Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, BF3 correspondents
At Monza this afternoon Carlos Sainz Jr, watched by his very anxious father, stamped his authority on a very wet race, winning it by a comfortable margin from Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport), who was battling his gearbox all the way to the flag, and Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport), the young Spaniard coming away from the Italian meeting with an eight point lead in the championship after 6 races. In the National Class the honours again went to Richard “Spike” Goddard, the Australian leading from start to finish despite a moment or two of doubt when one of the International Class runners edged past him in truly filthy conditions.
Before the race started it was clear that we would once again need to start the race behind the Safety Car, the rain continuing to fall in a steady downpour rather than the apparent monsoon of the morning. It wasn’t pleasant out there and was a long way from ideal conditions for racing. Certainly only the man in front would be able to see anything much in the murk. As Sainz was on pole he was thus in the best possible position right now and as the Safety Car pulled in to enable the race to start he controlled it beautifully, holding the lead easily from Serralles. In the pack, meanwhile, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) has passed Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport), the latter in a car that seemed to be held together by duck tape after the team completed a desperate rebuild to repair the damage done in the post-race crash at the end of Race 2 of the weekend. Behind the two of them Nick McBride (ThreeBond with T-Sport) went off at the Chicane again, much as he kept doing yesterday too. But the man to watch – and the one in control – was definitely Sainz who had already opened a massive gap at the end of lap two, although it was fair to say that he really was the only one who could see where he was going and who wasn’t having to second guess what might be in the cloud of spray he was driving into.
The order at the end of the second full racing lap was Sainz, then, from Serralles, Lynn, Jaafar, Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport), Derani, Pietro Fantin (Carlin), Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport), Jack Harvey (Carlin) and McBride. 11th was Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing), from team-mate Fahmi Ilyas, National Class leader Goddard and Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing). In the melee Fantin, Harvey and Tincknell were now locked into a fierce battle for 7th which looked as if it had the potential to end in tears, something that would not make Trevor Carlin at all happy. Something that probably did make him happy was the way Sainz was pulling away from the pack, setting a new fastest lap of the race as he did so and opening an insurmountable gap between himself and Serralles.
A lap later and Jaafar was hunting down Lynn, while Fantin had Harvey practically up his exhaust, Harvey having got the better of Tincknell for 8th, at least for the time being. He was on something of a charge even though he couldn’t have had much idea whether there was one car or several ahead of him. While Harvey set about chasing down Fantin, Uhrhane had gone missing somewhere in the flood, having been taken out by his own team-mate, Ilyas in a move that would be judged deserving of a drive through penalty for the Malaysian.
Approaching the halfway mark, meanwhile, Sainz was looking very comfortable in the lead by almost 10 seconds from Serralles, Lynn Jaafar, van Asseldonk, Derani (who was presumably praying the tape wouldn’t lose its adhesiveness in the rain), Harvey, Fantin, Tincknell, McBride, Ilyas, Goddard and Padayachee. Harvey was now closing rapidly on Derani having passed Fantin up the inside for the opportunity to go after Derani, aided by the sudden absence of Fantin from the track immediately behind him. The Brazilian was out with a mechanical failure – or the car has simply drowned, which seemed just as likely.
Given what Monza is usually like, this was getting oddly processional so it was just as well we had the Harvey/Tincknell battle to keep us all entertained. Sainz was continuing to get further and further ahead which didn’t really make for interesting viewing, and the rest of it wasn’t the exciting, though the organisers had now decided to impose a drive through penalty on Ilyas. He eventually served it only to remerge on Goddard’s rear wing, something that probably gave the Australian National Class leader a few worrying moments before the International Class driver went through and pulled away, leaving Spike to get on with his own race.
That left Harvey and company to provide the entertainment. With less than 14 minutes on the clock he was now closing in on Derani at a rate that must have worried the Brazilian more than a little. The question didn’t seem to be so much whether he would pass Derani, but when. However, that was not how it panned out. An unexpected attack by Tincknell saw him short cut the Chicane and come out ahead of Harvey. He then stayed there for almost a lap until advised that he would most likely get a penalty if he didn’t give the place back. All that had allowed Derani to pull away again but it was a brief respite for the youngster. Harvey reeled him back in again and with two laps to go he took another look to see if there was a way past. There wasn’t and that was when Tincknell had another go, passing Harvey in the second chicane in a move the Lincolnshire man apparently wasn’t expecting. And in case we all thought that would be it, and Tincknell would settle for 7th, we were wrong. On the final lap he moved into position and pulled the same move at the same point on the circuit and blasted past Derani to steal 6th from him. It was quite a move and the result was well-deserved.
And so Sainz coasted home to victory, 16.711 seconds ahead of Serralles, prompting speculation as to whether the Spaniard has webbed feet! Lynn came home 3rd after a pretty quiet afternoon drive in the royal park, while behind him van Asseldonk could do nothing to prize 4th from Jaafar’s grasp. Tincknell was 6th from Derani, Harvey, McBride and Ilyas. The last two places went to the National Class pair of Goddard and Padayachee.
The fastest laps of the race were set by Sainz Jr and Goddard.
Weather: Beyond wet.
Next Races: Rounds 7 & 8, Pau, France, 11th/13th May.