F3).
Before the race started there was some drama on the grid as Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport) arrived at his appointed slot to find the Tarmac covered in oil, with a fine coating of sand spread across it. Some discussion followed, the gist of which was that the Brazilian could line up slightly to the right and slightly back from the mess, thus ensuring he would get away properly. At the actual lights pole man Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) made the most appalling start, moving then bogging down and finally getting away in 4th, allowing Grubmuller into the lead. "Christo" didn't need any prompting either, hacking through into 2nd, while Dias powered into the National Class lead after McKenzie messed up his start. Meanwhile, Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon) had gone off at Sear, while Philip Major (Carlin Motorsport) was at the back with a critically wonky rear wing after Richelmi ran up the back of him. The Canadian struggled back to the pits and spent the next 9 laps having ad hoc repairs effected.
During the second lap everything changed at the front with Christodoulou screaming up the inside of Grubmuller at Riches. The Austrian was so surprised that Ricciardo was able to follow through shortly afterwards, dumping the erstwhile leader to 3rd and dropping him into the clutches of his team mate van der Zande. In some ways that was quite a safe place for him, because Renger was hardly likely to launch an attack on the boss's son, at least not if he wants to keep his place in the team. It's not as if he can afford to go anywhere else after all.
Behind the Hitech pair, Buzaid was driving an incredibly aggressive race, and was trying everything he could to get on terms with van der Zande, setting an early fastest lap of the race. It was just as well, because the rest of the race failed to provide much in the way of excitement. The fastest lap changed hands a couple of times, moving from Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport), to Christodoulou, to that man van der Zande again, ending up staying with him. Additionally, there was a bit of a build up behind Grubmuller for a while, with van der Zande, Buzaid, Wayne Boyd in the other T-Sport International Class car, Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport), Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) and Bridger all running nose to tail. That allowed Buzaid to have a look at van der Zande but it was never going to work, and eventually they both dropped back somewhat, allowing Grubmuller to concentrate on trying to find a way past Ricciardo. The pack split up even further when Arundel fell back somewhat as well.
The only real interest now was in watching McKenzie, who was trying to repair the damage he'd done to his own chances at the start. He managed to slip past Hywel Lloyd (CF Racing), and then dispatched Victor Correa (Litespeed F3) as well. Correa was clearly in some trouble though, as he promptly dropped to last. McKenzie was now stymied though; he'd come up behind Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), a man known - within Fortec anyway - as "the Japanese Roadblock", who promptly lived up to his moniker, holding McKenzie off all the way to the flag.
A third of the way through the race, Major finally rejoined, but being nine laps down meant there was no hope at all of him recovering much at all. The only thing he would gain was mileage. He too would not do much for the rest of the race, though he did manage to overtake Max Snegirev (Team West-Tec), the Russian again managing to be lapped by the majority of the field in the course of a single lap - or at least to be lapped by all but three drivers, one of whom had been in the pits for a large part of the race. It was a special performance, but not in a good way.
Of course none of this silliness stopped the progress of Christodoulou towards the flag, though it did allow Ricciardo to edge closer. Of course getting close to the car in front in F3 is one thing; the dirty air generated and its effects on the stability of your car is a whole other thing. Ricciardo couldn't quite make it stick, and was probably more concerned about falling back into Grubmuller's clutches if he made a mistake. It wasn't worth the risk and the Australian is smart enough to realise it. Even with van der Zande waiting in the wings, and thus keeping Grubmuller reasonably focussed, Ricciardo was unlikely to risk losing his series lead by doing something stupid.
Meanwhile Christodoulou was ever closer to his first win, and lapping Correa. The latter, to his credit, moved aside sharpish and let the leaders through without hampering them in anyway. The same could not be said for Major, who Christodoulou encountered next. The Canadian seemed disinclined to get out of the way, or may even have been unaware of what was coming up behind. Luckily it didn't matter too much as there was less than a lap left of the race and Christodoulou was able to come home to a well-deserved win. Ricciardo was 2nd from Grubmuller, with van der Zande guarding his back in 4th. 5th was Buzaid, ahead of Boyd, while Chilton ended up 7th, ahead of Arundel, Bridger and Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport). Dias was 11th, winning the National Class easily, and finishing ahead of Carlos Huertas (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Nakajima, McKenzie, Lloyd, Steele, Correa and the inevitable Snegirev.
The fastest laps of the race went to van der Zande and Dias.
At the halfway stage of the season Ricciardo now leads the championship by 23 points from Grubmuller with van der Zande lurking threateningly in 3rd. It's still all to play for.
Weather: Hot, sunny.
Next Rounds: Donington, Leicestershire, July 18th/19th 2009.
Please see round nine (race 1) story: Easy win for Van Der Zande at Snetterton