In what now seems to be a case of normality, Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) was the first driver out on the circuit and to try and get a good lap as soon as possible, a necessity on this short circuit where 31 drivers are all...
In what now seems to be a case of normality, Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) was the first driver out on the circuit and to try and get a good lap as soon as possible, a necessity on this short circuit where 31 drivers are all looking for elbow room. He was the first driver to set a flying lap, to be followed in the order by Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport) and Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), the three of them all looking very fast, at least in the early stages.
A lap later and Kennard was briefly on pole position as the times started to tumble rapidly. Just to emphasise how this affected the times, Alex Waters (Promatecme F3) was temporarily in the lead of the National Class and was 4th overall. Seconds later, Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) was on pole, though again it was very briefly. In fact if you blinked you might have missed that, just as you might have missed Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport), who also hit pole for a moment or two. That was before Kennard came back with a 1:02, only to be shoved back down by Engel, Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). It was all very close at the front and it would get a lot closer. Sergio Perez (T-Sport), meanwhile, was now in the lead of the National Class and all the way up in 8th overall.
The next thing was that Engel and Jelley started matching times, but eventually Engel started to edge ahead again, and Mustonen was also showing signs of increased speed. He was soon up to 3rd. The other Carlin boys soon started to find some speed too, with Niall Breen improving to go 7th. Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) was also looking quick now, slotting into 8th. However the temperature was starting to rise and F3 engines tend to lose their edge as it gets hotter. It looked as if this could turn into the usual Snetterton session, with all the improvements happening in the first 10 to 15 minutes and then nothing after that.
Certainly the times were still plummeting, with Engel now setting a 1.01.838. The order now was Engel, from Jelley, Mustonen, Kennard and Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport). Breen had something to say about it though and a few seconds later he was up to 4th. Additionally, John Martin (Alan Docking Racing) was also showing well and was in the top 10 once more. Whether he could hang onto it was another question, but after showing what he was capable of with the overtaking move of the season so far at Bucharest, it seems he is worthy of the hype.
Breen was still pushing hard and looked as if he was on for another quick lap, which was more than could be said for Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), who was a very long way back and slowing right down in search of a clear lap. Our suspicions about Breen proved to be well- founded, as he set a flying 1:01.747 to claim pole. Someone who was proving unexpectedly rapid was Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport), the Lola proving less of a handful now that Lola has supplied a couple of engineers. Perhaps the arrival of Mygale has concentrated the minds of those involved.Whatever the case, after bravely trialling the car at Bucharest, the personable South African seemed much more comfortable on a track he's familiar with. The order was in flux though, with Valerio now in 4th and Moraes shooting up to 7th. Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) was also now in the top 10, in 9th place, with the top 7 locked out by Raikkonen Robertson Racing and Carlin Motorsport. Of course that also meant that there was no trace of Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), the series leader getting off to a very slow start. It was starting to look as if the changes might now slow down, after Jelley improved his time but stayed 3rd, while Mustonen grabbed pole from Breen, who was now leading Engel and Bird. At last Asmer started to show, moving to 6th, while Valerio found another improvement to go 3rd. Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) was now 9th, and looking better than he has so far this year, while Hohenthal was an unexpectedly distant 15th. A further effort from Asmer saw him move up to 4th, though he didn't get to keep it very long. Bird promptly snatched it from him, while further down the order, Perez still led the National Class, and in fact showed little sign of being displaced, and Chilton as ever was the fastest (and only) Invitation Class runner, and was now 14th overall. The youngster is learning fast despite this being his first ever season in single seaters.
The times stopped changing suddenly after Jelley spun at Riches trying to do what he'd been able to do yesterday and take the corner flat; today the Dallara was simply not having it. Stephen spun off and the yellow flags sprouted around the Raikkonen Robertson Racing car. Engel took what looked like a great opportunity to pit and go out later while everyone else was in. It might not work, especially as it was still warming up out there, but only time would tell.
Hohenthal was on the move now, and was up in 8th, with his team-mare, Greg Mansell, right behind him, the Mansells having returned after flouncing out at Bucharest. With half the session gone the order now was Mustonen, from Breen, Kennard, Valerio, Bird, Asmer, Engel, Jelley, Hohenthal and Greg Mansell. Gonzalez was now 11th, ahead of Moraes, Petterson, Martin, Walter Grubm