Autosport British F3 Championship 1998 Rounds 11 & 12, Pembrey, August 15th/16th by Stella Thomas
In cold, breezy conditions, the drivers lined up to take the start of Round 11 of the 1998 British F3 Championship. Before the warm-up lap was completed it was quite clear that Portman Arrows were in trouble. As if having crashed and written off the crew bus the night before ("Put it this way - it's a lot shorter than it used to be") Paula Cook's Renault engine was doing a passable impression of a barbecue, smoking heavily. It looked to be on the verge of a major blow-up but it had been suggested that it would last the distance. Anyway there was no alternative so she simply had to hope.
As predicted, the usual Pembrey chaos broke out at the start. With such a tight Hairpin to negotiate immediately after the start there are almost always problems. This time they were multiple. The first casualty was Michael Bentwood, who was forced off before they even got to the Hairpin. He was followed in quick succession by Yudai Igarashi who was hit by Tim Spouge (who carried on minus one or to body parts). Yudai came to rest just beyond the first turn and then Adam Wilcox got one corner further before crashing out.
The marshals seemed unable to move Bentwood's car to a safe place and the officials seemed unable to decide quite what to do. At one point a red flag was shown but then withdrawn and finally, on lap 3, the Safety Car came out. While all this was going on, Enrique Bernoldi had made a dreadful start, getting very out of shape into the first corner. He ran so wide he dropped several places and was down to 6th by the time the safety car emerged.
The dramas didn't stop there either. Series newcomer, Kit Lei Meng was still having trouble with his gear and clutch work and in the confusion, stalled coming through the Hairpin. He coasted to a halt alongside the ADR car of Igarashi, the whole providing a rather attractive Zen garden effect. Meanwhile, the car immediately behind the Safety Car was that of Andrej Pavicevic who had been into the pits. It took rather a long time for him to be allowed through and all this time the leaders were going at a higher speed than seemed wise, trying to link up with the Safety Car.
For 7 laps, they all trailed around, and on Lap 10 were finally given the all clear to resume racing. Narain Karthikeyan was trying hard but his inexperience showed. He lost a place on the original start and this time he lost out again, though he was still driving a more than tolerable race for a relative newcomer. Up at the front, Warren Hughes was pushing very hard, harassing leader Mario Haberfeld every way he could. Hughes is on top form right now, the ultra-white hair dye job he has had seeming to make him even faster than the strawberry blond he originally opted for when he didn't want to be a redhead any longer. The naturally blond Haberfeld was completely unruffled though.
Which was more than you could say for Enrique Bernoldi. He was furious with himself and frustrated at the Safety Car delay. He was on a charge to make up lost ground and was soon past Karthikeyan for 5th and on the tail of Luciano Burti. On Lap 14 he took a run at his compatriot up the inside of the Hairpin. It was a daring manoeuvre and it paid off. In one of those classic moves he was through to 4th place. Admittedly Burti wasn't about to make an issue of it. He was racing for points and wanted a finish so he didn't make life difficult for the youngster. After this though, Bernoldi was faced with a rather different proposition in the shape of Jamie Spence. The Martin Donnelly driver was on course for a podium finish and wasn't about to relinquish it to anyone. Jamie had nothing to lose and Enrique had the sense to realise it.
Further down the order, Martin O'Connell's miserable weekend was not getting any better, Losing out at the start to Ricardo Mauricio, he was unable to do anything to improve on 11th place and would finish just outside the points. Realistically, his title challenge is over now.
Close to the back, the unexpected was happening and Cook was still running though the engine was still smoking alarmingly. It didn't stop her trying though, and having started with a 10 second penalty because she was unable to practice, she recovered well to haul the stricken car home in 14th place, a lot higher than anyone would have predicted at the start. She was just ahead of debutant Mark Boost who stayed out of trouble for a nice quite morning's work.
The main news of the morning was that Haberfeld was now leading the title battle by 1 point from Bernoldi. The other story was that of Phillip Scifleet who was now confirmed as National Class Champion after taking the victory despite an early spin. He was delighted at his achievement and can now concentrate on trying to raise the money for Class A. His short term ambition is to compete at Macau this year and then do a full season next year.
