BF3

Ricciardo claims first F3 pole at Rockingham

After the loss in a road accident of Joe Tandy, boss of JTR, it was a somewhat subdued F3 circus that reconvened at Rockingham for rounds 5 and 6 of this year's British series. However, there was racing to be done, and the cars duly took to the ...

After the loss in a road accident of Joe Tandy, boss of JTR, it was a somewhat subdued F3 circus that reconvened at Rockingham for rounds 5 and 6 of this year's British series. However, there was racing to be done, and the cars duly took to the track in brilliant sunshine only for it to be business as usual with Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) annexing pole from Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) and Nick Tandy (JTR), the latter promising that he intends to win to honour his brother's memory. In the National Class Gabriel Dias (T-Sport) claimed pole convincingly, leaving Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) and Victor Correa (Litespeed F3) a long way distant.

However, to begin with there was a marked reluctance on the part of anyone to put tyre to Tarmac, everyone waiting for someone else to clean the track before they bothered. A moment's reflection will show the problem with this idea... Finally two cars ventured out - those of Wayne Boyd (T- Sport) and Max Snegirev (West-Tec), the Russian needing all the track time he can get. Certainly Boyd was soon three seconds a lap faster than him, which wasn't a surprise. Meanwhile, Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport), just returned from his GP2 debit in Monaco, went out too. Even so Boyd remained fastest for some time.

Despite the fact that the time was ticking away, although there didn't seem to be much sense of urgency. With a third of the session elapsed, there were still only four cars out on track. Boyd was now down in the 1.12s, while Correa, who was second overall and thus also on National Class provisional pole, was only setting 1.14s. It was all pretty dull actually.

Just when it seemed like watching paint dry might have been more exciting, Chilton finally got in the groove, his first flying lap moving him to provisional pole. That seemed to trigger a general drift onto the track. Times began to improve and Chilton now headed Boyd and Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport), while Correa still led the National Class. However, the real danger men were now emerging with the likes of van der Zande and Ericsson in the next batch out. It suggested that things would soon change. And indeed they did with Ericsson's first flying lap netting him 2nd. A lap later and the Swede (not a Finn whatever the people at Puma who make and embroider his overalls thing) was on pole.

We were now at the halfway point and the temperature was rising steadily, which meant that the window in which to set a good time was rapidly diminishing. People who didn't get out and set times soon might well regret it. The changes came thick and fast now, with Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) going 6th, van der Zande claiming 3rd and McKenzie rising to the top of the National Class. It didn't take Dias long to take it back though and the two of them traded times for a while. Meanwhile, van der Zande snatched overall pole a lap later, while McKenzie improved to leapfrog Dias only for Dias takes it back again. Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport) was now showing good pace as well, going 5th, just behind Dias. A lap later and Dias was knocked back down by Christodoulou.

The next focus of everyone's attention was Ricciardo, the Australian finally emerging from the pits. His first timed lap saw him grab 4th with less than ten minutes of the session left. He wasn't the only one to leave it rather late. Tandy, who was fastest in testing yesterday wasn't showing yet either. It wasn't quite over yet, with more changes from Huertas (5th) and Nakajima (7th), neither of them quite matching Ericsson's pace. Mind you, Ericsson couldn't quite match Ricciardo's pace either, the Australian claiming pole from van der Zande and Tandy. With a number of the leading contenders now sitting in the pits - or even out of their cars and hiding in the nice, cool garages - it seemed as if Ricciardo had wrapped it up. Garcia, Ericsson, Boyd, Dias and Chilton were already in the pits when van der Zande also bailed out, and no one except Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport) was improving. That was most likely because he had been in the pits for most of the session anyway so his tyres were still relatively pristine. It didn't help much though and when the session ended 15th was the best he could manage.

And so Ricciardo claimed his first pole position, from van der Zande, Tandy, Ericsson, Chilton, Huertas, Nakajima, Christodoulou, National Class leader Dias, and Garcia. Grubmuller was 11th from Hywel Lloyd (C F Motorsport), Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport), Boyd, Buzaid, McKenzie, Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon), Bridger, Correa and Snegirev.

Weather Fine, sunny, hot.

Changes
Having decided that their current drivers are somewhat short on relevant experience, Raikkonen Robertson Racing have drafted in Marcus Ericsson, hoping the Swede's form at the Rockingham Motor Speedway might rub off on Carlos Huertas and Daisuke Nakajima. Meanwhile, Oliver Oakes (Carlin Motorsport) is missing having fallen out with the team. Jay Bridger has reappeared after an abortive outing with West-Tec and is now being run by Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport.

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