Victory and Podiums for Kimball at Silverstone
American Charlie Kimball took a victory and two second places at the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit in rounds 4, 15 and 16 of the British Formula 3 International Series this past weekend, August 12-14. The weekend consisted of 2 scheduled rounds plus the additional make-up round from the fogged out race at Spa earlier in the year. Kimball had qualified third for the Spa race and qualified third and fifth for the Silverstone rounds. The results solidify his second place in the championship which he holds by a margin of more than two race victories.
Qualifying for the Silverstone races did not go perfectly for the California rookie. His sector times in the first qualifying could have put him in contention for pole except for a yellow flag and slower car at the end of his best lap. This left him third on the grid and within striking distance of a good result. Second qualifying was even worse as the Carlin Motorsport driver missed the best of the track conditions as he started the session on his second set of new tires. Kimball's quick lap put him fifth, making a strong podium finish seem difficult.
Kimball was upbeat with the qualifying effort nonetheless, "To be on the second and third rows mean that I am in striking distance of the front. I didn't get a perfect lap in either session and so am happy with where I am. I feel disappointed because I have been on the front row for five of the last six races but this is still a good performance for my first year."
The rescheduled Spa race was run first on Saturday. When the lights went out, Kimball made a rapid start and jumped from third straight into second right behind the race leader Steven Kane. Then when the pair reached the 100mph Stowe corner, Kane made a mistake and went wide, allowing the charging Kimball to slip through. The American rookie then set about building a three second lead on that first lap. It disappeared in one fell swoop when the safety car was deployed. On the restart, Kimball put his US rolling start knowledge to good use and pulled out a small gap over teammate Alvaro Parente. The American proceeded to build that gap into a 4 second lead by the finish of the race. In the process, he claimed fastest lap and the added championship point that goes with it.
Kimball was ecstatic with his third British F3 race win, "I knew that I had the speed to beat the two cars in front of me. It was just a case of dispatching them soon enough that I could build a lead over the rest of the field."
Sunday's races brought another two second place finishes for the F3 rookie. Kimball's start in the first race saw him move from his third place grid slot to an easy second place by the first corner. He then focused on trying to pull away from third place man Mike Conway. When he had a small break, Kimball focused on running down his Carlin teammate, and Championship leader, Alvaro Parente. Parente and Kimball traded fast lap times the whole race with Parente getting fastest lap by a mere .07 of a second.
California kid Kimball was disappointed not to have won, but still happy with second, "Second is a great result, especially for a rookie on a track where we get so little time to learn. It is frustrating to lose more ground to Alvaro in the championship, but considering his 4 years experience, I am doing really well!"
The second race of the day saw quite a bit more action in the top four. Kimball's start moved him from fifth to third before a safety car period closed the field back together. The Formula Ford graduate made a small mistake on the restart, allowing Marko Asmer to move back into third. The lead four then settled into a good groove with the four of them covered by a mere 2.5 seconds. They then began to pull away from fourth place when on lap 5, second place Mike Conway pulled off with a fuel pump problem. Kimball then set about pressuring Asmer for the remaining laps. This strategy paid off when, with two laps to go, the more experienced Asmer made a mistake into the first corner resulting in a big spin. This promoted Kimball to second where he would run until the flag.
Kimball's second place result gave Carlin Motorsport the third Carlin 1-2 of the weekend and the sixth in a row. He spoke of the race afterwards, "I made a mess of the restart and Marko got around me. I wasn't going to make a rash decision and try a dumb pass; I couldn't afford to risk the points at stake. My plan was to pressure him for the whole race because I knew my car would be better at the finish and there was a good chance he would make a mistake."
Kimball now firmly holds second in the Championship and will continue to test in preparation for the last 6 races of the series. The championship heads to Nurburgring in Germany for another Grand Prix circuit next on September 2-4, 2005.