Weather: Cold, windy, big black clouds. Knockhill is a very short circuit, with a tight hairpin bend (Taylors) just before the start/finish line. It also goes up and down a lot, the only flat bit of the grid being pole position. Everyone else is...
Weather: Cold, windy, big black clouds.
Knockhill is a very short circuit, with a tight hairpin bend (Taylors) just before the start/finish line. It also goes up and down a lot, the only flat bit of the grid being pole position. Everyone else is starting uphill, which makes it difficult to get an F3 car off the line, even for those lucky few near the front who can see the starting gantry lights. There was a certain amount of confusion at the back of the field, as Farriz Fauzy (Team SYR) stalled at the entrance to Taylors and had to be push-started by a couple of suitably beefy marshals. Once they all got themselves sorted out and into place, the race could get underway.
Pole man Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) made a textbook start, getting it off the line and into the lead, with Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports) following closely in his wheel tracks. Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) made a stunning start too, charging through to 3rd. Behind the three of them, Scholarship Class pole sitter Steven Kane (T-Sport) failed to get away at all well, as he couldn't see the lights and had to wait for his team boss to shout "Go!" at him. It probably saved him from embarrassment, to say nothing of serious structural damage. Just ahead of him the Carlin Motorsport team seemed set on self-destruction. Richard Antinucci and Jamie Green banged wheels, Green giving way to the American. As he backed off, he was hit by Ronnie Bremer and pitched into a spin. Alan van der Merwe hit the spinning Green and broke half of his front wing off, while Green limped to the pits to retire. At least three of them survived, though somehow I don't think Trevor Carlin will have seen the funny side. After all, the one thing you really aren't supposed to do is hit your teammates. Oddly enough, Green seemed to think it was all van der Merwe's fault. The impact of all of this wasn't confined to Carlin though, as Robert Dahlgren was unable to take avoiding action, banged into the Carlin car breaking its suspension, and ended up dead last as a result.
There was a brief period of calm after that but it all went wrong at Taylors a lap later. Tor Graves (Manor Motorsport), Ivor McCullough (Meritus Racing) and Christian England (Promatecme F3) tangled at Taylors, all three of them ending up in the gravel, at least temporarily. England was able to continue on his way almost immediately, but McCullough and Graves needed help to get going again. Graves returned to the track, but McCullough wasn't so lucky and was clipped by Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing), pulling the wing off his Dallara and putting him out for good. Thompson continued on his way for one more lap, while McCullough retired to the pits immediately. The marshals spent some time clearing the wreckage away, before the officials decided to scramble the Safety Car. By the time it picked up the lead car, it was no longer needed so it stayed out for one lap and then pulled back in again.
And so, the order behind the Safety Car was Piccione, Piquet, Austin, Antinucci, Bremer, van der Merwe and Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing). Kane was leading the Scholarship Class with a nice comfortable cushion between himself and teammate Karun Chandhok. That cushion consisted of Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport) and Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport). 12th was Fairuz Fauzy (Team SYR), who was followed by Michael Keohane (Promatecme F3), Danny Watts (Hitech Racing), Ernani Judice (Promatecme F3), and Ernesto Viso (P1) was 3rd in the Scholarship Class. Scott Speed (Alan Docking Racing), Eric Salignon (Hitech), Rizal Ramli (SYR), Farriz Fauzy, Christian England (Promatecme), Dahlgren and Graves made up the remainder of the field.
At the restart Piquet tried to find a way round Piccione but couldn't, while the Carlin demolition attempt continued, with Bremer hitting Antinucci hard from behind in an attempt to get past. It didn't work, and it didn't make Richard happy either. Meanwhile van der Merwe was just trying to hold it all together with only half a wing to maintain stability at the front end; he had no choice but to let Davison go, but at least he had the advantage after that of Kane sitting behind him. Kane knew he was safe from Chandhok because Fabi and Asaro were having a running battle just ahead of the Indian driver. He wasn't about to attack van der Merwe, particularly as he wasn't sure whether passing a Championship Class runner would mean that the man he passed would get less points (they wouldn't) at might therefore react badly. He wasn't about to take any chances anyway, which at least allowed van der Merwe to relax a little. At the back of the field an infuriated Graves was trying to get past Farriz Fauzy, while at the very front Piquet again attacked Piccione and was again repulsed. The Monegasque wasn't about to let anyone steal his moment of glory if he could avoid it, but Piquet kept on trying until it became obvious that he wasn't going to find a way through. At that point he seemed to lose interest.
Third place had now passed to Antinucci, after Austin found that he had no gears lower than fourth anymore - which was making getting round Taylors very interesting indeed. He began losing places almost as fast as he'd gained them, finally pulling into the pits and out of the race as they reached half distance. The battle between Fabi and Asaro was hotting up, the Canadian getting ahead, but then having to defend fiercely to stay there. With that happening ahead of him, and Fairuz Fauzy trying to hold off Watts, Keohane and Judice, Chandhok was probably quite content to sit in 2nd place in class, while Kane was continuing to protect van der Merwe's back. It was beginning to seem rather processional, at least at the front. From Chandhok's point of view, the plan was about to fall apart when he made a mistake and the foursome behind him became the foursome in front of him, dropping him back into Viso's clutches.
Someone else not having a good time was Dahlgren, the Swede having fought his way up the order only to fall off at Taylors, which put him right back to last again. He wasn't at all pleased about it.
At the front Piccione was now opening out a substantial gap from Piquet, while Antinucci had escaped from Bremer's attentions, and Davison in 5th was in no real position to challenge the Dane though he was steadily catching up with the Carlin car. With ten laps left to run, it was just possible that life was about to get very interesting as the field came up fast behind Farriz Fauzy. He has so little experience that you can't be sure what he'll do when being lapped, so there was a collective intake of breath from the watching spectators on the hill as Piccione gained on the SYR car. It turned to a sigh of relief as Fauzy dived into the pits before he could be lapped.
Someone else who wasn't too pleased about the way things were going was Chandhok, who now had his hands full fighting off Viso for 2nd place in the Scholarship Class. It wasn't any too gentlemanly either. Viso finally made his move and tried to take Chandhok by going up the inside of him. In response, Chandhok gave him a shove but couldn't stop him taking the place. To add insult to injury, Speed also passed him, though obviously it didn't make any difference to Chandhok in terms of his final place in class.
The Championship Class result saw van der Merwe increase his series lead despite only finishing in 6th place, while Piccione came home a delighted winner, breaking Manor's run of bad results. A lot of people who had travelled from Monaco to see him race were very happy and very vocal about it. Piquet was pleased with his place too, while Antinucci was the first of the Carlin cars to cross the line, ahead of Bremer who had held Davison off in the final laps. It hadn't been a classic race, but it was good to see yet another winner this season.
-Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers