This afternoon at Rockingham in the British F3 International Series the 6th winner of the season was crowned in the shape of Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), the Swede holding off a spirited challenge from pole-sitter Jaime Alguersuari ...
This afternoon at Rockingham in the British F3 International Series the 6th winner of the season was crowned in the shape of Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), the Swede holding off a spirited challenge from pole-sitter Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport), both of them followed home by Max Chilton (Hitech Racing). In the National Class, on the other hand, we were back to the same old winner in the shape of Andy Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport), claiming his sixth victory from eight races.
However, that was all still to come. At the start there was drama front and centre as Hohenthal outdragged Alguersuari into the first corner, but not before the two of them and Chilton had run three abreast down towards Deene. Something was going to have to give, and in the end it was Alguersuari, despite him pushing the Swede very hard. Behind them Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport) and John Martin (Double R Racing) had tangled at Deene but were both able to get going again. The drama in the centre came when Henry Arundel (Double R Racing) stalled on the line and was unable to get moving. With the black car stranded on the grid, and Turvey among others narrowly missing collecting it, the Safety Car boards were hung out and the race promptly neutralised. It took a couple of laps to get a snatch vehicle out to the youngster and he was towed to the pits and out of contention.
Behind the leading trio (Hohenthal, Alguersuari and Chilton) Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing) was 4th holding off Meyrick, Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing), Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport), Sergio Perez (T-Sport) and Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport). In 11th Alistair Jackson (Ultimate Motorsport) was heading up his team-mate Ricardo Teixeira, from Steven Guerrero (T-Sport), Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport), Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport) who had started from the very back of the grid, Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing), Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport), Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport) and Hywel Lloyd (CF Motorsport). Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) was 21st, ahead of Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport), the recovering Martin, the equally keen on recovering Turvey, Craig Reiff (Nexa Racing) and Niall Quinn (Team Loctite).
At the restart two laps later Hohenthal held his nerve and the lead, while there were suspicions for a moment of two that the Safety Car might have to come back out straight away. Major was crawling round the back straight towards Tarzan, and finally ground to a halt at the entrance to the bend. It looked pretty dicey for a moment or two, but eventually he was craned away by the breakdown truck and we could all stop worrying. The order seemed to be relatively stable, although both Abay and Turvey were charging through the order in determined fashion. At the front Hohenthal seemed reasonably in command, though Alguersuari tended to catch him up at Brook, only to lose ground again in the back section of the circuit. Series leader Perez was struggling somewhat this time out, however, and at the restart had already lost a place to Ericsson - though he might just have decided it was safer not to try and resist the young Swede. While Chilton set a new fastest race lap, eclipsing Hohenthal's earlier effort, Al Khalifa seemed keen to emulate the youngster's earlier performance, taking to the oval after getting Deene all wrong. Unfortunately, it was an action that he would repeat once too often, starting with the next lap.
While he was doing that, Turvey had fought his way up to 16th now and was piling on the speed. His team-mate and National Class leader Meyrick was trying to stay out of trouble in 5th, but had Tandy and Devaney all over him and was trying to find a way to let them past without affecting his own race. Devaney's team-mates, Jackson and Teixeira, meanwhile, were embroiled in a tussle with Grubmuller that was becoming quite heated, especially in the more technical parts of the track, with Grubmuller despatching Teixeira in a smart move at the Deene hairpin, where Perez has just lost another place, this time to Abay. It looked as if the T-Sport driver had taken a gamble of some sort and it wasn't paying off in these conditions.
Meanwhile, the Mygale/Grubmuller battle had now been joined by Turvey, who went slithering past Teixeira at Tarzan to claim 13th and didn't look as if he'd stop at that. He was certainly having about as hard-working a time as team-mate Hartley who was now under intense pressure from Ericsson. Grubmuller, meanwhile, got the drop on Jackson at Deene; Jackson tried to fight back on the run round to Tarzan and promptly ended up off in the gravel.
At the front things remained much the same, though the fastest lap now belonged to Alguersuari. However, he just couldn't quite find the answer to Hohenthal no matter what he tried. Meyrick was still firmly in charge of the National Class, though he had let Tandy and Devaney through, probably wisely. Second in the class at this point was Guerrero, but Bridger was coming up fast, trying to find a way past Jensen so he could challenge the young Colombian. Elsewhere in the class the chronically inexperienced youngster Reiff had taken to the oval, a move that more and more of them seemed to be using. He at least didn't repeat the offence and followed the instructions about rejoining the race to the letter. Unfortunately he followed it up by throwing himself off in the gravel at Tarzan. Al Khalifa, however, came back from his third run round the short route to a drive through penalty for his trouble and an erroneous fastest lap on the screen that was a considerable number of seconds faster than was strictly plausible. He was quick to come in and serve his penalty but a lap later he was back in the pits having huge clumps of grass cleared out of the air intakes.
Behind Meyrick things were beginning to look more than a little lively again, with the battle for 7th in the International Class getting more than slightly heated. Turvey had hauled past Grubmuller and was briefly 12th behind Perez, and a lap later he was past the Mexican as well. Grubmuller took advantage of the initial move to get onto Perez's tail himself, but was confounded when the move he tried to pull at Deene saw Perez end up taking the oval in what was now apparently normal fashion for many of the drivers. He then slotted in far too far up and had to slow significantly to let through the people who had been in front of him before he went off.
With only a handful of laps left Turvey had caught up with Ericsson and Hartley and Abay was also gaining ground on the group. As they began the penultimate lap it was all change. Devaney got past Tandy, but then shot off round the oval, while Abay passed Ericsson only for Ericsson to take the place back again at the ever-popular Deene. Turvey was also pushing and had now set the Fastest Lap, while Perez finally dropped back to where he was supposed to be, even though he'd done it in instalments. The oval was still proving popular with many of the drivers, the offenders this time being Einar and Teixeira, the latter not waiting as he was supposed to. Having done pretty much the same thing and getting back in front of Tandy as a result, Devaney was now starting to catch Mustonen for 4th, while on the penultimate run into Deene there was a sort out for 7th, with Turvey benefiting significantly as a result. Going in it was Hartley, from Ericsson, Abay and Turvey. When they came back out Hartley was still in 7th, but now Turvey was just behind him, with Ericsson and Abay in the final points scoring places.
A delighted Hohenthal crossed the line just ahead of Alguersuari, and Chilton. Mustonen was 4th despite Devaney taking a last lap lunge at him. Tandy was next up and not too impressed by what had happened. A later sort out saw Devaney awarded a 4-second penalty which would put him back to 6th. Meyrick won the National Class, finishing 7th overall, followed by Hartley, Turvey and Ericsson. 11th on the road (10th in class) was Abay after a great effort, followed home by Perez (who got a 2-second penalty that dropped him back one place), Grubmuller, Teixeira (who was awarded a 7- second penalty and ended up classified behind Martin), Martin, Bridger, Guerrero, Jensen, Lloyd and Einar. 21st was Wilson from Quinn.
The fastest laps of the race went to Turvey and Meyrick.
Weather: Damp, cold, windy. Track drying.
Next Races: Rounds 9 & 10, Snetterton, Norfolk, 7th/8th June.