Donington Park, Sunday 22nd March 1998
Round 1, British Formula Three Championship
Weather: Dry, fine, sunny
It became clear very early on that the man to beat today would be Enrique Bernoldi. The young Brazilian was the pace setter almost from the word go, the only driver to really trouble him in his quest for pole being Martin O'Connell. The 1997 National Category champion always seems to go well at Donington, having outclassed the Class A cars here last year, and today was no exception. With Bernoldi on such fine form however, he was not to be denied, and he finished the session nearly 3/10ths ahead of O'Connell. There was a moment when it seemed he might be joined by his team mate Marc Hynes, but ultimately the youngster's relative inexperience told and he had to settle for the 3rd slot in his first F3 race. Behind him came Ben Collins, for whom this is a crucial year. Ben has now been in F3 too long to be able to afford another year in the category. It is now or never and if he has his way it will be now. In an unaccustomed 5th and 6th came the PSR boys, Haberfeld and Burti. The first battle went to Mario then, but it was very close, their respective times being 1:28.204 and 1:28.217. Warren Hughes put in a splendid drive to claim 7th, the Renault engine in his Portman Racing Dallara never sounding as if it was prepared to cooperate. Hughes is no slouch as a driver and he had to work hard to get anywhere at all, but it was to no avail. When the engine was checked out before the race, it was too far gone to be useable and so the unfortunate Geordie was sidelined, not even going out onto the grid. With the top 10 all within a second of the pole time, the next three were close, Jamie Spence just edging out Mauricio and David Cook, who was closely followed by his sister. Karthikeyan was next up in 12th with Kristian Kolby in a slightly unexpected 13th. He was lucky he was there at all. He managed half a lap in the much faster first session and was promptly out when a water pipe fractured and the engine had to be replaced. He was left to try and set a time in the second session. It was not a good start to his season. And things were about to get worse. The usual suspects made up the places from 14th, with Igarashi, Bentwood, Wilcox, Yoong and Spouge heading Pavicevic. The National categor6y cars made up the final three places on the grid, Scifleet significantly faster than Carway and Ingram.
The race turned out more exciting perhaps than could have been predicted too, especially for one or two individuals. Ingram failed to start at all, while Marc Hynes made the classic newcomer's mistake and stalled on the grid. By the time he got going again most of the field had gone and the youngster then provided the drive of the race, fighting his way up from 12th at the end of the first lap, to an inspired 5th at the chequered flag. He had no fear of anyone, taking on even Jamie Spence, a man with a lot of experience at fending off unwelcome overtaking manoeuvres. Hynes team mate, Bernoldi, meanwhile was an untroubled leader, watching his mirrors for O'Connell but always managing to maintain a comfortable cushion. O'Connell was similarly untroubled by the PSR cars behind him and they were too busy with their own scrap, Haberfeld resisting Burti in muscular fashion, before the rookie got the better of him when Ben Collins went out on lap 2, his Opel Spiess blowing in spectacular fashion.
The next retirement came on lap 4 when Kolby was assisted into the gravel at Redgate by Bentwood. There would be protests afterwards although these would make no difference to the Dane. His race was over. The other driver attempting some dramatic manoeuvring was Mauricio who had really got the bit between his teeth and was driving as if his life depended on it. Having dropped down the order at the start, he fought his way back to 7th and then had to defend himself from David Cook for the rest of the race, Cook not wanting to let go of the place either. Both of them had to give way to the hard-charging Hynes though. It was a race remarkably free of attrition for a first round. The only other retirement was Warren Carway who left the scene half way through, retiring out in the country. This left it open for Scifleet who cruised the final half untoubled by anything much.
Qualifying 1st Enrique Bernoldi, Dallara F398 Renault 1:27.476 2nd Martin O'Connell, Dallara F398 TOMS Toyota 1:27.771 3rd Marc Hynes, Dallara F398 Renault 1:27.875 4th Ben Collins, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 1:27.927 5th Mario Haberfeld, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:28.044 6th Luciano Burti, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:28.066 7th Warren Hughes, Dallara F398 Renault 1:28.206 8th Jamie Spence, Dallara F398 Renault 1:28.288 9th Ricardo Mauricio, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:28.450 10th David Cook, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 1:28.464 11th Paula Cook, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 1:28.809 12th Narain Karthikeyan, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 1:28.844 13th Kristian Kolby, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:28.957 14th Yudai Igarashi, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:28.972 15th Michael Bentwood, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:29.303 16th Adam Wilcox, Great Britain, Speed Sport, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:29.330 17th Alexander Yoong, Dallara F398 Renault 1:29.457 18th Tim Spouge, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:29.760 19th Andrej Pavicevic, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:29.801 20th Phillip Scifleet, Dallara F396 TOMS Toyota 1:30.127 (National Pole) 21st Warren Carway, Dallara F396 TOMS Toyota 1:30. 560 22nd John Ingram, Dallara F396 Mugen Honda 1:33.624
Qualifying maxima: 1.36.223
Results: 1st Bernoldi, Time 29:48.530, 20 laps, Speed 100.64 m.p.h. 2nd O'Connell, Time 29:54.405 Gap: 5.875, Speed 100.31 m.p.h. 3rd Burti, Time 29:58.745 Gap: 10.215, Speed 100.07 m.p.h. 4th Haberfeld, Time 30:00.260 Gap: 11.730, Speed 99.98 m.p.h. 5th Hynes, Time 30:08.397 Gap: 19.876, Speed 99.53 m.p.h. 6th Spence, Time 30:09.400 Gap: 20.870, Speed 99.48 m.p.h. 7th Mauricio, Time 30:18.089 Gap: 29.559, Speed 99.00 m.p.h. 8th D Cook, Time 30:20.763 Gap: 32.233, Speed 98.86 m.p.h. 9th Karthikeyan, Time 30:22.977 Gap: 34.447, Speed 98.74 m.p.h. 10th Igarashi, Time 30:25.794 Gap: 37.264, Speed 98.58 m.p.h. 11th Bentwood, Time 30:28.088 Gap: 39.558, Speed 98.46 m.p.h. 12th P Cook, Time 30:34.842 Gap: 46.312, Speed 98.10 m.p.h. 13th Yoong, Time 30:38.002 Gap: 49.472, Speed 97.93 m.p.h. 14th Pavicevic, Time 30:43.710 Gap: 55.180, Speed 97.62 m.p.h. 15th Spouge, Time 30:50.089 Gap: 1:01.559, Speed 97.29 m.p.h. 16th Scifleet, Time 30:57.338 Gap: 1:08.808, Speed 96.91 m.p.h. (National Class winner)
Fastest Laps: Bernoldi - Lap 8, 1:28.530, speed 101.66 m.p.h. Scifleet - Lap 8, 1:31.063, speed 98.83 m.p.h.