At Brands Hatch this morning, Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) survived an early attack from William Buller (Hitech Racing) to win the final sprint race of the season in British F3. Second was Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) from Adriano Buzaid (Carlin). The National Class was won by Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) from team-mate James Cole, which means that with one race left the title fight is going down to the wire, 13 points separating the two of them.
Before the start, Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport) was pushed off the grid and into the pit lane, suffering from clutch problems, while Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) managed to spin off on his way to the grid, presumably a victim of cold tyres. He recovered but it was a bit embarrassing for him.
At the start, Buller tore off the line alongside McKenzie, and then attempted to get up the inside of the Fortec man at Druids. The inevitable happened, and Buller clipped the rear of McKenzie's car, putting himself off the road. Behind the pair of them, it was madness for a moment or two. Huertas was in 3rd, but behind him Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) took advantage of Rupert Svendsen-Cook's (Carlin) abortive attempt to pass Buzaid (complete with wheel-banging and a lot of grass), and charged through at Graham Hill Bend to nab 4th, and improvement of four places for the 2010 champion in less than four corners. James Calado (Carlin) also went through on Svendsen-Cook too, thus putting himself in a good position to claim the runner-up's slot in the championship, especially as his nearest rival, Oli Webb (Fortec Motorsport) lost out in all the bumping and barging and ended up back in 7th. There was wheel-banging further back too, with Cole having to show Adderley Fong (Sino Vision Racing) who was boss, the Chinese driver settling back in behind the National Class man by the time they came out of Graham Hill Bend. And if you wanted excitement, that was it for this race. Unfortunately, Brands Hatch no longer lends itself to exciting racing in F3, the cars being just too wide and the track too narrow, and so once again, after an initial sort out, what followed was very uninspiring.
With McKenzie comfortably in the lead, and Idafar well ahead in the National Class the only hope for any excitement came from seeing who could find enough space to get fastest lap and thus add to their points score. The first fastest lap went to McKenzie but he wasn't being pushed so it wasn't too big a surprise when the others started going faster. Buzaid particularly was on a mission to try and set fastest lap, which he did early on, smashing the current lap record (held by Jaime Alguersuari until today). This was particularly important for Buzaid if he wanted to overhaul Webb to end the year 3rd. He was being helped in this by the fact that Webb was stuck behind Svendsen-Cook and seemed to be losing ground, so it was now looking very much as if Calado would cement second in the title fight by end of the race.
McKenzie then speeded up, as did Svendsen-Cook, and then Buzaid went even faster, responding to the fact that Vergne had clawed 6/10ths of a second out of the gap during a single lap. Vergne then fell back again, having to control the pace and make sure he didn't make a mistake because he now had Calado breathing down his neck, and Svendsen-Cook was looking interested just behind the pair of them.
Further back Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) was now up to 14th, having started from the back of the grid after a disastrous qualifying session for the Brazilian. Between him and Buller, it really wasn't Hitech's morning. Meanwhile, the fastest lap had now gone to Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), the youngster trying to find a way past Nakajima for 8th and failing. He was trying hard though, as was Idafar who went very wide at Graham Hill Bend but survived as he got involved in a needless battle with the International Class cars of Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) and the recovering Buller.
Near the front Svendsen-Cook was right with Calado as they went into Paddock but again there was nothing to be done, especially as Rupert managed to delay himself on the run out of Druids. At the back, meanwhile, Snegirev had passed Fong for the penultimate place in the order, while Nasr again set another fastest lap. Just to make sure we all stayed awake, Idafar again ran very wide at Graham Hill Bend, getting all four wheels on the grass this time and probably giving team boss Russell Eacott a few more unwanted grey hairs. He wasn't the only one - Trevor Carlin was probably wondering which way to look as Vergne ran wide again in his pursuit of Buzaid for 3rd. He was towing Calado with him too, Svendsen-Cook having dropped away from the internecine battle for 3rd now.
Just when it looked as if we might get all of the cars back at the end of the race, Fong almost inevitably threw himself into the scenery at Hawthorn all on his own, damaging the car and putting himself out of the race. That left 20 instead of 21, and even Nasr seemed to have calmed down, so much so that Alex Brundle (T-Sport) was actually closing on him.
And that was it. A delighted McKenzie claimed his second win of the season, from Huertas, Buzaid, Vergne, Calado, Svendsen-Cook, Webb, Nakajima, Nasr and Brundle. Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3) was 11th, from Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Lucas Foresti (Carlin), Dias, Idafar, Lloyd, Buller, Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) who won the Invitation Class by virtue of being the only runner, Cole (despite being shown the driving standards flag towards the end) and Snegirev.
Fastest laps went to Nasr, Idafar and Fantin.
Weather: Cold, cloudy.