1999 Autosport British Formula Three Championship - Round 12 - Pembrey, August 24th/25th. Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite

Qualifying: This time Button wasn't going to be edged out from pole, putting his performance down to increased experience in the car. Certainly his confidence levels were very high. Even so, Kolby did everything he could to stop the teenager. He was finally forced to settle for second but was still pretty pleased with himself; after all he had only just missed out. Matt Davies was rather more disappointed, after having held the top spot for the major part of the session. Then, however, he spun and put himself out of the running. In fourth was Marc Hynes, who really wasn't enjoying his visit to Wales and didn't like the implications of being so far from pole. "The first corner here you never know if you're going to come out or not..." he remarked. His mood lifted slightly when he realised that Luciano Burti was back in eighth place this time despite repeated changes to the wings and other setting. The oddly revitalised Michael Bentwood qualified 5th, the highest he has ever been on the grid. He was just ahead of Aluizio Coelho in the second Promatecme car, the fastest Brazilian for a change. And even Tim Spouge was faster than Burti even though he had to sit out most of the session after spinning off. In ninth was Narain Karthikeyan, who was finding that the changes the team had made to the car had "just made the car even more undrivable. It's like driving in the wet." Tenth was Andrew Kirkaldy, the Stewart driver probably wishing he had never bothered making the trip to Wales. Also seriously unhappy still was Doug Bell, who was 11th and Martin O'Connell, the National Class pole sitter again having trouble with the car. On being asked if it was any better, he snapped "Does it look better?" Frankly, no it didn't. Remaining very consistent, Tor Sriachavanon was again 13th with Toby Scheckter alongside him. Then, unusually, came Warren Carway, not the last Championship Class runner for once. That dubious distinction went to Yudai Igarashi, who was spared the embarrassment of once again being only just ahead of Takuma Sato. Igarashi, in fact, would take no part in either race on Sunday, having gone off onto the grass and found a very solid rock. Contact with the geological specimen put a huge hole in the Dallara's tub just by the seat-belt mounting points. There was no way it could be fixed at this most primitive of circuits but at least his car could be cannibalised for spares after Doug Bell's off in the first race. And bringing up the rear again was John Bender, struggling more than a little on this occasion.

Qualifying Times (One session only): 1st - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 51.207 2nd - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 51.226 3rd - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 51.416 4th - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 51.494 5th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 51.531 6th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 51.576 7th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, 51.613 8th - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 51.624 9th - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 51.646 10th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 51.710 11th - No 8 - Doug Bell, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 51.840 12th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan Racing, Dallara F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 51.870 (National Class Pole) 13th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 52.116 14th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 52.185 15th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 52.332 16th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 52.500 17th - No 77 - Takuma Sato, Diamond Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 52.657 18th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 52.913

