2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship Round 4A Donington Park May 6th Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Race: Weather: Cold, clear, sunny. Well, Dave Scott, the F3 Clerk of the Course stopped just...
2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship
Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne
Race: Weather: Cold, clear, sunny.
Well, Dave Scott, the F3 Clerk of the Course stopped just short of reading the entire field the Riot Act after Oulton Park, but he had made it clear to all concerned that he felt there had been far too much contact and that racing, whatever some might think, is not a contact sport. Or rather, he thought he'd made it clear. What happened on Saturday afternoon suggested that the warning had gone in one collective ear and straight out of the other without bothering to stop off in the brain on the way.
Now in the past double header meetings have tended to be rather dull, especially with the drivers all being well aware that they could not afford to take chances in the first race if they wanted to make it to the second. That of course was when there tended to be less than half an hour between races. With almost a day between races this time, most of them seemed to forget they would be out again at two the following afternoon. Or maybe they just thought that leaving their brains in the pits would save weight and make the cars faster...
The lights turned to green and there was chaos almost from the word go. While Tor Sriachavanon (Alan Docking Racing) stalled on the grid and took no further part, everyone seemed to be trying to occupy the same piece of tarmac at once. Something had to give and one of the first was Tomas Scheckter (Stewart Racing) who was forced way off line and came back in 8th place. Meanwhile Michael Bentwood (Fortec Motorsport) decided that being "Mr. Sensible" was the best way to go and backed off rather than ending his race as the filling in a Promatecme sandwich. Seconds later, Antonio Pizzonia (Manor Motorsport) was in trouble too after he tried to get around pole-sitter Takuma Sato (Carlin Motorsport) on the outside of Redgate and Sato hit him in the rear, damaging the nose wings of his car. Pizzonia was so far into the corner before he braked that he would probably have ended his race there and then if Sato hadn't hit him. It put Sato back in the lead with his teammate Ben Collins immediately behind him, and it also left the Brazilian with a punctured rear tyre. "I think I had a really good start - I was in front and he hit me and I had to come in and change tyres." He crawled round to make a pit stop before charging out, still on the same lap, but a very long way back. If nothing else he could try for a point for fastest lap. The drive that followed was a more than adequate demonstration of the Amazonian teenager's phenomenal talents, but you could also argue that it was his own hot-headedness that made it necessary. Having said that, there was nothing much wrong with Scheckter's recovery drive either, until it ended at least.
And that was a long way from being the end of it. After avoiding all the chaos in front of him, Andy Priaulx (Promatecme UK) was the next casualty, having a spin all his own and dropping right back, while Juan Manuel Lopez spun into retirement early on.
The field settled down after a fashion. The two Carlin cars were running in very close formation, Sato trailing a damaged wing and Collins just waiting for him to make a mistake. Meanwhile, in 3rd, Matt Davies (Promatecme UK) was suffering from the distinctly unwanted attentions of Narain Karthikeyan (Stewart Racing) while further back a clearly maddened Priaulx was trying to stage a recovery that would probably have been the drive of the afternoon if it hadn't have been for Pizzonia and his scintillating progress through the field. Scheckter too was recovering and was soon up to 6th. At the front Sato was locking up horribly as the wing scraped against the surface of the track and his teammate still sat behind him, not giving an inch. It must have been deeply disconcerting for Sato. Gary Paffett (Fred Goddard Racing) had taken advantage of all the chaos too and was up to 8th, sandwiched between the two RC Motorsport cars of Milos Pavlovic and Nicolas Kiesa. He was being harassed by Kiesa and so he must have been very relieved when the Yugoslav suddenly dropped back on lap 7, falling steadily back with an incredibly sick sounding car. "They were all over the place, all these little blue cars sitting around everywhere... I was behind Milos and just ahead of Kiesa. There was a bit of a sandwich there but Milos went a bit wide coming out of Coppice and I got past him there and Kiesa was right behind me for the rest of the race. It was quite difficult. There was a few times when he got just about close enough to be able to make a move. He went for it but I was able to block him and keep him behind me."
