Changes: Robbie Kerr (2002 British F3 Champion) tested for Litespeed during the week, but decided the car was insufficiently competitive for it to be worth venturing out this weekend which meant Jay Bridger was drafted back in. However, Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) is back, making up the Invitation Class all on his own once again.
At Brands Hatch this morning the pole position for Race 1 of the British F3 International series went the way of Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsport) while Race 3 will see the other Fortec driver, Daniel McKenzie claim pole, but not before everyone spent two hours with the Race Director discussing who had and had not continued at an unabated pace after an outbreak of yellow flags. Second place for both races went to James Calado (Carlin), with Webb starting 3rd tomorrow and Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) starting 3rd this afternoon.
Although the International Class championship is now done and dusted and in the hands of Jean-Eric Vergne, the runner-up slot is still open to question, with Calado, Webb and Buzaid in contention as we come into the final race weekend of the season. However, it is still all to play for in the National Class where - after 27 races - Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) is a mere 4 points ahead of team-mate James Cole, with three races and 54 points up for grabs.
Certainly there seemed to be an unwanted sense of urgency about the pack this morning, as they all rushed out onto the Brands GP circuit the minute the green lights came on. Vergne was an early pole-sitter with Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) in 2nd. Buzaid was going well too at this stage but Vergne was looking determined and fast. It was all change in the first part of the session though, with Calado springing ahead, then Webb, only for the two of them to be separated by Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), and McKenzie who quickly got on the pace to go 4th. Idafar led the National Class briefly on; for Cole to leap ahead. Vergne responded by raising the bar and going ahead of Calado. Webb then edged into the 1:18s, while Jaafar went 2nd; it seems he likes this place.
Another lap; another change as Idafar edged ahead of Cole again, while Buzaid plummeted to 20th, which showed just how changeable this session was becoming. Cole almost immediately got back ahead of Idafar, though only briefly. Life had just gone a bit pear-shaped for Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing), the Brazilian ripping a wheel off on impact with the barriers. His session was over after only three laps.
At the front, it was now Webb from Buzaid, but then Calado went even faster, and the times just kept on tumbling. For a moment or two Calado was on pole by 0.000 seconds, as Jaafar set an identical time but went second by virtue of not having done the time first. It's not a difference you see often on a timing screen. It vanished when Webb went faster, while Vergne had dropped to 8th only to bounce back to 5th. Meanwhile Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) shot up the order to 3rd, while McKenzie was now 4th.
In the National Class Cole was reprimanded for not respecting the track limits, which allowed Idafar to take advantage of his momentary slow down to go back ahead. These two seem determined to take their fight all the way down to the wire. At the front, meanwhile, Calado was back on pole from Webb with the halfway stage coming up. And then it all went quiet, if you overlooked Alex Brundle (T-Sport) having a brief off at Surtees. And the reason it had gone quiet was because almost everyone (except Dias) was now in the pits fresh tyres. Just before pitting, McKenzie had snagged 3rd but there was still work to be done.
It wasn't long before they were all back out again, Webb going out and going to pole on his first flying lap on new rubber. All of this meant that Dias had fallen down to 17th and looked likely to lose even more ground as the session speeded up again. Cole was now edging up behind Idafar but was still not quite fast enough, while Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) and Jay Bridget (Litespeed F3) both moved ahead of Dias. Another lap from Bridger saw him go 14th, while Vergne improved to 5th again with five minutes of the session left. Another effort from Idafar moved him to13th and left Cole a long way behind. And it was still all change with Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) coming through for 3rd, and Buzaid improving to 6th which landed Vergne back in an unaccustomed 7th. He didn't stay there - Calado reclaimed pole while Vergne rocketed into 2nd only to have Webb edge back into 2nd while attention suddenly shifted to McKenzie who had just done a blindingly quick first sector. While Svendsen-Cook suddenly appeared in 4th which became 5th when Buzaid went faster, McKenzie built on that first sector to go fastest overall.
William Buller (Hitech Racing) suddenly seemed to wake up and appeared in 7th while further back Bridger improved again for 12th and Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) slotted in behind Buller in 8th and that was when the trouble started. Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport) went off at Paddock, creating such a massive cloud of dust that Jaafar, arriving just behind the Russian, also went off because he couldn't see. Just to add to the fun, and not wishing to be left out, Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) came off at Surtees. At this point there were yellows at several points, so there should have been no further improvements. That left McKenzie at the top of the order from Calado, Webb, Vergne, Huertas and Buzaid. To no one's great surprise there were still drivers going faster out there. Nasr came tearing round to go fastest overall, and then Calado also went faster to push the Brazilian down a place. Nasr responded by going even faster, which was enough to earn both of them a trip to the clerk of the course's office straight after the session ended.
The order on the screen at the end of the 30 minutes was Nasr, from Calado, McKenzie, Webb, Vergne, Huertas, Buzaid, Buller, Nakajima and Svendsen-Cook. N 11th was Jaafar, ahead of Bridger, Fantin, Brundle, Idafar, Lucas Foresti (Carlin), Fong, Lloyd, Cole and the stranded Dias. 21st and last was Snegirev. Once the dust settled, however, Calado, Brundle, Nakajima, Bridger, Lloyd, Nasr and Foresti all had their fastest lap times set after the flags went out disallowed. That mean the order was McKenzie, Calado, Webb, Vergne, Huertas, Buzaid, Buller, Nasr and Svendsen- Cook. 11th was still Jaafar, from Fantin, Idafar, Bridger, Brundle, Foresti, Fong, Lloyd, Cole and Dias. Snegirev remained dead last.
Weather: Cold, sunny, dry.