Race Report - Round 3: Weather: Not too pleasant. Looking like it could rain at any time ... quite cool and very dry. The question everyone who was at Brands Hatch was asking this time was "Will James Courtney actually manage to capitalise on...
Race Report - Round 3:
Weather: Not too pleasant. Looking like it could rain at any time ... quite cool and very dry.
The question everyone who was at Brands Hatch was asking this time was "Will James Courtney actually manage to capitalise on his pole position or not this time?" With this his third pole out of three races, he couldn't afford to be left on the line again. However, despite seeming to be awake this time when the lights went green, the Carlin Motorsport driver was promptly beaten off the line by his teammate, Michael Keohane. The fight back was immediate though, and Courtney held his line into Redgate to emerge ahead. Just behind the two of them, Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International) was into third place, just hoping for the two Carlin drivers to trip each other up. Further down the grid, Jouanny's teammate, Ernani Judice, stalled on the grid. Everything missed him but by the time he was able to get away, he was dead last. When the resulting mad scramble sorted itself out and the tyre smoke cleared we were left with a huge mess of cars just behind the leaders, all of them bottled up behind Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport). This group included the Scholarship pole position driver, Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing), who had started 10th overall, and was now four places further up as a result of a lightening quick start. Carroll was suffering from the extremely unwelcome attentions of Shinya Hosokawa (Formula Dream Team Carlin), while trying hard to get past the determined Finn just ahead of him. Carroll finally got through and set off in pursuit of Rob Austin, while Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) tried to go with him. However, Kovalainen wasn't about to let his teammate go through; the Scholarship leader was one thing, the Brazilian in the Number 5 car quite another. This left Carbone to try and fend off Hosokawa, the Japanese almost immediately running into the rear end of the Fortec car. Meanwhile a long way back, Mark Taylor's weekend was going from bad to worse. Almost at the back of the grid after engine problems in practice, he became entangled with Mark Mayall (Alan Docking Racing) at the start, and had to pit with a badly broken rear wing. His race had lasted less than a lap.
As the leaders completed their first lap, Courtney was still holding off Keohane, though the Irishman was making him work for it, while Jouanny continued to hold a watching brief just behind them. Austin was also looming large with Carroll breathing down his rear wing, and Kovalainen was holding everyone up! As they came through Redgate again, Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport) got entangled with one of the Scholarship Class cars and managed to fall off, dropping back a long way. It wasn't especially clever; charging hard is OK but being that aggressive seems to be self-defeating. He would have to try and make his way back up the order again. Also on his way back up the field was Judice, the Brazilian no longer last (that honour now went to Diamond Racing `s Harold Primat). Meanwhile, in the middle of the field, Clivio Piccione (T-Sport) passed Stephen Colbert (Team Park) for second place in the Scholarship Class. He was 13th overall, which meant that he had no chance of getting near Carroll and that pretty much wrapped up the top three in the junior category.
The race was only two laps old when Keohane staged his first serious challenge for the lead. It caused a certain amount of stress to the Carlin team, though Trevor Carlin's pessimistic "They'll all be off by the first corner," had proved not to be true. With Keohane's engineer screaming obscenities at him over the pit-to-car radio, the Irishman tried to drive round the outside of Courtney. Courtney hung on and slammed the door, firmly but fairly this time, in his face. Keohane jinked from side to side trying to find a way past only to find the Australian already there. Again he tried to go up the outside and again he got the door slammed in his face. This was good racing and went a long way to dispelling the myth that Formula Three is boring. Not when it's this close it isn't. While all this was going on at the front, there was a certain amount of stupidity breaking out elsewhere. Stefano Fabi (Team Avanti) was demonstrating his serious lack of experience (and maybe of talent) by driving Giandomenico Brusatin (Menu Motorsport) into the gravel at Redgate. While Fabi escaped unscathed, the Menu car had to be rescued by the snatch vehicle, causing waved yellow flags for another three laps. Meanwhile, Mayall (in a Class A car) was stuck behind his teammate of last year, Harold Primat (Diamond Racing, Class B). And there he stayed for lap after lap, unable to get past the diffident Frenchman despite the difference in power and weight between the two cars. It was interesting...
