RICCIARDO & McKENZIE BID FOR GLORY IN PORTUGAL British F3 titles beckon for Daniel and Daniel as grid swells to 30 here will be two Daniels in the motorsporting lions' den next weekend - Daniel Ricciardo, who will be bidding to clinch overall...
RICCIARDO & McKENZIE BID FOR GLORY IN PORTUGAL
British F3 titles beckon for Daniel and Daniel as grid swells to 30
here will be two Daniels in the motorsporting lions' den next weekend - Daniel Ricciardo, who will be bidding to clinch overall championship honours in the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series, and Daniel McKenzie, who is in line to take the British F3 National Class title.
The two drivers face their crucial test at the new Algarve circuit in Portugal on Sunday 13 September, the venue for rounds 17 and 18 of the championship. Both Australia's Ricciardo and young Brit McKenzie have handsome points leads in their respective classes; cool heads, steady nerves and, above all, solid points-scoring finishes will be required for them to complete the job ahead of the concluding rounds at Brands Hatch a week after the Portuguese races.
Red Bull racer Ricciardo has built a 45-point lead over his chief title rival, Austria's Walter Grubmuller, thanks to five race wins at the wheel of his Volkswagen-powered Carlin Motorsport Dallara. If Daniel can complete the Portuguese rounds and stay at least 43 points ahead, then the crown will be his. He'll be following in the wheeltracks of Carlin's Jaime Alguersuari, whose elevation from 2008 British F3 Champion to become the youngest-ever driver in Formula 1 has underlined the championship's reputation as a breeding ground for racing talent.
Ricciardo says he will aim to stage a repeat of the blistering form he showed last month at Silverstone, where he led round 15 from pole position to chequered flag. "We are not going to change our approach," says Daniel. "We will try to go for pole position and then race for the win, and obviously not do anything silly while we are out there. So long as I can finish ahead of Grubmuller we should be OK.
"We should be in with a good chance. The team has been there before with the World Series cars, and I have raced there also; we know a bit about the circuit already, so that should give us a little advantage. I'm pretty relaxed about everything at the moment. When I get to Portugal I'll start to think about it, but for now I'm keeping a clear mind."
Ricciardo will have plenty of on-track distractions besides Hitech Racing's Grubmuller and his team-mate, Renger van der Zande, who between them have won five races this season in their Mercedes-powered Dallaras and who are now his only remaining rivals for the championship title. In addition to the other UK series regulars, including race winners Riki Christodoulou, Wayne Boyd and Adriano Buzaid, the grid in Portugal is expected to the be the largest of the season at 30, swelled by several National Class additions and seven invitational runners.
The invitees include four cars from French team ART Grand Prix - for Esteban Gutierrez, Valtteri Bottas, Adrien Tambay and F3 Euro Series points leader Jules Bianchi, all of whom will be keen to avenge the defeat meted out to ART by the British teams at Spa in July - and two cars for aspiring Grand Prix squad Manor Motorsport, returning to British F3 after six years away with cars for Brazilian Pedro Enrique and for Spanish driver Roberto Merhi, currently fifth in the F3 Euro Series. Fortec Motorsport has entered an invitation class car also, for an as-yet unnamed driver.
For Daniel McKenzie, the Portuguese weekend ought to be a comfortable affair. The Fortec Motorsport racer leads T-Sport's Brazilian driver Gabriel Dias by a relatively luxurious 53 points, and Daniel can afford to finish behind his only National Class rival in at least one of the Algarve races and still claim the championship title. Only a non-finish can dent the Poole-based 20-year-old's hopes of an early conclusion to his campaign.
"I want to win at least one of the Portugal races, finish second in the other, and then I can have the luxury of winning the championship before the final meeting," says McKenzie, who hopes that with the National title under his belt he can attract backing to move up to the International Class in 2010.
"I have gained a lot of experience this year," says Daniel. "I've learned that you have to finish races but not necessarily win everything. That you have to keep a cool head, not have too many mishaps, get wins here and there where you can, and that that way you are going to win a championship. Hopefully I can win the International championship next year by adopting the same approach."
The National Class expands to seven entries in Portugal, with French racer Mathieu Maurage joining Russian Max Snegirev at Team West-Tec, and Indonesia's Adil Hermanto racing again with Litespeed F3 alongside team regular Victor Correa. There's a National entry also from Carlin Motorsport, for Lebanese newcomer Joe Ghanem.
All the teams will be assembling at the Autodromo Internacional Algarve for pre-race tests on Friday 11 September. Qualifying takes place on Saturday and both the 30-minute races are scheduled for Sunday in support of the FIA GT3 European Championship and GT4 European Cup.