The final race of the 2007 British F3 International Series saw Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) win in fine style, ahead of team-mate Sam Bird, while Sebastian Hohenthal was on the podium for the second time today after a tigerish drive. In the National Class, Sergio Perez finished the year with yet another win, his 14th from 22 races. And to think at the start of the year he'd looked unlikely to impress.
At the start, it didn't look as if Engel would win, especially as he made a less than stellar start, while from alongside him Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) rocketed away into the lead. However, the Venezuelan had jumped the start for the second time this season, so it just remained to wait and see what penalty would be imposed this time. Interestingly, Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) also got the drop on Engel at the start, albeit legally in his case. However, Engel fought back and was soon 2nd again, ahead of the 2007 Rookie of the Year. Bird was under pressure though, with Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) trying to squeeze alongside him at the Deene hairpin. Bird resisted, Mansell got into a tangle and fell back down the order. Just for good measure, behind them, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) tangled with Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Asmer ending up stranded in the scenery while Kennard got going again at the back.
Another driver making a good start was Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), who was up to 10th, partly because everyone else was getting in a state. It didn't take him long to move up another place too, when he managed to squeeze round the outside of Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) at the hairpin. That made him 9th. He was still hoping against hope that he might manage to wrest the runner-up slot in the series from Engel. To do that he needed to be 7th or higher, and Engel needed not to finish. Jelley was doing his best to uphold his side of the plan. Unfortunately for him, Engel wasn't being at all cooperative.
Anyway, a couple of laps later and the inevitable happened. The officials took a look at Gonzalez's start, and decided that it was indeed a jump start. He was awarded a drive through penalty, which he ignored for a while. Behind him all sorts of mayhem was kicking off. Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) was up to 4th, which meant that when Gonzalez finally pitted he would probably be on for the team's first podium of the year. However, he had Hohenthal snapping at his rear wing, so maybe that podium would be snatched away.
While Engel set the fastest lap, Kennard was busy trying to come back up the order, though he wasn't getting there very fast. He had clawed his was up from 25th to 21st. And elsewhere Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport) had now passed Devaney, who was not having a good afternoon now that even 11th place had been taken away from him. At the front, though, Gonzalez finally decided to serve his penalty. He'd edged so far ahead that by the time he drove through the pits and back out again, he'd only dropped to 6th. His sudden reappearance seemed to startle Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), which might have had something to do with the Venezuelan appearing at speed right beside the Finn as they headed for the hairpin. All of this handed the lead back to Engel, who was intent on making the most of the advantage he'd just been handed. He was already well ahead of Bird, who was having a busy time holding off Guerrieri. That left Engel free to extend his lead, setting a series of fastest laps.
And now that the dust had settled, at least a little, it was Engel, from Bird, Guerrieri, Hohenthal, Mustonen, Gonzalez, Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport), Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), Jelley and Breen. Behind them, Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) and Devaney were now fighting over 11th. Devaney was having quite a time and it wasn't over yet. At Yedwood Grubmuller tried to get ahead of Devaney, there was a cloud of tyre smoke, and they both went off. Devaney staggered back to the pits, while Grubmuller got going again down in 24th, just as Engel added insult to injury by lapping him. Devaney wasn't the only one in the pits - Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing) pitted too, his race also over at the halfway point.
Back on the track, it all got a bit fraught when Hohenthal passed Guerrieri, letting Mustonen get a sniff at a way through. In the resulting shuffle, Valerio went up the inside of Gonzalez, and when Gonzalez tried to fight back the two of them made contact. It looked as if everyone was 4th for a couple of demented seconds. Hohenthal was really pushing now that he wasn't bottled up behind Guerrieri, but despite all the barging behind him, it was still Mustonen in 5th, from Gonzalez and Valerio.
In the National Class, Perez was ahead of Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) by a long way, while the final podium place was currently in the hands of Mihai Marinescu (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). It seemed to be stable, unlike the Championship Class order. With six laps left to run, Mustonen had another go at Guerrieri at Deene, but the Argentinean put up some stiff resistance. On the same lap, Greg Mansell passed Martin there with a move that Mustonen would have wanted to make bit had failed to. While at the front Engel sailed serenely onwards, to what looked like certain victory, Valerio and Gonzalez were slugging it out for 6th, the combination of the two Latin Americans proving a bit worrying. This time they all survived. On lap 19 at Tarzan it all came apart, however, with Gonzalez losing out to Valerio, Moraes, Jelley and Breen. It wasn't clear exactly how it had happened, but the T-Sport driver wasn't at all happy about it afterwards.
Someone else who wasn't happy was Grubmuller, who was trying to claw his way back up the order, passing Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing) for 19th coming round Tarzan. He was trying to salvage something, though it seemed unlikely that he would have enough time. He wasn't taking it easy, and now was Greg Mansell, who was busy trying to relieve Gonzalez of that final point if he possibly could. A lap later and Mansell tried it again but Gonzalez really wasn't having any of it. A lap later and he had to give way though, which meant that Mansell was 10th and Gonzalez was going home with nothing. It didn't help that he now had John Martin (Alan Docking Racing) after him too - he really was not having a good day. It was just as well that the race was nearly over.
And so for the final time this year, Engel crossed the line ahead of the pack, cementing the runner-up slot behind Asmer. 2nd on the track was Bird, frustrated at ending up 4th in the championship despite being crowned Rookie of the Year, and behind him was Hohenthal. 4th was Guerrieri, from Mustonen, Valerio, Moraes, Jelley, Breen and Greg Mansell. 11th was Gonzalez, just ahead of Martin, while Perez came home in the lead of the National Class in 13th overall. Kennard was next from Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), Al Khalifa, Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Grubmuller, Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) and Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing). 21st was Marinescu, ahead of Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport) and Richard Singleton (Promatecme F3).
The fastest laps were set by Engel and Perez.
Next meeting: 2008