The battle at the front was showing no sign of easing off, and no one behind was having a particularly easy time either. Tor Graves (Alan Docking Racing) was now at the head of a mixed group that included David Clark (Team Park), Justin Sherwood (Performance Racing), Matthew Gilmore (Team Avanti), Jesper Carlsen (Essencial Motorsport) and Ernani Judice. Judice had just latched on to the back of the queue after recovering from his awful start and quite clearly had every intention of coming through if he could. He had already despatched Karun Chandhok, who had to retire after encountering the Brazilian's front wing. Judice would continue his charge despite missing part of his wing...
And Keohane was not letting up at all in his attack on Courtney, while behind them, Jouanny, Austin and Carroll held position. The battle for sixth was now hotting up, with Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing) also on the move, trying to get past Kovalainen. Meanwhile, Carbone had fallen back to 9th, just behind Hosokawa and they now had Ronnie Bremer (Manor Motorsport) looking for a way past as he tried to shake off Alan van der Merwe, who in turn was being harassed by Tom Sisley (Motaworld). Doubtless Sisley would have been happier without Piccione and Colbert right behind him. And at the very back the Mayall/Primat battle was also raging, if at a much slower pace. Billy Asaro was a less than happy visitor to the pits on Lap 6, and although he would rejoin the race for a further three laps it was to little effect. Fabi, who may have felt he'd done enough damage for one race, would join him in retirement! A little later, the usual number of retirements would be further swelled by Gilmore, the car sounding sick again.
By half distance the scrap for 6th resolved itself after Kerr made a determined move up the inside to take Kovalainen. He was, of course, then faced with the task of trying to pass Carroll and that was not going to be easy. Judice, meanwhile, was now ahead of Graves, despite the damaged nose wing, and was setting off the catch the next group. Taking advantage was Carlsen, who was able to pass Clark in the chaos and was thus up to 5th in class. Considering his less than happy practice session, this was good news for the Dane, and that fact that it was a stylishly executed move no doubt pleased him even more. The battle for first was becoming ever more fraught now, and Austin was also under serious attack from Carroll, who seemed to have forgotten that he's not a Championship Class competitor. The fact that this pack was now coming up to lap the first of the backmarkers threatened to make things even more interesting. And so it would prove. Keohane was again closing on Courtney when he found himself blocked by Primat. Harold afterwards insisted that he hadn't done anything to hinder the leaders but it's also fair to say that he couldn't do much to help them either despite getting as far out of their way as he could. Unfortunately, he then managed to get in the way of Adam Carroll, just after Carroll had set the fastest lap of the race. With clear track in front of him, Courtney soon took the overall fastest lap from him, but it was a glorious moment for a Class B runner. And then Courtney's peace and quiet was shattered again. Keohane closed on him again and Courtney went wide going into the Chicane. Keohane tried to go through, Courtney moved to block him and found he couldn't. A minor engine problem was later diagnosed; minor or not, it was the end of Courtney's hopes of victory. The point was further enforced when Jouanny squeezed through as well, and suddenly Austin was filling his mirrors. Probably the only thing stopping Austin trying a move as well was the fact that he still had Carroll all over his rear wing, just willing him to make a mistake.
While Piccione and Colbert were slugging it out for second in Class B, Hosokawa was able to improve his position as a result of finding Primat ahead of him. The sight of Carbone tripping over the backmarker was all the Japanese needed and he was through. It would not last, however, and with three laps to go, Hosokawa went off at Coppice after trying to run wheel to wheel with the Brazilian. Just so he didn't feel alone, he was able to join Graves, who retired the lap before. He managed to get into a spin for which he would later blame himself. "Stupid! Really stupid!" was his reaction. And so, with Courtney nursing his stricken car round for 3rd place, we had the third winner of the season in Michael Keohane, who managed to keep Jouanny at bay for the final two laps. It was more than Austin was able to do, and he was forced to let Carroll through, the Scholarship Class victor finishing the race in 4th overall after a stunning drive. Piccione, who had held on to his second in class position, was back in 12th, just ahead of Colbert, and it looks like the other teams are going to have to raise their game if they want to get on terms with.