Unlike in the morning session, as qualifying for the second round of the British F3 International Series got underway, most people headed out onto the track at the first possible opportunity. The exception to this was Carlin Motorsport. In their...
Unlike in the morning session, as qualifying for the second round of the British F3 International Series got underway, most people headed out onto the track at the first possible opportunity. The exception to this was Carlin Motorsport. In their usual manner, most of their five drivers sat in the pit lane, biding their time, while everyone else cleaned up the track surface. Actually, given the presence of a number of somewhat incontinent historic touring cars on the track earlier on it was probably the wisest choice.
This time Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) set the target time, but based on the morning session that would not stand for long. Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) was quickly in 2nd place, though Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) was quick to take it back off him. Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport) was next to claim pole, while Conway and Stuart Hall (Fortec Motorsport) both missed part of the Knickerbrook Chicane as they tried to avoid each other! While they were tripping up, James Walker (Hitech Racing) snatched pole, with his team-mate Salvador Duran moving up to 4th. Engel, meanwhile, was back to the pits for some adjustments, and fresh tyres.
Cristiano Morgado (T-Sport) was again an early National Class front- runner, but as before, the real interest was at the front of the Championship Class. While Buurman set the next lead time, Bruno Senna (Robertson Raikkonen Racing) had emerged and was now on his first flying lap and already the fastest man through the first sector. He was in pursuit of a second pole, and looked likely to claim it to when he came round 1.490 seconds faster than anyone else. Conway wasn't about to take that lying down, however, and having sorted himself out, was right there beside his team-mate a lap later. They were quickly joined by the third Double R Racing driver, Stephen Jelley, who had opted to start the session on new rubber and try to get straight on the pace.
The slippery track was causing problems for some of the rookie drivers, most notably Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3), who had a massive grassy moment, and was probably eyeing Senna's times with envy. The current South American F3 Champion and his team have a mountain to climb right now, and in the cold conditions in Northern England they must have been wondering why they left Brazil at all.
Elsewhere, Juho Annala (Performance) was now on National Class pole, as Morgado seemed to go off the boil, just as he had in the morning. Conway, meanwhile, was pushing as hard as he knows how in his efforts to get on terms with Senna. Pretty much everyone else was now in for fresh rubber, so the track was good and clear if you were smart enough to get out there. Valerio suddenly seemed to find his rhythm and set the 4th fastest time, but that couldn't last. For one thing Christian Bakkerud and Oliver Jarvis (both Carlin drivers) finally ventured out together, the two of them presumably attempting to work together in the same way Alvaro Parente and Charlie Kimball did last season. They were going to have to push very hard though, because Senna, who appeared to be having the time of his life out there, was busy raising the bar again. He was now 1.006 seconds faster than Conway, and clearly loves this track. Engel, meanwhile, was back in action and moved up to 4th, while Rodolfo Gonzalez (Fluid Motorsport) was now on National Class pole and 7th overall! A lap later and this year's Venezuelan was up as far as 6th.
With fifteen minutes gone and another fifteen to go, the order was Senna from Conway, Jelley, Engel, Valerio, Gonzalez, Buurman, Walker, Kennard and James Jakes (Hitech Racing).
This time the session was a long way from losing its fizz however. Senna upped the pace even more, while Duran got between him and Conway. Gonzalez was now ahead of Valerio, the National Class runner looking very confident round the challenging Cheshire circuit. And all the while, the Carlin boys were creeping up the order. Bakkerud now put in an appearance in the top 10 (9th in fact), while Jarvis went 6th. The challenge to Senna was still coming from his team-mates in the main though, with Jelley snatching 2nd, only to lose it to Buurman, and then being nudged down by Duran as well. Engel, who was looking very impressive, was now 5th, but then Bakkerud edged him out, and Jarvis pushed them both down a place. With all this going on Conway had fallen away to 9th, though it was way too early to write him off.
It was also too early to write Jelley off as a threat. Relishing having team-mates to pace himself against this year, he was now setting his personal best times in the first sector, and was back up in 2nd at the end of his latest flying lap. Jarvis, despite a grassy moment, was now 5th, and was in hot pursuit, as was Bakkerud, a place behind his team-mate in the order. It was possible they were spending too much time scrapping with each other, but this tactic has worked for Carlin in the past (Takuma Sato and Anthony Davidson also spring to mind), and it seemed to be working now. Jakes was trying to spoil their fun by going 6th and separating them, but the two of them were still pushing on. Conway was also pushing on, which was essential as he was 10th and not at all happy about it. While he was trying to figure out what to do, Bakkerud shot into 4th, while Jarvis was 3rd, suggesting that either of them could spring a surprise before the end. That was to bargain without Conway, though. Walker got to enjoy 2nd place for about a nano-second before Conway came round and took it off him. Senna was already in the pits and watching as his team-mate set about extracting the maximum possible from the car and engine, and could only hope he'd done enough to hold that pole position. He hadn't. Conway now claimed pole by 0.088 seconds, a minute margin, but it was enough to do the job. Behind him, the order kept on reshuffling, with Engel briefly 4th, and Bakkerud 3rd, only for Jarvis to get ahead of both of them, all of this pushing Jelley down to 5th, just ahead of Buurman. A lap later and Bakkerud was back in 3rd, ahead of Jarvis.
The pits were starting to fill up again, but Conway stayed out, as did the Carlin pair of Bakkerud and Jarvis (though Jarvis made a quick pit stop), and Buurman, who almost immediately took 4th place from Jarvis. There was a sudden - and unexplained - attack of waved yellows at Old Hall, followed by a white flag further round the track (indicating a slow vehicle on the track - there was no vehicle that anyone could establish) and that pretty much stopped any improvements that might have come in the closing minutes of this session. Duran was among the few able to do anything, making a late bid for 7th place, while Valerio was able to improve by a place to go 12th at the end. Bakkerud's last flying lap was cut short by Jarvis having an interesting moment out on the track and making a dive for the pitlane right in front of a somewhat surprised Dane. And that was how the session ended.
Conway got his first pole of the year, with Senna right alongside him. Bakkerud was 3rd, from Buurman, Jarvis, Jelley, Duran, Engel, Walker and Hall. 11th was Jakes ahead of Valerio, Kennard and National Class poleman, Gonzalez. Dennis Retera (T-Sport) was 15th, from Charlie Hollings (Fortec Motorsport), Annala, Morgado, Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing) and Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport). Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) and Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport) filled the last two places.