2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship
Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne
Changes: Andrew Kirkaldy returns to British F3 with a new team, Avanti, driving a Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel.
No. 22 - Andrew Kirkaldy, GB, Avanti, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel
Qualifying: Weather: Fine, dry and sunny.
Returnee Andrew Kirkaldy (Avanti) was convinced that not too much could be expected from him this time out after a mere twenty-seven laps in testing in a brand new Dallara, running out of an old Rowan Racing truck that no one had had the time to repaint. It was pretty clear that this was a deal that had only come together at the very last minute and Andrew would be happy if he could just improve the performance of his Dallara-Opel combination.
Phillip Hopkins (Phillip Hopkins Motorsport) had also endured a trying testing session, damaging the car heavily in an off, and so he would also spend most of the session trying to sort out the machinery. This is not a good position to find yourself in when you only have a single session to set a time in. Craig Fleming (ME Motorsport) also had a tale of woe and was going to have to spend most of the first session bedding in brakes and generally trudging round trying to sort out the car.
Anyway, on a fine sunny morning they all went out to try and set a good time for the afternoon. Narain Karthikeyan (Stewart Racing) started the session in what now seems to be his customary manner by throwing his Dallara straight into the gravel and having to stagger back round to get the rubbish cleared out. While he was subjected to this indignity, Takuma Sato (Carlin Motorsport) managed to stall in the pit lane as he tried to set off, and had to be restarted by his team.
Needless to say, it didn't take long for the usual suspects to haul themselves up to the top of the order. This time, however, Antonio Pizzonia (Manor Motorsport) and Tomas Scheckter (Stewart Racing) were joined by Sato who set his first ever pole position time towards the end of the session, shortly after going off and coming back with a fine collection of dandelions which had to be removed. Maybe they made him faster. Certainly Pizzonia managed to get close, but he could not find the last few thousandths needed to get pole. He would at least start from the front row. This left Scheckter locked in a furious multi-way battle for third that eventually went his way, but not without a lot of effort on his part. He edged out Andy Priaulx (Promatecme UK), but only just. Andy was probably getting over the embarrassment of starring in the financial pages of the Daily Telegraph... In 5th was Ben Collins (Carlin Motorsport), finally seeming to be back on form after a pretty dismal start to the season. It looked as if both the Carlin drivers were ready to show the world just how good they both are. In 6th was Michael Bentwood (Fortec Motorsport). He was finding life difficult because of the glare, especially out of the car. The perils of being a contact lens wearer...
Matt Davies (Promatecme UK) took 7th place in the closing stages of the session, which was not too bad considering that neither he nor Priaulx went out in the first part of the session, and that when they did both cars seemed to be handling very badly. Next up was Milos Pavlovic (RC Motorsport), the Yugoslav driver having a better time than his team mate Nicolas Kiesa, despite having an off in the final moments of the session because "I pushed too hard!" Kiesa was not at all happy back in 14th wrestling a truly evil-handling car. This was a bit of a let-down after pole position at Croft, and although the new Opel engines don't appear to be the solution the team were hoping for, nor did staying with the old units. Also a little further back than he would have wanted was Karthikeyan. His off into the scenery hadn't helped but he really doesn't need to be behind his teammate every time. This is not doing his confidence any good at all. Even though less than a second covered the top ten, 9th is not what Narain needs. The top ten was rounded out by the other Fortec driver, Gianmaria Bruni.
Inevitably, perhaps, the Scholarship pole went to Gary Paffett. The Fred Goddard Racing driver was up as high as 5th at one point, but then opted to remain in the pits for the remainder of the session. After all, there was no point in wasting tyres unnecessarily and his nearest rival was over a second slower. It was unlikely they would get near him whatever they tried. Beside him on the grid was Juan Manuel Lopez (Manor Motorsport) despite going off towards the end of the session. He was followed by Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing). Martin still seems to be in serious difficulties and things did not seem to be improving even here on what might be considered his home circuit. Certainly it is the circuit that has seen him garner some of his best results in the past. It didn't look likely that this would be one of them. Also in trouble, back in 15th, was Westley Barber (Alan Docking Racing). Both Westley and his team mate, Tor Sriachavanon (in 17th) were not at all happy with the handling of their Dallaras. No amount of trying to drive around the problem seemed to be helping either.
Andrew Kirkaldy split the ADR pair but was not at all unhappy. It was what he had expected. In 18th (instead of his usual 17th but there is one more driver on the grid now) was Warren Carway in the second of the Championship Class Rowan Racing entries. Then, 8 places back from Paffett, was the second placed Scholarship Class driver, Marcel Romanio (Team Meritus). In 21st overall, and 3rd in the category was Mark Mayall (Diamond Racing). Unusually, next to him was Phillip Hopkins, and not, as is usually the case, Ryan Walker. Walker (Diamond Racing) was 22nd while Craig Fleming, despite having spent the session bedding in brakes, was 23rd, ahead of Christian Colombo (Rowan Racing) and Atsushi Katsumata (Team Meritus).