Autosport British F3 Championship 1998 Round 8, Croft, May 24th by Stella Maria Thomas

Race:

There was a big crowd for this race, which is very welcome. It shows the strength of interest in the area, which has been sadly lacking in motor sport facilities of any standing for some time. With a fine, sunny day, they settled down to enjoy this race.

The race looked as if it was going to be a PSR walkover, as the two white and blue cars got away ahead of the field. However, if Martin O'Connell had anything to do with it, Haberfeld and Burti would not have things all their own way. O'Connell's starts have been getting better all the time and the one he made this time was easily his best to date. He was alongside Burti as the two of them approached the first corner, but as he was on the outside of the bend, he decided that discretion was perhaps the better part of valour. Not wanting to fall off on the first lap, Martin settled in behind Luciano Burti pulled away but O'Connell then set a series of consistently quick laps to catch up and then began to pressure the Brazilian relentlessly. He just chipped steadily away at the PSR car until Luciano made a mistake going through the Hairpin. He left his braking too late and Martin was able to slip through into second. He then set off after Haberfeld, and was steadily reducing that gap too when he hit trouble. There was a nasty noise from the TOM'S Toyota power unit. Martin didn't want to blow up the engine and risk losing second in pursuit of the leader so he decided to ease off and hold his place if he could. The excitement was over. Haberfeld coasted home to victory, followed by O'Connell and Burti. Martin's decision was probably made easier by the knowledge that Bernoldi was not going to score points from this round.

Early on in the race, Alex Yoong spun, and was almost collected by David Cook, who survived to race on. Although Cook escaped disaster, this accident did take Enrique Bernoldi and Kristian Kolby out of commission, the Dane with wrecked suspension. The young Brazilian had a miserable weekend at a circuit he really does not like. He came away with nothing at all to show and a large sent in his reputation for being unbeatable. However, this will be small compensation for the others as the man who beat Bernoldi this weekend was himself. No one else seems to have an answer to him, though no doubt Martin O'Connell hopes he might be able to find one somewhere soon.

Yudai Igarashi took tenth place from Paula Cook towards the end of the race. Unfortunately for him, he did it by taking to the grass at the Hairpin, in effect missing the corner altogether. The officials took a dim view of this and duly gave him a 5-second penalty. This dropped him back to 11th and gave Paula her place back.

Jamie Spence was robbed of a result when, with only a handful of laps left to go, he was running up around 6th place and the airbox fell off his MDR Dallara. It was a shame for a driver who seems to have more bad luck than most that he should lose some much needed points over something so unexpected. Even if he had been able to keep going, based on what has happened in previous years, he would certainly have been disqualified for running without the airbox.

Results:

1st Mario Haberfeld, F398 Mugen Honda 2nd Martin O'Connell, F398 TOMS Toyota 3rd Luciano Burti, F398 Mugen Honda 4th Warren Hughes, F398 Renault 5th Darren Manning, F398 Mugen Honda 6th Ben Collins, F398 Opel Spiess 7th Marc Hynes, F398 Renault 8th David Cook, F398 Opel Spiess 9th Ricardo Mauricio, F398 Mugen Honda 10th Paula Cook, F398 Mugen Honda 11th Yudai Igarashi, F398 Mugen Honda 12th Tim Spouge, F398 Mugen Honda 13th Adam Wilcox, F398 Mugen Honda 14th Michael Bentwood, F398 Opel Spiess 15th Andrej Pavicevic, F398 Mugen Honda 16th Phillip Scifleet, F396 TOMS Toyota (National Class winner) 17th Warren Carway, F396 TOMS Toyota

DNF: Jamie Spence, F398 Renault - lost Airbox Enrique Bernoldi, F398 Renault - accident Kristian Kolby, F398 Mugen Honda - accident Alexander Yoong, F398 Renault - accident

Fastest Laps: Haberfeld Carway

Points after 8 rounds: International Class 1st Bernoldi, 119 points 2nd O'Connell, 95 points 3rd Haberfeld, 87 points 4th Burti, 81 points 5th Hughes, 65 points 6th Spence, 36 points 7th Hynes, 33 points 8th Mauricio, 32 points 9th Kolby, 28 points 10th Collins, 23 points 11th Yoong, 17 points 12th D Cook, 10 points 13th Darren Manning, 8 points 14th P Cook, 7 points 15th Igarashi/Pavicevic, 5 points 17th Karthikeyan, 4 points 18th Santavirta, 1 point

National Class 1st Scifleet, 159 points 2nd Carway, 87 points 3rd White, 12 points