Results - Race 1: 1st No. 2 Mario Haberfeld, Paul Stewart Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Time: 20:27.416, 85.40 mph/137.45 kph 2nd No. 21 Warren Hughes, Portman Arrows Racing, F398 Renault, Gap: 2.055 3rd No. 14 Jamie Spence, Martin Donnelly Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 5.735 4th No. 5 Enrique Bernoldi, Promatecme, F398 Renault, Gap: 6.014 5th No. 1 Luciano Burti, Paul Stewart Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 8.344 6th No. 12 Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin Motorsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 8.605 7th No. 27 Ben Collins, Intersport, F398 Spiess Opel, Gap: 9.595 8th No. 6 Marc Hynes, Promatecme, F398 Renault, Gap: 10.043 9th No. 4 Kristian Kolby, Fortec Motorsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 10.742 10th No. 7 Ricardo Mauricio, Alan Docking Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 11.143 11th No. 16 Martin O'Connell, TOM'S GB, F398 TOM'S Toyota, Gap: 12.996 12th No. 52 Phillip Scifleet, Rowan Racing, F396 TOM'S Toyota, Time: 20:47.771 (National Class Winner) 13th No. 17 Warren Carway, Rowan Racing, F398 TOM'S Toyota, Gap: 29.579 14th No. 22 Paula Cook, Portman Arrows Racing, F398 Spiess Opel, Gap: 32.429 15th No. 10 Mark Boost, GB, Speedsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 45.345 16th No. 77 John Ingram, F396 HKS Mitsubishi, Gap: 51.601 17th No. 53 Steve Hayr, Tarry Falcon Racing, F396 Mugen Honda, Gap: 53.439 18th No. 3 Andrej Pavicevic, Fortec Motorsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 2 laps
DNF: No. 20 Tim Spouge, S. S. Sport, F398 Mugen Honda, Lap 20 No. 15 Lei Kit Meng, Carlin Motorsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Lap 5 - stalled No. 8 Yudai Igarashi, Alan Docking Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Lap 1 - pushed off by Tim Spouge No. 9 Michael Bentwood, Speedsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Lap 1 - crashed No. 42 Adam Wilcox, Intersport, F398 Spiess Opel, Lap 1 - crashed
Fastest Laps: Mario Haberfeld, F398 Mugen Honda, Time: 0:50.696, 103.39 mph/166.39 kph, Lap 3 Phillip Scifleet, F396 TOM'S Toyota, Time: 0:52.125, 100.55 mph/161.83 kph, Lap 4
The afternoon warmed up and the race was run under warm, cloudy skies. However, if we thought this meant an incident-free race we were to be disillusioned quite early on. Bernoldi made another dreadful start, while Haberfeld was mugged for the lead by Burti. Haberfeld was dropped to 4th by this, coming through the Hairpin very sideways. Meanwhile Kristian Kolby, aiming for the title Unluckiest Driver in Formula Three, was in the pits having been struck firmly up the rear by his team mate of all people. It was another of those Kolby moments, the young Dane seeming go be unable to master the art of a good start. This is a shame, as he has everything else he needs to be a winner, but, as he demonstrated at Zandvoort, this is the chick in his armour and it needs to be sorted out soon.
Near the back Mark Boost was out already, while Paula Cook had a spin that dropped her way back. She came mad as hell and still smoking heavily. And thereafter things settled down for a while, Hughes and Bernoldi scrapping for 2nd while Burti proceeded on his way towards the flag. However, on lap 9 came an incident that changed the shape of the race. Hughes knocked Bernoldi sideways after an opportunistic move went badly wrong, leaving Haberfeld in 2nd. The furious Brazilian spun, taking Hughes with him. Bernoldi came back in 8th place while Hughes dropped himself to 13th. Afterwards, the Englishman admitted it was his fault and would have gone to apologise but was advised that he had better leave it until Enrique was calmer.
The third victim of this fracas was Martin O'Connell who had been running in 7th until Bernoldi decided to try for the place. He drove straight into the back end of the Rowan Racing car and ripped the diffuser off it. Martin was less than pleased by this, and not at all amused at losing a place that way. And that was more or less the end of it until Bentwood went off at the Hairpin at the start of Lap 16 and the race had to be red-flagged and the result declared on Lap 15.
