For Stuart Hall (T-Sport) the second F3 qualifying session of the day didn't get off to the best of starts, after he found himself stranded out the back of the circuit in the Camaro he was sharing with his Dad in the historic touring car...
For Stuart Hall (T-Sport) the second F3 qualifying session of the day didn't get off to the best of starts, after he found himself stranded out the back of the circuit in the Camaro he was sharing with his Dad in the historic touring car race. He came back at a run, pretty flustered, just in time to leap into his Dallara and go out to qualify. He wasn't the only one whose session was looking dubious at this point. At Performance, the guys were working furiously to rebuild Rodolfo Avila's car after his trip into the barriers at Westfield in the morning session. The car was being held together with hope and a large roll of white tape, and it looked like they might just get the Macanese driver out there. How the Dallara would handle was anyone's guess, but having been a collection of parts less than an hour before the session was due to start, he could consider himself lucky to have a car to drive at all.
Out on the track, Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) had started pretty much as he meant to go on and was on provisional pole immediately. Hall, meanwhile, was 2nd, seemingly none the worse for his cross-country dash. 4th was Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), with Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) just behind him. Interestingly, it wasn't long before the rest of the Carlin Motorsport boys started to show their paces, with Engel and Oliver Jarvis setting identical times (1:20.544) on the same lap to claim pole and 2nd respectively, while Christian Bakkerud made it a Carlin top three, at least for a while. A lap later and Jarvis was on pole with a 1:19, only to have Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) claim it back from him, while Mike Conway and Stephen Jelley, in the other two Raikkonen Robertson Racing run cars were scrapping for 3rd. Now you'd think after the morning session with its three red flag stoppages things might be a bit calmer this time out. Not a bit of it. Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport) had gone off at Westfield, despite the morning's chaos serving as a warning to be careful through there, and had done major damage to his car. He was fine, but the car wasn't, and so a stoppage duly occurred while the teenager could be dragged out of the gravel and removed to a safe place.
At this point, Senna was on pole, from Jarvis, Jelley, Conway, James Jakes (Hitech Racing), Engel, Bakkerud, Hall, Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing) and Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport). Kennard (who had slipped down the order) was 21st, ahead of Karl Reindler, James Walker (Hitech Racing), Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3), Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport), Kudzak, Alex Waters (Promatecme F3), Juho Annala (Performance Racing) and Invitation Class runner Basil Shaaban (Comtec). Bringing up the rear was Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), the Japanese not having set a competitive time so far, and Avila, who hadn't yet been out. The stoppage at least allowed the Performance guys a little more time to get the car bolted and taped back together. There were still 23 minutes of the session left so that would give Avila plenty of opportunity to set a time. However, a red flag this early on didn't look good. Based on past experience, once they start like this, they tend to continue in the same vein. Anyway, everyone but Kudzak duly headed out at the restart, with Engel and Bakkerud leading the charge.
The first significant change, however, came when Annala again snatched the National Class pole from under Gonzalez's nose, the Finn on fine form in Kent and looking like a significant threat in the second half the season, not something one might have believed possible last year.
Engel was also charging, moving back up the order to 3rd, and a lap later taking pole away from Senna, only to see Senna grab it back by a margin of 0.022 seconds. Engel responded, and a lap later he was back on top, with a 1:19.129, reversing Senna's numbers in a tidy piece of driving (Senna had set a 1:19.219). With Buurman now awake and lurking in 4th ahead of Jelley, the order took a further reshuffle when Jakes edged into 3rd and Walker leapt into 5th. And then, 6 minutes after they'd restarted the session, those red flags were out again, perhaps inevitably for yet another incident at Westfield. The rate of attrition was beginning to look like group stupidity rather than simple misfortunate. This time the guilty party was Senna, who had done a substantial amount of damage to his Dallara in the process of losing it good and proper, and although the Brazilian was fine, he'd not be running in the rest of the session.
Again the session was cut by five minutes, which you couldn't help feeling was a bit unfair on those who were showing sense, and might well be compounding the problems as a bunch of unsettled drivers found themselves with a lot less time to get a good qualifying position.
At the restart, the order was Engel from Senna, Jarvis, Jakes, Walker, Jelley, Buurman, Conway, Kennard and Bakkerud. Annala was 11th overall at the head of the National Class, from Hall, Duran, Reindler, Valerio, Morgado, Gonzalez, Kudzak, Waters and Shaaban. Ihara still hadn't improved on her sub 6-minute lap, and Avila had just completed his out lap when the session was halted.
After a reasonably short pause the session got underway once more, with around 11 minutes left to run. Conway promptly set his personal best time, but then got blocked by Duran who was all over the grass and gravel and generally getting in the way of the series leader, who wasn't too impressed. The Mexican really promised so much, but has been the major disappointment of the season, and seems to be becoming more and more erratic as he tries to get to grips with the Championship Class car; he certainly doesn't look like the same man who impressed in A1GP over the winter or in the National Class last year. Meanwhile, Jarvis had improved his time but not his position, as had Conway yet again. A clear run for Jarvis at last saw him move up the order a lap later, the rookie snatching pole with a blinding 1:18.860. It was an impressive effort. Of course all of this meant Senna was slipping down the order and could only sit and hope that not too many of the other improved as the session wore on.
Valerio was now up to 11th, so he wouldn't trouble Senna, and Conway was still 8th and frustrated, becoming more so when Bakkerud demoted him to 9th. Buurman, on the other hand, was on the move, gaining several places to go 3rd. A fresh effort on Conway's part saw him in 4th, as Duran hauled his car into the pits to get grass and gravel cleared from the air intakes.
In the National Class, Annala still held position, though Morgado and Gonzalez kept chopping and changing for 2nd on class, the series leader Gonzalez eventually getting the better of the South African. There was a little reshuffle going on in the Championship Class too, with Jakes now 6th, Hall in 9th, and Bakkerud and Jelley disputing 7th and 8th. With both Bakkerud and Walker setting personal bests in the first sector, it looked as if there might be more changes, but instead there was another of those red flags, with yet another driver losing it at Westfield and going off in a big way. This time it was Shaaban, the likeable Lebanese absolutely destroying the car in the process.
Once again there were less than three minutes left and so the session was brought to a premature end, which made more sense than turning them lose again to cause more mayhem. Jarvis claimed his second pole position of the season, from team-mate Engel, with Buurman making it three rookies in the top three spots. Conway was a disappointed 4th, from Senna (who was lucky not to lose more ground), Walker, Jakes, Jelley, Bakkerud and Hall. Kennard would start 11th, with Valerio, and Duran taking up the next two places. Annala was in possession of his second pole position of the year (and the day for that matter), in front of Reindler, Gonzalez, Morgado, Shaaban, Waters and Kudzak. Avila managed the necessary three laps to ensure he qualified, and was 21st overall ahead of Ihara.