VERGNE & SVENDSEN-COOK COMPLETE CARLIN'S HAT-TRICK
Following his Saturday first-round victory in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, Carlin's French ace Jean-Eric Vergne gave due notice of his championship title intentions at Oulton Park today with another win in round three. To make Carlin's weekend complete, one of the team's rookie racers, Rupert Svendsen-Cook, won round two in superb style.
Vergne leaves Cheshire with a 17-point championship lead, and heads next to the circuit he describes (ominously for his rivals) as his British favourite - Silverstone.
The first-ever 'reverse grid' sprint race of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series provided drama and overtaking aplenty, with F3 rookie Rupert Svendsen-Cook taking the win to make it two wins from two starts for the Carlin team.
The 19-year-old from Ipswich snatched the lead from the clutches of the far more experienced Daisuke Nakajima at the start of the fourth lap, Rupert forcing the Raikkonen Robertson Racing driver wide into Old Hall and stealing down his inside.
Nakajima had assumed command at the start, making the better getaway from the grid to overhaul pole-sitter Gabriel Dias. Dias tried to regain the lead at the start of the second lap but spun away his chances at the very slippery extremities of Old Hall Corner.
Once through and into the lead, Svendsen-Cook paced himself like an old pro to take a handsome half-second victory over Nakajima. "I'm very pleased," said Rupert. "Pre-season testing went well, but that's just testing. You never know what your pace is really like until you get into the racing. I knew that if I pressured Daisuke into Old Hall and forced him on to the wetter part of the track that I could get past, and so it proved."
Nakajima was downcast: "I'm very disappointed. I made a very good start to lead but when Rupert attacked I was forced wide and there was no grip."
Nakajima's Raikkonen Robertson team-mate Carlos Huertas played a conservative game and was rewarded with third. "Maybe I should have pushed harder," said the Colombian, "but my main focus has to be on the long race this afternoon." Huertas finished ahead of Carlin men Adriano Buzaid, Saturday victor Jean-Eric Vergne and Jazeman Jaafar, with Fortec's Daniel McKenzie (Poole) and Oli Webb (Knutsford), Hitech's Will Buller (Islip/Scarva) and T-Sport's Alex Brundle (Kings Lynn) completing the top 10.
T-Sport's Menasheh Idafar claimed his second National Class victory, his job made all the easier by the mid-race demise of his team-mate and class rival James Cole, who spun.
Vergne secured his second win of the Oulton Park weekend this afternoon, turning in a dominant performance in the 40-minute third round of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series. The Frenchman's victory also secured the hat-trick for Carlin and a 17-point championship lead for himself.
Just as in Saturday's round one, Vergne's Red Bull-backed and Volkswagen-powered Dallara slotted into the lead from pole position and never looked in danger of being deprived the win, even though Fortec's Oli Webb was again giving spirited chase. With Carlos Huertas stalling his Raikkonen Robertson Racing machine on the line, Webb slotted straight into second and kept close tabs on the leader.
Alas for Oli, his half-second deficit grew on the fourth lap to 1.5s after he erred, and thereafter, Webb admitted, he had little hope of catching Vergne. "If I hadn't had the moment I did on lap four, which caused a massive gap, we could have challenged for the lead. We definitely had the quicker car. The problem was I was trying a bit too hard and got on the kerbs, and lost a bit of time."
Vergne eased the pace considerably in the closing laps but still crossed the line 1.4s ahead. Said Jean-Eric: "It was a really good race. I pushed hard until the middle of the race and then eased off and tried hard not to make any mistakes. It was enough and I'm really happy."
Following his Round 2 victory, Rupert Svendsen-Cook impressed once again, holding third place from the lights to the chequered flag to secure his second visit to the podium and third place, just behind fellow rookie Webb, in the title stakes. His performances earned him the Sunoco Driver of the Weekend award.
Gabriel Dias made up for his Round 2 disappointments with a strong fourth for Hitech, just ahead of his countryman Adriano Buzaid.
After his qualifying dramas James Calado drove exceptionally well to battle up to eighth on the opening lap, and then to pick off Jay Bridger and Daisuke Nakajima to secure sixth in the Racing Steps Foundation car. Nakajima and Bridger held on for seventh and eighth, with Alex Brundle forced into a major defence against Daniel McKenzie to cling on for ninth at the flag.
James Cole was the sole National Class finisher after a first-lap mishap for his T-Sport team-mate Menasheh Idafar.