Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, F3 correspondents
Round 1 (Race 1): Jack Harvey dominates race of chaos at Oulton Park
The first race of the 2012 British Formula 3 season at Oulton Park today saw Jack Harvey (Carlin) prove to be the dominant force, getting away cleanly at the start and never being troubled again, while behind him all sorts of mayhem ensued, with some brilliant racing for the crowd. In the end, fellow Carlin drivers Jazeman Jaafar and Carlos Sainz Junior were 2nd and 3rd while the National Class was won by Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport) by a massive margin.
With less than ten minutes to go before the start the weather was proving treacherous and a short shower meant that the race was declared wet. At the start Harvey didn’t hesitate and was off like a shot while behind him Harry Tincknell (Carlin) lost out to a ferociously determined Jaafar who squeezed up the inside at Old Hall to nab 2nd. Meanwhile, Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport) got it badly wrong and fell back, taking Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) with him. Harvey took advantage of all this to break away while Sainz understeered madly in 4th, followed by Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport) in 5th. Goddard was up to 9th with a load of International Class runners bottled up behind him. The order at the end of lap two once the dust (or spray) had settled was Harvey by a country mile, from Jaafar, Tincknell, Sainz, van Asseldonk, Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport), Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing), Nick McBride (ThreeBond with T- Sport), Goddard and Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing). Pietro Fantin was now 11th, ahead of Derani, Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) and Serralles.
As Harvey pulled out an ever-increasing gap, setting a new fastest race lap as he did so, while in the pack van Asseldonk was coming under increasing pressure from Lynn, and Fantin had sorted himself out enough to climb back up the order to 10th. Tincknell has a look at Jaafar to see if he could snatch 2nd back, but Jaafar wasn’t having it. The other intra-team battle was between Jaafar, Tincknell and Sainz, the latter setting a faster lap than Harvey while twitching wildly. Uhrhane, on the other hand, was in trouble now, dropping to 12th as he tried to learn about an F3 car. Certainly only getting in a car for the first time 24 hours ago wasn’t helping the Aussie any. In a separate incident Ilyas and McBride both shot up the escape road at the Chicane.
In response Harvey was going ever faster, while in the pack Fantin, Goddard and Derani were all over each other with the inevitable outcome as far as Goddard was concerned. He had to give ground to the International Class pair and settled in behind them. Now it was starting to get interesting though as Tincknell ran wide and Sainz saw his opportunity, getting alongside the Englishman and causing Tincknell to lose touch with Jaafar as he launched a spirited defence of the final podium slot. He was aided in this as Uhrhane went off Druids for the second time this weekend, meaning that the section went yellow and Sainz, despite leaving his braking incredibly late, had to stay 4th. To add to the excitement, van Asseldonk was now catching the Tincknell/Sainz battle and was towing Lynn with him, the latter setting a new fastest lap just before Serralles went even faster in his efforts to catch the back of the pack.
However all eyes were on Sainz Jr, who clearly wanted that 3rd place – as in really, really wanted it and was doing everything he could think of to get it. He finally made it on lap 8 as they came out of Lodge and headed into Old Hall. And with that he was gone and through. That left Tincknell to deal with van Asseldonk instead, and equally tough prospect but at least not in the same team. Ilyas missed the Chicane again on that lap too, but didn’t lose any ground which meant at the half way point Harvey was still leading, from Jaafar, Sainz Jr, Tincknell, van Asseldonk, Lynn, Ilyas, McBride, Fantin and Derani. 11th was Goddard still leading the National Class by miles, ahead of Serralles and a very distant Padayachee. Tincknell was now starting to lose ground to van Asseldonk, while Lynn was catching the pair of them. Harvey was busy setting more and more fastest race laps, and hoping his wet weather tyres would hold out for the full 30 minutes on an ever drier track. Behind him Sainz Jr was now in furious pursuit of Jaafar, getting ever more ragged in his efforts. It was fun to watch and made you remember that there’s rallying in the family as well as circuit racing. Tincknell was in real trouble now and was having to work incredibly hard to hold off van Asseldonk – he was certainly getting a lot of racing for his money this morning! Between the battle for 4th and the battle for 6th there was plenty to see. Additionally Fantin was challenging Derani for 9th, and Derani was having none of it, while Serralles was now through and on the back of the two of them. McBride was slipping back slightly too, which meant it was becoming a 4-way fight for 9th.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, Padayachee had been lapped, while Harvey couldn’t even see the chasing pack in his mirrors. Jaafar was hanging onto 2nd as Sainz closed the gap, while Tincknell, van Asseldonk and Lynn could barely be separated by a credit card. Ilyas was 7th from the 8th placed sixteen wheeler of McBride, Fantin, Derani and Serralles. Goddard was now having a very quiet time a lap clear of Padayachee.
As the track got drier things started to hot up even more, van Asseldonk getting the drop on Tincknell for 4th. On the same lap Fantin had another go at Derani for 9th but Derani came out on top while Serralles closed up on them hand over fist. Van Asseldonk was also charging now, passing Tincknell and setting a new fastest lap to replace Serralles’ last effort. A lap later and it was Sainz who was fastest for about a nanosecond. Behind him Lynn tried to go around the outside of Tincknell for 5th, but the Carlin driver put up fierce resistance. He couldn’t hang onto van Asseldonk, who was catching Sainz Jr at a tremendous rate, because he was too busy with Lynn. They were soon side by side again but Lynn could not quite make it stick no matter how hard he tried. His next effort saw Tincknell squeeze incredibly close to the pitwall to ensure he was in the right position to fend his opponent off at Old Hall, and so it proved. Lynn did manage to nip through later on that lap but was only briefly ahead before Tincknell takes it back again. It was very brave stuff!
“I looked in my mirrors as we came out of the Hairpin and he just wasn’t there.
With everyone needing to nurse their tyres it was odd that there were so many ferocious scraps going on but you’ll get no argument from us. Even at the back things were lively with Serralles now back in the points with a new fastest lap, even though he wouldn’t hold it to the end. That would go to van Asseldonk two laps from the end as he fought for 3rd with Sainz Jr. It all ended in tears for the Dutchman though, as he dropped a wheel on the grass on the last lap and spun out. Sainz was relieved if slightly confused: “I looked in my mirrors as we came out of the Hairpin and he just wasn’t there,” was all the bemused Spaniard knew about the Fortec driver’s departure. That promoted Tincknell back to 4th, a position he held all the way to the flag, despite one final desperate lunge from Lynn that saw him cross the line 0.049 seconds adrift. The battle for 8th had also reshuffled on the final lap as Serralles decided he didn’t want to finish behind a pair of Brazilians, the Puerto Rican driver getting the drop on Derani, having previously charged past Fantin as well.
And so the order at the flag was Harvey, a good 8 seconds clear of Jaafar, with Sainz Jr 3rd from Tincknell, Lynn, Ilyas, Serralles, Fantin, Derani and McBride. Goddard was 11th and National Class winner from Padayachee. The grid for Race 2 is decided by the winner of Race 1 pulling a number between 8 and 12 from a bag. Harvey pulled 12th, which meant that the 12th placed driver will start on pole, with the remaining 11 reversed, so Padayachee will start race 2 from pole, alongside Goddard, the entire National Class occupying the front row. This could get very messy!
Fastest laps were set by van Asseldonk and Goddard.
Weather: Cold, overcast, drizzly – wet tyres all round.