In the final race of this weekend’s British F3 International Series round, it again went the way of Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), the Malaysian only racing as a one-off entry to ensure he is eligible for November’s prestigious Macau Grand Prix. He led home a Carlin 1-2-3, with Jordan King finishing 2nd to edge to within a point of the championship leader, Fortec’s William Buller, while Nicholas Latifi came home in 3rd. In the National Class Ed Jones took his second victory of the weekend despite a scary moment early on.
The question everyone was asking before the start, though, was would Buller manage to atone for the two jump starts and two time penalties he’d picked up in the last two races and actually make a clean start? Happily for him, he did. It wasn’t a brilliant start, and it didn’t gain him any places, but at least it didn’t earn him a drive through either. Perhaps he might be able to salvage something from what had been a miserable weekend so far, and leave the Kent circuit with his series lead intact.
At the front, meanwhile, Jaafar got away well too. It wasn’t brilliant, but it was enough. He was alongside King as they reached Paddock, but as he was on the inside, he had the better line. The lead was his. With King perhaps reluctant to attack, and Latifi in 3rd, Jaafar had a reasonably comfortable cushion between himself and the first non-Carlin runners.
Behind the Canadian, Felipe Lopes Guimaraes (Fortec Motorsport), as he and Buller ran side by side out of Druids, Buller trying desperately to get the drop on the Brazilian. Buller dived to the inside, only to find himself smacked in the rear by Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing), the Italian thinking he’d seen a gap where there wasn’t one.
Guimaraes was lucky to escape unscathed, but Giovinazzi was out on the spot, while Buller was able to limp back to the pits eventually for some unscheduled repairs and a return to the race track a lap down on the pack. That was the moment that apparently handed the championship lead to King, and it may well come back to haunt Buller after the series is decided.
While Jaafar began to push on, the National Class lead was in dispute, a dispute that was apparently settled when Sun Zheng (CF Racing) ran over the back of Jones at Druids at launched himself. The Chinese driver would go no further. That let Chris Vlok (Team West-Tec) through into the lead, at least for the time being. It didn’t take Jones long to regain the place, and then he simply disappeared into the distance.
With Jaafar still leading reasonably comfortably, it was left to the National Class to provide some overtaking excitement. Jones barged past International Class rookie Zhi Cong Li (Carlin), while Vlok fell back into the clutches of West-Tec team-mate leader Cameron Twynham, eventually losing the place to the Brit. Behind them Buller was on a charge to at least try and get back on the same lap as the pack if he possibly could, and if not there was always the possibility of a point for fastest lap.
With only 12 cars left in the race, things now settled somewhat. Jaafar held station ahead of King and Latifi (who was now running a very lonely race). Behind them Guimaraes was being caught by Jann Mardenborough (Carlin), but catching was one thing and passing another matter altogether and nowhere near as easy.
Buller was still playing catch up from a lap down, and meanwhile the unfortunate Zheng and his team manager were being summoned to the Clerk of the Course after the incident with Jones. Other than that, there really wasn’t much going on.
Mardenborough’s challenge on Guimaraes seemed to evaporate on lap 12 when Mardenborough had what could only have been a bit of a moment somewhere out in the boonies, because he came round a good four seconds adrift of the Brazilian, when he had been within half a second the lap previous. He would now have to do it all again, and he was running out of time.
King, meanwhile, closed the gap to Jaafar, knowing that they would soon be coming up to lap the backmarkers, and that he might therefore have a chance to get past the Malaysian the claim the lead. He was assisted in this when he did catch up, and was able to try a pass. The marshals apparently failed to show the blue flags to the slower cars, and as a result the move didn’t quite work, and he hit Jaafar hard enough to hole his Dallara’s nose.
King seemed to think better of trying again, especially if it might mean he didn’t finish the race, and so he settled in, content to claim 2nd and a point for fastest lap if he could manage it. Latifi, meanwhile, was again shown a driving standards flag, the Canadian apparently turning into something of a repeat offender, though at least this time he didn’t collect any sort of penalty.
And that was the end of anything of note that happened. Jaafar came home a very happy winner. “It’s been a perfect weekend… since testing we progressed gradually, and I had a little crash but by qualifying we had put it all together, and our race pace was good. Jordan was really quick. The cars have evolved quite a lot from last year but I got 3 podiums so am very happy”
King was now leading the championship, with an 8 point advantage over Buller. “My start was very good and at the first corner I was slightly ahead or at least alongside Jaz but on the outside which is not the thing on this track. You can get on the marbles and dirt so it’s not a good idea to try and overtake there. But I was still quite close and Jaz was quick the first five laps, then I closed the gap, and once my nose cone touched Jaz’s rear box. I got some damage over the kerbs so the steering was a bit bent so I had to back off and stay off the kerbs. Although I’m leading in the points it makes no difference to qualifying and the next races in what you’ve got to do.”
Latifi was pleased to be on the podium this time round after two slightly disappointing races. “I planned to have a good start this time after last two races when I couldn’t get off the line. Then I was running on my own and just concentrating on getting a podium.”
In 4th was Guimaraes, just ahead of Mardenborough, with Sean Gelael (Double R Racing) in 6th. 7th went to Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing), followed by National Class victor Jones. “We were fast straight away this weekend and had pace but we had a few mechanical problems in free practice. But this time I got a good start off the line and moved forward, but when I was passing Zheng he locked up and I flew over his wheels. I need to keep being consistent to have a good place in the points.”
Twynham was next up in 8th, followed by Cong Li, Vlok and Buller.
Fastest laps went to King and Jones.
Weather: Hot, sunny.
Amendment to Round 8 Results:
After the second race (Round 8) ended, word came through that the penalties awarded to Latifi and Buller in Race 2 for exceeding the track limits had been rescinded after the officials viewed footage from the in car cameras from both drivers. Thus Buller was classified 4th and Latifi was 7th. That puts Buller back in the championship lead by 1 point over King with three races left to run at the final round of the series five weeks from now at the Nurburgring.
Next Races: Rounds 10, 11 & 12, Nurburgring, September 21st/22nd 2013