Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, BF3 correspondents
Race Report – Round 3 (Race 3): Felix Serralles becomes first Puerto Rican to win in series.
After two thoroughly exciting races at Oulton today, the third and last event proved a bit of a wash out in terms of excitement. It did however give us the first ever Puerto Rican winner of a British F3 International Series race in the shape of rookie driver Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport). He headed a processional race that saw Jack Harvey (Carlin) finish 2nd to establish a 6 point championship lead going into the Monza race a week from now, while 3rd went to Harry Tincknell, also driving for Carlin. The National Class was won by Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport), the Australian completing a hat trick of wins and fastest laps in class.
At the start Harvey was slow off the line, which was all Serralles needed. He shot into the lead and was never challenged again, while Harvey was left to rue what might have been had he been just that bit sharper at the moment the lights went out. Further back Pipo Derani (Fortec) was not so fortunate and failed to get off the line at all after what looked like it was a clutch failure, which meant an immediate Safety Car period as the stranded car was removed to a place of safety. The remaining 13 cars settled in to trail round after the Safety Car with Serralles leading Harvey, Tincknell, Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin), Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport), Pietro Fantin (Carlin), Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport), Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing) and Nick McBride (ThreeBond with T-Sport). 11th was Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing), then came Goddard and Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) in the other National Class car.
It was while they were stuck behind the Safety Car that the unlikely information came through that at this point the fastest lap had gone to Padayachee but we mostly ignore that particular glitch in reality, treating it with the contempt it clearly deserved. At the restart Serralles didn’t put a foot wrong though the excitement was further back where Uhrhane and McBride were tussling for 10th with McBride not ready to cede the place anytime soon judging by the defence he put up. Tincknell was also busy resisting an attempt by Sainz Jr to get into the top 3 before pulling out enough of a gap to feel secure. Meanwhile van Asseldonk was all over Fantin for 7th in a manner that suggested it could all go badly wrong in mere moments. While Serralles set a new fastest lap and opened the gap to Harvey to 0.7 seconds, it did all go wrong for van Asseldonk, the Dutchman going off at Druids and putting himself right out of contention. That was the end of that challenge.
The other challenge came from Harvey, who was steadily gaining on Serralles, despite looking somewhat wild in his pursuit of the youngster in the lead. That enabled Tincknell to get his head down as he sensed there might be a chance of catching Harvey. It certainly saw a new fastest lap, but then Serralles responded to the pressure being piled on and started to pull away again, going faster than anyone else had managed on a dry track under increasing amounts of sunshine. It was the nicest the weather had been all weekend and the pace reflected that.
His next fastest lap came after van Asseldonk’s car was declared no longer a hazard and the final sector of the track went green again. In fact what Serralles set was the fastest lap of the meeting, and that was enough to extend the gap to Harvey to over a second. Tincknell was now having a reasonably quiet run as well after Sainz Jr’s challenge evaporated in a bit of a moment that left him vulnerable to Jaafar and to Lynn, though neither of them could quite make a challenge stick. Eventually Sainz Jr was able to shake off the pursuit again and set off after Tincknell but it was pretty much a done deal and the top three never looked threatened again.
At the front Serralles was clearly in complete control even as his tyres must have started to go off; it didn’t stop him from opening the gap to 4 seconds as they moved into the closing stages of the race and despite a late rally from Harvey it was all over bar any shouting. The only remaining excitement came from watching Goddard as he started to catch fellow Australian Uhrhane, despite the fact that it wouldn’t make any difference to the points score. The National Class leader was lapping quicker than the International Class man and seemed to feel he had a point to prove after the 2nd race when he led for 5 laps. He was certainly in a punchy mood and was setting about Uhrhane with more enthusiasm than the other man appreciated.
However, 40 minutes after the start Serralles came home to his maiden F3 victory, ahead of Harvey, Tincknell, Sainz Jr, Jaafar, Lynn, Fantin, Ilyas, McBride and Uhrhane. 11th was Goddard from Padayachee, the Australian taking a massive lead in the National Class category.
Fastest laps were set by Serralles and Goddard.
Weather: Changeable, cloudy.
Next Races: Rounds 4, 5 & 6, Monza, Italy, 13th/15th April.