Burti was confident that Haberfeld would settle for runner-up slot and was delighted to score points after the debacle of Silverstone. Haberfeld, struggling with understeer and the lack of clear air was more than content with 15 points for second and an extra one for fastest lap. Meanwhile, behind the two PSR cars, Marc Hynes had salvaged some honour for Promatecme, coming home third. "The team keep telling me to score points, but I haven't always listened and I've ended up sticking it in the hedge. I've learned a lot from the last 10 races," an obviously delighted Hynes said afterwards.
For a change, John Ingram won the National Class battle after Phillip Scifleet fell victim to Adam Wilcox at the start and had to pit for a new nose. Ingram was more than satisfied with his result, especially after he had to start at the back with a 10 second penalty having missed practice. Scifleet, meanwhile, came back to take the class fastest lap, and third place though to rack up an unbelievable points score of 237.
Results - Race 2: 1st No. 1 Luciano Burti, Paul Stewart Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Time: 13:00.777, 100.69 mph/162.06 kph 2nd No. 2 Mario Haberfeld, Paul Stewart Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 0.402 3rd No. 6 Marc Hynes, Promatecme, F398 Renault, Gap: 2.551 4th No. 12 Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin Motorsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 3.414 5th No. 7 Ricardo Mauricio, Alan Docking Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 3.757 6th No. 14 Jamie Spence, Martin Donnelly Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 5.681 7th No. 5 Enrique Bernoldi, Promatecme, F398 Renault, Gap: 7.903 8th No. 16 Martin O'Connell, TOM'S GB, F398 TOM'S Toyota, Gap: 9.212 9th No. 27 Ben Collins, Intersport, F398 Spiess Opel, Gap: 10.141 10th No. 3 Andrej Pavicevic, Fortec Motorsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 10.583 11th No. 8 Yudai Igarashi, Alan Docking Racing, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 11.102 12th No. 9 Michael Bentwood, Speedsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 13.942 13th No. 21 Warren Hughes, Portman Arrows Racing, F398 Renault, Gap: 14.086 14th No. 42 Adam Wilcox, Intersport, F398 Spiess Opel, Gap: 17.113 15th No. 20 Tim Spouge, S. S. Sport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 17.540 16th No. 22 Paula Cook, Portman Arrows Racing, F398 Spiess Opel, Gap: 29.521 17th No. 17 Warren Carway, Rowan Racing, F398 TOM'S Toyota, Gap: 30.768 18th No. 15 Lei Kit Meng, Carlin Motorsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 32.169 19th No. 77 John Ingram, F396 HKS Mitsubishi, Time: 13:50.130 (National Class Winner) 20th No. 53 Steve Hayr, Tarry Falcon Racing, F396 Mugen Honda, Gap: 1 lap 21st No. 4 Kristian Kolby, Fortec Motorsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 1 lap 22nd No. 52 Phillip Scifleet, Rowan Racing, F396 TOM'S Toyota, Gap: 2 laps
DNF: No. 10 Mark Boost, GB, Speedsport, F398 Mugen Honda, Lap 1
Fastest Laps: Mario Haberfeld, F398 Mugen Honda, Time: 0:51.181, 102.41 mph/164.81 kph, Lap 5 Phillip Scifleet, F396 TOM'S Toyota, Time: 0:51.978, 100.84 mph/162.29 kph, Lap 7
Points after 12 rounds: International Class 1st Haberfeld, 146 points 2nd Bernoldi, 133 points 3rd Burti, 109 points 4th Hughes, 107 points 5th O'Connell, 99 points 6th Spence, 54 points 7th Mauricio, 53 points 8th Manning, 49 points 9th Hynes, 47 points 10th Kolby, 41 points 11th Collins, 35 points 12th Yoong, 27 points 13th Karthikeyan, 20 points 14th Wilcox, 14 points 15th D Cook, 10 points 16th Igarashi/Pavicevic, 8 points 18th P Cook, 7 points 19th Spouge, 6 points 20th Santavirta, 1 point
National Class 1st Scifleet, 237 points 2nd Carway, 97 points 3rd Hayr, 54 points 4th Ingram, 35 points 5th White, 12 points