NAKAJIMA SETS TESTING PACE AT NEW SILVERSTONE Japanese driver stars in F3 dress rehearsal for May Day circuit baptism Japanese driver Daisuke Nakajima set the pace in testing today (Wednesday) on the new Silverstone Arena Grand Prix circuit,...
NAKAJIMA SETS TESTING PACE AT NEW SILVERSTONE
Japanese driver stars in F3 dress rehearsal for May Day circuit baptism
Japanese driver Daisuke Nakajima set the pace in testing today (Wednesday) on the new Silverstone Arena Grand Prix circuit, the Raikkonen Robertson racer lapping the Northamptonshire track - which is set to get its race christening from the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series next weekend (1/2 May) - a tenth quicker than his nearest rival, championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne.
Frenchman Vergne was the first of the pack to break the 1m 54s barrier for the 3.67-mile track, leading the way in the second of the day's sessions after his Carlin team-mate James Calado (Pershore) had set the early pace.
But the times tumbled in the third and final test with Nakajima, Calado and Hitech Racing's Will Buller (Islip) joining Vergne in the 1m 53s; less than a second covered the top eight. Nakajima has strong Silverstone form: he was second at Silverstone last year, on the old GP circuit, after leading from the pole for a time. He showed strong pace, too, in the opening rounds of the championship, at Oulton Park at the beginning of the month, and was beaten to his maiden British F3 win by only half a second.
One of the stars of the day was T-Sport's National class driver Menasheh Idafar, who not only set a time 2.5s quicker than his class rival and team-mate James Cole, but who sped to sixth overall on the timesheets.
The new circuit has found favour with the drivers. Carlin's Adriano Buzaid - only 14th fastest today - said he believed the new sections of track would help promote overtaking, with Calado adding: "It's nice to have a change; it's very fast and very flowing, and smooth, apart from one horrible bump at the exit of turn eight, which upset a lot of cars. But for the most part it's very enjoyable."
Calado's Volkswagen-powered Carlin team heads for Silverstone riding high in the championship thanks to a clean sweep of race victories in the opening rounds. Vergne put in impressive performances in rounds one and three to win and steal an early championship lead, while Carlin's young British rookie, Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Ipswich), pulled some clever moves to take a well-deserved win in round two.
Vergne is bidding to follow in the wheeltracks of fellow Red Bull Junior Team members Jaime Alguersuari and Daniel Ricciardo and to race off with Carlin's third British F3 title in as many seasons.
Leading the charge from the rival teams, 17 points behind Vergne, is Fortec's impressive youngster, Oliver Webb (Knutsford). Oli was a solid runner-up to Vergne in rounds one and three, but the 19-year-old was outpaced today by his team-mate Daniel McKenzie.
There will be a number of drivers at Silverstone hoping to put shaky seasonal starts behind them, not least Racing Steps Foundation-backed man Calado, who suffered car trouble in qualifying at Oulton which blighted his weekend. Another Brit, the 2008 British F3 National Champion Jay Bridger (Tonbridge), showed top-five pace in qualifying in his Litespeed-prepared Dallara, but went off in race one while holding a safe seventh.
Buckingham's Hitech Racing took comfort from promising showings at Oulton for Buller and for his team-mate Gabriel Dias, the Brazilian bouncing back from adversity to take fourth place in round three.
Brackley's T-Sport team have a one-two stranglehold on the National Class thanks to class victories at Oulton for Londoner Idafar and Liverpool's Cole, while the squad's sole International runner, Alex Brundle (Kings Lynn), son of BBC commentator and former Grand Prix star Martin, is enjoying a solid start to his F3 career.
There's no shortage of British talent on the grid this season: another aiming for good things at Silverstone is CF Racing with Manor's talented Welsh driver Hywel Lloyd (Corwen).
The Brits will be joined at Silverstone by Cambridgeshire's Alexander Sims, who, along with two of his colleagues from France's ART Grand Prix team, Mexican Esteban Gutierrez and French driver Jim Pla, will be taking a break from the F3 Euro Series to measure his pace against the team's British F3 rivals.