Race: Weather: cloudy, dry. This time we got a very tidy start and it wasn't until later that it all started to go wrong. Jenson Button got the drop on Kris Kolby without jumping the start this time, though he did take to the grass in dramatic fashion, while Matt Davies also charged through to take second place, Kolby settling in just behind. Marc Hynes cut across Michael Bentwood in a rather forceful manner to take an unshakeable hold on fourth place but otherwise there were no problems for anyone except Takuma Sato. The National Class driver pulled off and into retirement just past the first corner. Zen gardening seems to be popular at Pembrey, as this was pretty much the same spot occupied by Yudai Igarashi last year. However, just when it looked as if there would be no trouble, there was a nasty accident on the pit straight. Aluizio Coelho crashed heavily on lap three, after Spouge and Bentwood clashed just in front of him and he had to take avoiding action. His Promatecme Dallara hit the wall front end on doing comprehensive damage; luckily the Brazilian was able to walk away uninjured. However, the car still had to be recovered and so, while the marshals worked, the Safety Car was scrambled and for several laps it lead the field round. At the end of the Safety Car period Button again got away, and again took to the scenery but got away with it. Narain Karthikeyan, however, did try to start something, going for Luciano Burti after an abortive attack on Spouge by the Brazilian. Maybe he was just trying to redress the balance between Luciano Burti and Marc Hynes, having held Hynes up in the first race. This time he startled Luciano at the restart by barging the Brazilian roughly to one side. "We were only fighting for seventh," said the aggrieved Brazilian afterwards. Once again the incident could have been worse had it not been for Burti's sense of self-preservation. He wasn't about to make a fight of it and lose out altogether if he could help it. Karthikeyan seemed to want the place more than Luciano did with the result that Burti could do nothing and was stuck in eighth for the rest of the race. Afterwards, he was decidedly annoyed about it: "When you are so low down it is stupid..." Of course, Karthikeyan is racing for wins, while Burti is racing for the series, which tends to colour his views rather. At the front, Button was well clear of the battling Fortec duo, while Kolby was harrying Davies mercilessly, despite the fact that they both drive for the same team. As a result, neither of them was ever likely to make any impression on Button who simple coasted home to a well-deserved victory. "It's an excellent feeling being on top of the podium. It's been a long time since I've had an F3 win. I was very careful not to jump the start this time. I wanted to keep the lead into the first corner... then I had to do it all over again after the Safety Car. I was pushing very hard and the circuit was really slippery with lots of oil everywhere. I took it a bit easier on the last lap. It would have been embarrassing to go off at the end!" It was nearly embarrassing for Davies and Kolby too, though Davies admitted he was being careful. "We nearly crashed into each other. I wasn't going to try and do what I did in the first race again, and try to get to the front round the outside of the Hairpin. I can't complain too much. I thought I might have a chance of going through after the Safety Car, but Button was so much faster. I never got close enough. Jenson drove intelligently and there wasn't much I could do." Kolby wasn't too unhappy with his third place. "I'm quite happy. This has been quite a good race for me too. I killed the clutch a bit in the first race and the new one felt a bit odd. It was very long. My initial getaway wasn't very good and Matt got by me. I was a lot better in the slow corners but I had understeer in the faster corners. It was all about pushing all the way till the end, but I was always too far behind at the places where you can overtake." Just off the podium was Marc Hynes. The points gap between him and Burti is now reduced to two and there are still four races to go. This one could go down to the wire and no one would bet on Manor not taking the title in their first year in the Formula. Even so, Marc was frustrated; he had hoped for much more from this weekend. "It's the most frustrating weekend I've had since I last came to Wales." It was probably made worse by following on from the euphoria of winning at Zandvoort the previous weekend but really he had nothing to be ashamed of. Fifth, and driver of the day after a quite remarkable performance, was Michael Bentwood, the Carlin driver having his best weekend ever in racing. He was followed home by Tim Spouge, and by his team mate Narain Karthikeyan, who may look like Bambi but who was driving as if he was rabid this afternoon. Those long eyelashes should fool no one; he's one of the toughest racers out there when the mood takes him, as Burti now knows to his cost. Burti finished a little ahead of Tor Sriachavanon, who thought he had a slow puncture and was nursing it home. The last slot in the top 10 went to National Class winner Martin O'Connell, who was just relieved to be leaving Pembrey with the car in one piece. "I'm sure it was a little bit better because I was actually able to overtake someone rather than hold them up. Yes, it was a little better. To run two races here with the Hairpin and from near the back and survive with no damage is a near miracle. It was a bad weekend that could have been a lot worse. I'm sure this is just a bad meeting and things will pick up again towards the end of the season." The last Championship point went to Andrew Kirkaldy, whose miserable season just isn't getting any better. The two SpeedSport cars of Toby Scheckter and Warren Carway came home 12th and 13th and last but not least was John Bender who survived the carnage to take second place in the National Class, moving him up to second in the category.

Results: 1st - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 19:52.321, 87.92 mph 2nd - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 2.213 3rd - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 2.655 4th - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 6.432 5th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 8.800 6th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 9.047 7th - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 10.307 8th - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 12.610 9th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 16.122 10th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 20:09.785, 86.65 mph (National Class Winner) 11th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 19.489 12th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 19.962 13th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 23.338 14th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 23.724

Not Classified: No 8 - Doug Bell, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, Lap 15 No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Lap 3, Crashed into pit wall after incident with Spouge and Bentwood No. 77 - Takuma Sato, Diamond, F398 Mugen-Honda, Lap 1, Retired

Did Not Start: No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda

Fastest laps: Championship Class - No 6, Jenson Button, 51.579, 163.55 kph, 101.62 mph National Class - No. 51, Martin O'Connell, 52.629, 160.28 kph, 99.60 mph

Standings: Championship Class: 1st - Luciano Burti - 157 points 2nd - Marc Hynes - 155 points 3rd - Jenson Button - 122 points 4th - Kristian Kolby - 111 points 5th - Narain Karthikeyan - 98 points 6th - Matt Davies - 91 points 7th - Andrew Kirkaldy - 50 points 8th - Michael Bentwood - 48 points 9th - Alex Yoong - 37 points 10th - Tim Spouge - 30 points 11th - Aluizio Coelho - 24 points 12th - Doug Bell - 21 points 13th - Tor Sriachavanon - 14 points 14th - Yudai Igarashi/Toby Scheckter - 11 points 16th - Warren Carway - 5 points

National Class: 1st - Martin O'Connell - 190 points 2nd - Jeremy Smith - 111 points 3rd - John Bender, 91 points 4th - Takuma Sato, 50 points 5th - Gavin Jones, 45 points 6th - Stephen Shanley, 22 points 7th - John Ingram, 8 points

Next Round: Donington Park - September 4th/5th