The first F3 race of the weekend at Snetterton started bang on noon, and almost came to an abrupt halt about 30 seconds later. More of that in a minute however. Up at the sharp end, that man Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) made...
The first F3 race of the weekend at Snetterton started bang on noon, and almost came to an abrupt halt about 30 seconds later. More of that in a minute however. Up at the sharp end, that man Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) made yet another of his trademark lightning starts to claim the lead as the field tore into the first corner for the very first time, while behind him Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) started very badly, allowing James Jakes (Hitech Racing) to snatch 2nd behind the already rapidly disappearing Conway. That put the Dane just ahead of team- mate Maro Engel, who was holding off another of the Hitech Racing cars, in this instance that of James Walker. Back in the National Class, Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) shot into the lead, ahead of Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) and Juho Annala (Performance Racing), while Ricardo Teixeira, in another of the Performance cars, was 4th after getting a very good start. Further back, Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) was having a very bad time indeed.
Coming into Sears at speed, the Brazilian clipped the rear wing of Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing), who moved over unexpectedly, and took off. The accident that followed made an unholy mess of the car, tearing bodywork off and distributing it over a very wide area, destroying all four corners and breaking both the engine and the gearbox. The driver was miraculously unharmed, though clearly very shaken, for which everyone was very grateful. Needless to say, the Safety Car had to be deployed at speed, so much so that it came out in the middle of the pack and had to wave most of the field past in order to pick up the leader.
At this point the order was Conway in the lead, from Jakes, Bakkerud, Engel, Walker, Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport), Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport), Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), Duran and Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). 11th was Alberto Valerio (Cesario Formula UK), Stuart Hall (Fortec Motorsport), Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing), Gonzalez, Morgado, Annala, Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3), Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Teixeira and Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport). Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing) was 21st and last at this point.
It took a surprisingly short amount of time to get the Senna incident cleared away, and as the Safety Car came round leading the pack, Conway made an attempt to rattle Jakes by slowing then speeding up and finally slowing down again. Whatever the purpose of this particular piece of silliness was, Conway was still able to control the restart, although Jakes was stuck to him like a limpet. It wasn't the only piece of silliness out there either. Going into Sear, Engel had a go at Bakkerud, whacking his nose into his team-mate's left rear tyre. The contact destroyed Christian's tyre completely, and wrecked the nose of Maro's car. Walker was through, as was Jarvis before either of them recovered to limp round to the pits. The Carlin boys did a remarkably fast nose replacement for Engel, and stuck a new tyre on Bakkerud's Dallara, and sent the Dane straight back out. He was utterly furious, and shot out of the pit-lane straight onto the racing line, losing Teixeira his 4th place in the National Class as a result. The Angolan wasn't at all happy about that, muttering that the Championship Class boys would do well to remember that they're not the only competition out there! Engel rejoined a lap later and also circulated in the middle of the National Class, but seemingly with slightly less effect on others.
At the front Conway was busy opening up a gap to Jakes, setting the first of a number of race fastest laps as he did so. It was a masterful performance, though Jakes was doing all he could to stop the series leader. It wouldn't be quite enough, but he wasn't quitting while he could still see the rear end of the Double R Racing car.
In the National Class, Morgado was enjoying a temporary lead over Gonzalez in the aftermath of the Carlin-induced chaos, but he wouldn't get to hold it for long. At least someone else had had a taste of leading the class, but it was soon business as usual for the Venezuelan, who would come home for his 8th win out of 9 races if he could hold on to the flag. The interest behind the leader was mostly around 4th place now, as Conway motored on with Jakes needing to keep an eye on Walker. Jarvis had his own personal queue now, and was far too busy defending 4th place to be able to even think about catching the two James in front of him. Buurman was looming in his mirrors, and as if that wasn't enough, Kennard and Duran were right there too. The slightest mistake would have enormous consequences. The same applied to Jakes, though Walker at least seems to have grasped the idea that you can wrap your car round almost any of the others out there so long as you don't hit your teammate. It wasn't stopping him looking but he was at least being careful about it.
In the midst of the pack Reindler lost a place to Valerio on lap 11, but otherwise it was pretty quiet. The track was very slippery, the race was long and it was hot out there. While Conway set another fastest lap (in a time of 1:03.031) Jakes started to break away from Walker again, pulling out a reasonable gap by the time they crossed the start/finish line for the final time. Meanwhile, Gonzalez was back in charge of the National Class again, while the order reshuffled for 6th when Khateeb spun then pitted, letting Teixeira back through, while Avila finally go the better of Kudzak when the Swede made a mistake and ran very wide towards the end of the race.
And in the Championship Class, Buurman was once again trying to reel in Jarvis, though Jarvis wasn't having any of it, thanks very much. As the sole surviving Carlin front-runner he was having those points if he possibly could. Meanwhile Jelley and Hall were unexpectedly promoted to 6th and 7th respectively after Kennard had to drop out of the race, his car suffering a fatal electrical failure that meant all the Englishman could do was limp to the pits and into retirement. Bakkerud followed him in shortly afterwards, having established that his car was still working properly despite the assault by Engel. The German also came in shortly afterwards, and for pretty much the same reasons, decided to stop and save his tyres. He then did a radio interview and apologised profusely to Bakkerud while accepting the blame for the incident. It was an impressive sight, a driver being honest, and Engel is a real treasure for that alone. All that meant that the top ten was now Conway, with Jakes still 2nd, ahead of Walker, Jarvis, Buurman, Duran, Jelley, Hall, Valerio and Reindler. Jarvis was having a slightly easier time now, as Buurman was being savaged by Duran, so the Englishman was being left alone in 4th place. It was nice while it lasted, because it wasn't long before Buurman was back, that distinctive Dayglo helmet making him incredibly easy to spot out there! However, the Dutchman's attack came to nothing as we ran out of race.
Even the end of the race got odd. The chequered flag warning came up on the bottom of the timing screens, the flag was waved at Conway, and then, as we hadn't run either the full 28 laps or the maximum 30 minutes, it was promptly withdrawn again, only to be waved at the leader again a lap later. Luckily, everyone kept right on racing till they really did reach the finish, but it could have been quite different. It shouldn't happen in a supposedly professional race series.
Anyway, Conway came home to yet another victory for Double R Racing, increasing his points lead to 26, while Jakes and Walker made it a first double podium placing in the British series for Hitech Racing. Jarvis was 4th, from Buurman, Duran, Jelley (who was fastest in the charity run on Saturday, covering a mile in 4:39.476 for Sport Relief), Hall (who was 2nd in the mile but hampered by running in his race suit!), Valerio and Reindler. 11th was Gonzalez, winning the National Class for the 9th time this season, and making T-Sport's victory average an impressive 50% since they started in the class. Morgado was 2nd in class, from Annala, while Ihara was 15th overall, ahead of the 4th placed National Class runner, Avila, while Kudzak and Teixeira were 5th and 6th. There were no other finishers.
The extra points for fastest laps went to Conway and Morgado.