BREEN ENDS ROOKIE F3 YEAR WITH FINE FIFTH!

Dundalk's Niall Breen endured a weekend of mixed fortunes at Rockingham to score more valuable points in the final two rounds of the season in the Lloyds TSB Insurance British Formula 3 Championship to finish the season in fifth place and second highest placed rookie.

He started both rounds, 21 and 22, from a somewhat lowly 11th place on the grid after both his 'hot laps' in the two sessions were spoiled by Sebastian Hohenthal. With his engineer, Jimmy Goodwin back in hospital with a recurring illness, Niall was reunited with the engineer he had in Zolder, Paul Wallace. Unfortunately, they had extra work to do as Wallace had not been at the test with Breen at Rockingham.

However, the Bar One Racing/City Waste-backed driver was prepared to fight all the way in the two remaining rounds and he made a brilliant start in the first race on Sunday morning, grabbing three places on the first lap as he past Carlin Motorsport team mate, Maro Engel, Stephen Jelley and Jonathan Kennard, who crashed out.

When his other team mate Sam Bird retired with a broken driveshaft, Breen was up to seventh and this became sixth when the 21-year old rookie finally took Australian John Martin on lap 10. From then on, Niall closed the gap to Carlin's Mario Moraes but despite the Irishman clocking up the third fastest time of the race, he couldn't pass his Brazilian team mate.

There was no further change to the order in the remaining 14 laps and Breen came home for a good sixth place behind winner Marko Asmer, the new champion taking his 11th win ahead of Atte Mustonen, Hohenthal, Rudolfo Gonzales and Moraes.

In stark contrast, Breen made a tardy start for the final race of the year, dropping back to 13th and giving himself even more to do. Meanwhile Niall's main challenger to keep his fifth place in the series, Kennard, clashed with Asmer, putting the Estonian out and leaving Kennard down the field and out of the points again.

Gonzales had the early lead for the first five laps but a drive-through penalty for an alleged jump start saw the Venezuelan back to sixth leaving Engel leading Bird. On the fifth lap, Breen took fellow Irishman Michael Devaney before setting about Jelley but try as he may, he had to settle for ninth place behind Engel, Bird, Hohenthal, Esteban Guerrieri, Mustonen, Alberto Valerio, Moraes and Jelley.

"I'm pleased to finish the series fifth behind Sam but I would really have liked to have taken the top rookie award. It's been a learning year - and only my third in cars - and apart from a mid-season blip, it went quite well. I wish my engineer Jimmy a speedy recovery and would like to thank him, my mechanics and sponsors for all their help and support", said Breen.

The championship finished with Asmer on 293 points, Engel (208), Jelley (183), Bird (180), Breen (145) and Kennard (130).

-credit: www.niallbreen.com