BF3

Hockenheimring: Series Saturday report

VERGNE STRIKES AND DIAS FLIES TO VICTORY Carlin's Jean-Eric Vergne and Hitech driver Gabriel Dias were the winners of today's Hockenheim rounds of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, Vergne recapturing the championship lead - ...

VERGNE STRIKES AND DIAS FLIES TO VICTORY

Carlin's Jean-Eric Vergne and Hitech driver Gabriel Dias were the winners of today's Hockenheim rounds of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, Vergne recapturing the championship lead - which he lost briefly last weekend in France - and Brazilian Dias netting his squad's first victory of the season in fine style.

Round 10

French ace Vergne put the disappointments of last weekend's French rounds of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series behind him in round 10 at Hockenheim, dominating round 10 of the championship to retake the points lead.

Vergne led every inch of the race, from pole position to chequered flag, leading home his team-mate Jazeman Jaafar for a Carlin 1-2. Said Vergne of his German triumph: "It was a very easy, clear race from the start to the end. I had a really good car; I want to really thank the team because it was amazing."

It took organisers three attempts to get the race underway, Hitech's Gabriel Dias causing the first restart when he stalled from P2 on the grid, his car then expiring as it made its way on to the second formation; the Brazilian was then forced to start from pit lane.

Vergne's start was cautious but capable and he led into the Nordkurve from team-mates Adriano Buzaid and Jaafar, with Will Buller upholding Hitech honours in fourth ahead of Raikkonen Robertson's Daisuke Nakajima. Fortec's Daniel McKenzie started seventh and quickly promoted himself to sixth at the expense of James Calado.

Alas for McKenzie's team-mate, erstwhile championship leader Oli Webb, the opening laps were far less straightforward. After snatching third from Jaafar into the hairpin the Mancunian ran wide a corner later - "It just snapped away from me," he said - and he plummeted down the order. Two laps later he ran off track again and lost further ground.

The main dramas of the race centred on drive-through penalties handed down by race officials for corner-cutting. Three strikes and you're in was the rule, and the first to fall foul was Buzaid, the Brazilian losing a safe second place as a result. That left Vergne some 13 seconds clear of his closest pursuer, Jaafar, and placed the race in his pocket. Like Vergne, Jaafar kept his nose clean to claim second - his first podium finish in British F3.

Buller might have collected another excellent podium but for a penalty pit call which promoted McKenzie to the third step of the podium. Daniel had already profited from a drive-through for Nakajima. The Poole-based driver was delighted with his first International class British F3 podium finish: "Several drivers in front of me were penalised, which helped, but I kept pushing from the start. I had a little touch with Nakajima on the opening lap, and James got past me, but I was able to repass."

Calado claimed fourth, ahead of Buzaid, who recovered well from his penalty, Jay Bridger's Litespeed Dallara, and Dias, who enjoyed a penalty-free run from his pit lane start. Webb recovered from his early mishaps to place eighth. Ironically it was ball 8 that Vergne picked from the hat post-race, thus handing his chief title rival the pole for this afternoon's sprint race.

The National class duo enjoyed a spirited scarp throughout the race, James Cole leading Menasheh Idafar until the 13th lap, when Idafar launched an attack at the hairpin. Menasheh's tenure of the lead lasted only a couple of corners, however, before he ran wide and handed top spot, and an excellent ninth overall, back to his T-Sport team-mate. Pit-stoppers Buller and Carlos Huertas finished 10th and 11th to claim the final International class points.

Round 11

Fresh tyres and a cool head netted Gabriel Dias his first win of the Cooper Tires British F3 International series this afternoon at Hockenheim in Germany, the Brazilian Hitech driver recovering from a slowish getaway which dropped him to third on the opening lap to claim victory in the 11th round by a 1.1-second margin.

Dias had endured all sorts of pre-race dramas: his car's clutch had had to be changed after problems in the morning race, and then his race kit and helmet were trapped in the team truck behind a jammed door until moments before the off.

Given these dilemmas his relatively slow getaway from second on the grid could be forgiven. It allowed pole-sitter Oli Webb to rocket into a handsome lead for Fortec and Carlin's Adriano Buzaid to slot past his countryman to take up third.

But once off and running Dias's car was clearly the class of the field. He closed down Buzaid over the course of the opening three laps and then sliced down Adriano's inside at the hairpin to lift second next time around. Webb was by this stage 2.1s to the good, but Gabriel's wings gave him the edge he needed to close the gap, and by the seventh tour the two cars were nose to tail.

Dias swooped on the eighth lap of what turned out to be a 13-lap race, again down the inside into the hairpin, to snatch away the lead from a helpless Webb.

"We changed the clutch after what happened in race one," said Dias, "and this clutch was a bit more difficult for me. I didn't have a great start, and that was why I lost one position. But the car was just so good. so good, that I could catch the guys in front easily. It was so superior I could just drive straight past them. Great work from the team."

Added Webb: "We knew that Dias would be quicker. He had newer tyres than us because we have opted to save ours for the third race, but we didn't think he'd be that quick."

Buzaid was less than two seconds behind the winner for a fine podium finish, maintaining his 100 per cent scoring rate in the process, with Jay Bridger a best-yet fourth for the Litespeed team. Jay had started third and, though he could not keep Buzaid at bay, managed to hold off championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne for the duration, despite the Frenchman's best efforts to pass.

Behind Vergne, in sixth, was James Calado's Racing Steps car, with Will Buller resisting race-long pressure from Jazeman Jaafar to hold on to seventh. Rupert Svendsen-Cook and Raikkonen Robertson's Carlos Huertas followed Jaafar home to complete the top 10.

James Cole started well up the grid thanks to his ninth-place finish in round 10, many places ahead of his T-Sport team-mate and National Class rival Menasheh Idafar. Cole duly won - his seventh class victory - but was less than a second ahead of Idafar at the flag.

The third and final Hockenheim race is scheduled for Sunday morning. British F3 is sponsored by US tyre manufacturer Cooper Tire and is further supported by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and Mirror.co.uk

-source: bf3

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