And then Sato paid the penalty for his damaged bodywork, making a mistake and letting Collins through. The Englishman wasn't going to say no to such a gift and Sato then compounded the mistake, going off finally in a spin of his own at Coppice. Meanwhile Karthikeyan had got the better of Davies, as had Bentwood. This left Davies in 4th, with Scheckter just behind him. However, this situation soon resolved itself when Scheckter tried to muscle past Davies up the inside at Redgate. Now Matt may look harmless enough, but most of his fellow drivers already know that if you try to push Matt around you'd better be able to follow through, or you're going off. It's not that he's unfair, but he is hard, very hard. Perhaps inevitably, Davies wouldn't give and Scheckter wouldn't back off. They clashed and were soon both in the gravel. While Scheckter stood and applauded sarcastically, the marshals rushed over to separate the two of them, leading them off in separate directions. Afterwards, the South African was fairly philosophical. "No, I don't think it was a mistake for me to try and pass him. I'm a racing driver and I'm going to overtake. I want to win races and be quick."
A fairly prolonged yellow flag waving session ensued as the snatch vehicles were brought out to remove the stricken Dallaras.
For a while after that it seemed that everyone had calmed down, though the Scholarship boys, with the exception of Paffett who was now in 4th overall, were running in a very tight cluster at the back of the field. As you might expect, there was yet another clash, this one between Mark Mayall (Diamond Racing) and Atsushi Katsumata (Team Meritus). And just by way of a change, it was at the exit of Redgate rather than the entrance. This lead to an awful lot of confusion as the marshals seemed to be having trouble deciding whether to keep the waved yellows out or not. Andy Priaulx and Westley Barber (Alan Docking Racing) ended up suffering the worst from this. They arrived at the corner together and Westley went through, since the marshals were not showing any flags, even though they were trying to move the cars and there was a stationery yellow at the next post. When they came around next time, Andy grabbed the place back only to see a waved yellow where there hadn't been one the lap before. He hauled on the anchors, let Westley back through, then got him cleanly the next time round. It was all rather confusing really. All sorts of people were a lot further up by now than they could ever have expected to be, but it was a delighted Ben Collins who came home to his first F3 victory. He well deserved the beer he could be found drinking later. Despite constant pressure from Karthikeyan, no one was going to take this one away from him. "If he'd tried, he was going off!" Collins said. And so he came home to a fine victory, just ahead of Karthikeyan with the third place going to Michael Bentwood, seemingly one of the very few sane individuals out there that afternoon. Paffett was also delighted, winning his class by a massive margin and finishing 4th on the road. Both Kiesa and Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing) had gone some way towards redeeming themselves after a poor qualifying session and although Gianmaria Bruni (Fortec Motorsport) took 7th from Andrew Kirkaldy (Avanti) after a ferocious scrap, the Scot was not at all disappointed. He had never expected to be in the points this time out anyway. Priaulx took 9th place from Westley Barber and Antonio Pizzonia finished 11th on the road (10th in class) to claim a point for the position and another one for fastest lap out of a series of fastest laps. "On the first lap I was 55 seconds behind the leader and when the race finished I was 28 seconds behind the leader."
Just outside the points in 12th was Warren Carway (Rowan Racing), the Irishman having spent quite a lot of the race trying to fend off the attentions of the Scholarship class drivers just behind him.
The final four finishers were the remnants of the Scholarship Class train, with Marcel Romanio (Team Meritus), Phillip Hopkins (Phillip Hopkins Motorsport) and Ryan Walker (Diamond Racing) all still very close at the end, and Craig Fleming (ME Motorsport) coming home last, a lap down.
Afterwards, various people were called to the Clerk of the Course although no one was actually disqualified, except for poor Christian Colombo (Rowan Racing). The Italian had been third in his class but a tear off strip had been sucked into the air restrictor causing it to break. As a result, his car was deemed to be illegal and he was excluded from the results. It's one of those things that happens occasionally (it has happened to both Marc Goossens and Gonzalo Rodriguez in F3) and the result is always the same; disqualification.