At Rockingham this morning JTR's Nick Tandy scored an emotional victory in the latest round of the British F3 International Series. With team founder Joe Tandy, Nick's brother, having died in a road accident less than a fortnight ago, and his funeral scheduled for tomorrow, the team were aiming to do him proud with their efforts today. And that is exactly what they did, Nick leading from Turn 2 on lap one all the way to the finish. Marcus Ericsson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) took a steady 2nd and his team- mate Daisuke Nakajima was 3rd, pursued all the way to the flag by the third Double R runner, Carlos Huertas. Gabriel Dias led the National Class until a drive though penalty for overtaking under yellows flags, and thus finished 2nd behind Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport).
However the full story - as is often the case at Rockingham - was rather less straightforward than that. A poor start by poleman Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) saw Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) get ahead as they left the grid. He blocked the Australian on the way to the Turn 2 Hairpin so Ricciardo tried to come up the inside. The pair clashed, Ricciardo was launched into the air and ended up in the gravel, while van der Zande continued with a damaged rear wing. While the front pair clashed terminally, Ericsson tried to squeeze Tandy out, but Nick was having none of it. Instead he settled for following Tandy as they both breezed past the hobbled Dutchman to slot into 1st and 2nd. With Nakajima now 4th it was looking like a very good day for Double R.
T-Sport weren't having too bad a day either, with Dias leading the National Class, though he could have made a better start. However, he had claimed it by overtaking under the yellow flags that broke out as a result of the Ricciardo/van der Zande debacle. It would prove decisive eventually though the officials seemed to take a very long time in deciding what to do about the Brazilian. They were far more decisive when it came to van der Zande, whose car was now considered dangerous. He was duly shown the orange and black flag just as he pulled in to the pits anyway and the team swarmed over the car, replacing the rear wing in record time.
Meanwhile, things had settled down, Tandy streaking away into the distance, setting a series of fastest laps as he tried to put as much distance between himself and Ericsson as possible. Nakajima was busy holding off Huertas, who had Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport) all over him. Meanwhile, Hywel Lloyd (C F Motorsport) was an unexpected 6th from Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport), Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Motorsport), Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport), Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) and Wayne Boyd (T-Sport).
Tandy kept on setting fastest laps at the front and it was clear that no one was going to get near him on the track. He would drive the wheels off the Mygale if necessary. No one was going to take this off him. Behind him it was pretty processional, though van der Zande had rejoined the fray three laps down, presumably just to check that the car was now alright for the second race of the day. A lap later the Dutchman had claimed fastest lap, and, satisfied that the car was fine (if slightly banana-shaped) he pulled into the pits and parked.
Elsewhere, Nakajima was still running with a train of cars banked up behind him, but no one seemed close enough to challenge the Japanese driver yet. However, in that train, Lloyd was close enough to take a run at Chilton, snatching 5th easily up the inside at the Turn 2 hairpin. That put him on the tail of Huertas and it was clear he was considering trying the same stunt on with Huertas, if he could just get close enough.
Meanwhile, the message flashed up on the screen to say that Dias had been awarded a drive through penalty... which would hand the lead to McKenzie. Cue much argument from team boss Russell Eacott, during which time Dias stayed right where he was. Just to further compound Eacott's sense that the world was conspiring against his team, a cloud of dust was kicked up as Buzaid had a gravelly moment and dropped down the order to 15th as a result. Shortly afterwards, he pitted to have grass and gravel removed from the air intakes. They really weren't having the best of days.
Nearer the front, the battle for 3rd was intensifying, with Christodoulou now catching up with the train that Nakajima had bottled up behind him. Huertas had a go at passing his Japanese team-mate but then seemed to think discretion was the better part of valour. He dropped back a little, which was probably wise. After all, no one wants to get shouted at by Antony Hieatt. "Boyo" can be scathing if his drivers hit each other. Anyway, a lap or so later Huertas took another look, but again couldn't quite do it, settling back into 4th for the time being.
The Dias situation was also still developing, with the penalty notice vanishing off the bottom of the timing screen, being replaced with a stop/go notice which lasted about a nano-second before it too vanished, and the officials hung out the drive through board. Just as the probably somewhat confused Brazilian came in to serve his penalty it reappeared on the bottom of the screen. It didn't actually cost him that much anyway, as by the time he emerged on track he was still ahead of Snegirev, which was what you would expect.
Another suffering in the race was Lloyd, who had been running in a fine 5th place, but who then messed things up and lost out at Turn 2, ending up a long way off line, That let Chilton back through and allowed Christodoulou and Grubmuller to each move up a place as well. Lloyd tried to get back at Grubmuller, the two clashed, and Lloyd ended in the gravel, causing an outbreak of yellow flags at the one turn where overtaking is likely in F3. The marshals didn't seem to be in any hurry to move him either, which most likely meant the final three laps of the race would see no changes in position. Unlike Lloyd, Grubmuller recovered from the excursion though he did fall back to 12th. Shortly after, though, he had to give up completely, complaining of vibration in the car. It wasn't Hitech's day either.
And that was the end of any action until the very final moment. As Tandy crossed the line to massive acclaim, he tried to be clever and create some drama to celebrate. Spinning the wheels furiously, he then slammed the breaks on to try and generate clouds of tyre smoke, only to have the wishbone break. The stricken car limped round on its victory lap with one wheel hanging off. Not that Tandy cared. He was grinning fit to burst.
Behind him, Ericsson came home to a satisfying if quiet second place, ahead of Nakajima, Huertas, Chilton, Christodoulou, Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport), Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport), Wayne Boyd (T-Sport) and Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport). 11th was the National Class winner McKenzie, from Dias, Stephane Richelmi (Epsilon Barazi), Snegirev, Victor Correa (Litespeed F3) and Buzaid who was a lap down.
Fastest laps went to van der Zande and Dias.
Weather: Hot, sunny.