Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, BF3 Correspondents
At Snetterton this afternoon, on what was (at least at the start) a soaking wet track, Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin) was utterly dominant from start to finish, out-dragging pole man Jack Harvey (Carlin) off the line to claim his fifth win of the year and stay in contention for the 2012 title. Harvey ended the race in 3rd, from the other outstanding rookie of the season, Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport), the youngster again out-performing his team-mates in treacherous conditions. The National Class win went to Adderly Fong (C F Racing) for the third time this weekend.
At the start, after a catastrophic Formula Ford race derailed the timetable beyond rescue, Sainz made no mistake. The lights went out, the power went down, and Harvey, on pole, had no answer. He wasn’t the only one. Screaming off the line and into second, passing both Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport) and Harvey was Serralles. Being the son of a powerboating ace clearly confers an advantage in such sodden conditions. Despite a sideways moment, Sainz Jr was now in control, and that was where he would remain for the ensuing 40 minutes.
Behind him, there was something of a kerfuffle in the pack and when the spray settled it was Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing) who had gone off at Oggies. The Australian managed to get going again and rejoined but he was dead last by quite a long way as a result. Meanwhile, Fong had made his own move and was now well ahead of the rest of the National Class and set to battle – in conditions that really suit him – with anyone who cared to take him on.
Serralles was still in pursuit of Sainz at this point too though he would soon give up on it, preferring to concentrate on staying ahead of Harvey both on the track and in the title chase. It soon became apparent that this would not be too hard as Harvey struggled to live with the pace of the two young upstarts ahead of him, somewhat baffled by the lack of pace. He couldn’t have been the only one, given that the lead pair was now lapping a second or so faster than any of them seemed to be capable of.
Meanwhile, behind Harvey, Lynn was 4th from Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) and Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport), the two of them battling for position. In 7th at this stage was Pietro Fantin (Carlin), the Brazilian being harassed by Harry Tincknell (Carlin) in a repeat of a number of races this year. Next up was Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport), ahead of Nick McBride (ThreeBond with T-Sport), then came Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing), Fong, Pedro Pablo Calbimonte (T-Sport), Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport), Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) and a very distant – but catching up – Uhrhane.
Needless to say, given the pace he was setting, it didn’t take long for Sainz to set a series of fastest laps of the race as he began to open up a lead over Serralles. For entertainment value it was no use looking at the Spaniard. He was having nothing to do with anyone else. Instead it was left to Fantin, Tincknell and Fong to provide a focal point as the Englishman and the Chinese tried to find a way past the Brazilian,
As Sainz continued to pull away, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and it began to look as if there might be a dry line developing before the race was over. Certainly the teams were all set up for any pitstops that might be required. Meanwhile the drivers continued to splash through the puddles, and the lap times suggested that it wasn’t drying that fast. McBride was caught out by one of the puddles and spun off, dropping himself to last, while at the front Serralles set a new fastest lap and he and Sainz Jr started to lap inside the 2 minute mark. The rest of the pack was still struggling to match that sort of pace and so the race continued as something of a procession.
A couple of laps later Tincknell finally got the better of Fantin for 7th while the National Class duo of Padayachee and Goddard swapped places, before Padayachee fell off and ended up handing the place back. None of this troubled Sainz Jr, as he set a fresh series of fastest laps, building the gap up to around 8 seconds and showing no inclination to slow down. Serralles was also showing no inclination, but in his case it was a lack of interest in risking everything to chase Sainz Jr down.
It was just after the halfway mark that van Asseldonk’s less than superb weekend took a further turn, the Dutchman spinning out of contention at Riches, proving that despite the increasingly dry line the track was still treacherous. It was also becoming clear that there would not be any pitstops, because the lap times were dropping by fractions of seconds rather than seconds, which meant that the racing line was still wet.
A lap later Sainz Jr was still serenely sailing on, while towards the other end of the pack Goddard had managed to shake off Padaychee, who was now being caught by Uhrhane. In fact now they were all speeding up and the lap times as a whole started to drop, each line of the screen turning green in turn as they crossed the line.
Those improvements would continue now to the end of the race, but still the track remained wet enough for the wet weather tyres. Sainz was increasing the pace at the front and had opened the gap to 9.157 seconds, but again the interest was in the pack where Derani had recovered from a slow start and was now all over Fantin in a frantic fight for 8th place. No matter what Derani did, Fantin resisted but he couldn’t shake off the terrier like attacker on his rear wing.
In the final third of the race Sainz Jr and Serralles were trading fastest laps but then Harvey joined in too, going even faster as conditions continued to improve. Fong was still leading the National Class though he now had Ilyas and Uhrhane on his tail, the Australian having made up a lot of ground after his early off. It looked as if he might just have to give ground to the two International Class contenders though he didn’t appear to be in any hurry to do so. If they wanted to come through, they would have to work for it.
And with one lap to go Harvey snagged the point for fastest lap and hung onto it to the flag. While he was doing that, Ilyas battled his way past Fong, leaving Uhrhane behind, and Derani stole 8th place from under Fantin’s nose on the last lap. However, nothing could take away from Sainz Jr’s dominant performance.
The Spaniard won the race by over 12 seconds from Serralles, Harvey, Lynn, Jaafar, van Asseldonk, Tincknell, Derani, Fantin and Ilyas. Uhrhane finally passed Fong for 11th, just missing out on the points. That left Fong in 12th overall, from Calbimonte, Goddard, McBride and Padayachee.
We go into the penultimate meeting with Harvey leading the championship chase by a mere 4 points from Serralles, with Jaafar only 20 points behind and a maximum of 126 points up for grabs still. It is all to play for even now.
The fastest laps of the race were set by Harvey and Fong.
Weather: Throwing it down – time to start building an ark.
Next Races: Rounds 24, 25 & 26, Silverstone, Northamptonshire, 8th/9th September.