Full of North Eastern Promise After missing out last year, British F3 returns to the North East's premier race circuit at Croft, North Yorkshire, for the penultimate meeting of 2007, a season that has seen eight different winners in eighteen...
Full of North Eastern Promise
After missing out last year, British F3 returns to the North East's premier race circuit at Croft, North Yorkshire, for the penultimate meeting of 2007, a season that has seen eight different winners in eighteen races.
British Formula 3 has been the traditional training ground for the future stars of F1 for many years and the 2007 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 International Series is no exception, boasting large grids and attracting top drivers from across the world.
Marko Asmer from Estonia is on the brink of becoming the 2007 British F3 Champion and joining the ranks of Ayrton Senna, Jackie Stewart, Mika Hakkinen and Nelson Piquet, all of whom lifted this coveted title on their way to Formula One glory. Asmer, who is currently 72 points ahead of Germany's Maro Engel, only has to finish in front of his rival in the first race of the weekend to clinch the title. Even if Engel beats him, as long as the Estonian is 42 ahead after the second race he will be champion.
Engel fought back last time out at Thruxton and finished ahead of the Estonian in both races, including a magnificent drive from 15th to 3rd in the first race, to close the gap slightly. However it will be a mammoth task to pull back so many points in the last four races, but Engel, who has won twice this season, is a racer and he wont give up until it is a mathematical impossibility for him to win the coveted British F3 title.
At Thruxton Stephen Jelley finally scored his first British F3 win. In a superb, action packed race, Jelley drove from 5th on the grid to overtake his Raikkonen Robertson Racing team mate Jonathan Kennard and step onto the top of the British F3 podium.
Sam Bird has been one of the 'star' finds of the 2007 season. The Formula Renault graduate has proven his ability in Formula 3 with two wins in Bucharest and Spa and six further podiums making him the top rookie driver. However his championship hopes suffered a blow at Thruxton two weeks ago and two non finishes put him out of the title race. However the 20-year-old form Surrey will be looking for a good finish to his first season in British F3.
Like his Double R teammate Jonathan Kennard has also scored his first British F3 win this year, dominating the meeting at Spa Francorchamps in July with a pole position and two fastest laps, including setting a British F3 lap record on the newly configured Spa circuit. The 2004 Formula Palmer Audi Champion is certainly one to watch at Croft as he raced in the National Class two years ago at the circuit.
Reigning Formula BMW Champion Niall Breen is another first year driver who has adapted quickly to the more powerful machinery. Podiums at Donington and Bucharest were quickly followed by a win at Snetterton in June. A double race winner at Croft last year in Formula BMW holds the 21-year-old Irish driver in good stead after delivering a podium finish at Thruxton two weeks where he had scored a double race win last season.
Carlin Motorsport's fourth driver Alberto Valerio has been struggling to regain the form that earned him four podium finishes at Bucharest, Snetterton and Monza earlier in the season. The 2005 South American F3 Champion has shown that he still has the pace to run at the front of the field but a mixture of bad luck and mechanical woes have denied him further podium success. Perhaps Croft will be the circuit where that changes!
Raikkonen Robertson Racing's Atte Mustonen joined his teammates by scoring his maiden win at Thruxton two weeks ago. The 18-year-old Finn broke the British F3 lap record at Thruxton in the opening race of the day before taking the chequered flag in race two. The rapid Finn also broke the lap record at Snetterton and will be looking to further success at Croft and Rockingham.
Reigning Formula Renault Champion Sebastian Hohenthal has been having an up and down season. The Swede got his first season in British F3 off to a great start by breaking the lap record at Oulton Park and then taking a podium finish in Round 2. He then had to wait until Round 12 for further podium success which came in the form of a race win, battling to the flag with Atte Mustonen. Further podium success was denied Hohenthal at Thruxton two weeks after a pole position was unconverted after a clash with Niall Breen ended his race in the barriers. However the Fortec driver is a podium contender so expect to see him at the sharp end of the grid this weekend.
Rounding out the top 10 is the reigning British F3 National Class Champion Rodolfo Gonzalez. 'Gonzo' has certainly turned his season around with impressive drives at Brands Hatch, Silverstone and at Thruxton, where he scored his first podium of the year for himself and for a Mugen-Honda powered car. To underline his pace he also took the fastest lap in the race.
Ones to watch just outside the top 10 are the Ultimate Motorsport cars of Esteban Guerrieri and Michael Devaney. Using the brand new Mygale F3 chassis, the team have stunned the rest of the British F3 field with their pace and have just missed out on a podium finish on three occasions. Devaney took the fastest lap in Bucharest and both drivers will be looking to take the next step forward at Croft.
Greg Mansell, the younger son of 1992 F1 World Champion Nigel Mansell, has put in performances well ahead of his experience level. Despite this year being on his second in racing, having never competed in karts prior to Formula BMW last season, the 19-year-old Fortec driver has taken two podium finishes and has been a consistent points scorer against drivers with immensely more experience. Watch out for the black and white Dallara with the famous helmet colours of the Mansell family.
While Marko Asmer was the runaway overall points leader, the National Class has been a more frantic battle between Sergio Perez and Cheng Cong Fu. However that all changed at Thruxton with Perez having his second perfect weekend taking 42 points, a fourth and a DNF, thanks to a heavy crash, has dented 'Frankie' Cheng's chances of beating his Mexican rival to the title. However Sergio's record is impressive with 11 wins, 12 pole positions and 9 fastest laps, all on circuits the young Mexican hasn't raced on before. As long as Perez beats Cheng to the line in the opening race he will take the National Class title.