2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship
Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
Race: Weather: Cold, cloudy. At the start Milos Pavlovic (RC Motorsport) suffered the worst nightmare of any driver when he stalled on the grid. His best grid position of the season was not to his advantage at this point as all he could do was crouch down and pray that nothing hit him as the field streamed past. He wouldn't be that lucky. Matt Davies (Promatecme UK), his view obscured by his teammate Andy Priaulx just ahead of him, saw the blue car just a split second too late. "I just thought Oh no! I just shut my eyes and hoped I wasn't going to hit him. I was about two centimetres from missing him when I clipped the rear corner and spun round. All I could see as I was coming round was everyone looking at me..." Now it was Matt, with his car broadside across the track, who could only wait and hope. By some miracle all the rest of the field managed to find a way round and the only fresh casualty was poor Craig Fleming (ME Motorsport) who missed Matt and Milos but clipped the retaining wall on the far side of the main straight and was also out on the spot. As the drivers all clambered out and ran for cover in the pits, the red flag came out and the race was stopped to allow the debris to be cleared away.
As the cars lined up for the second start, it was clear what Antonio Pizzonia (Manor Motorsport) was intending to do. He had already made a blistering start the first time round and he was keen to repeat the effort. From 5th on the grid he stopped with the front of his car angled towards the clear space where Pavlovic had been. Of course given that Narain Karthikeyan (Stewart Racing) was also looking at that space from 6th it was quite possible that this was going to get messy. From the front row, Takuma Sato (Carlin Motorsport) made an excellent start, getting the drop on Nicholas Kiesa (RC Motorsport), while behind him Pizzonia aimed straight for the gap, getting there well ahead of Karthikeyan and the calmly drove between Tomas Scheckter (Stewart Racing) and the pit wall to snatch 3rd place before they reached Copse. It was a gamble that could have gone hideously wrong but the luck was with him. The reasoning behind his move was clear to Antonio: "There was dirt on the outside so I went to inside and got Scheckter and then I got Kiesa." He certainly did. It took him very little time to despatch Kiesa by going inside him at the Hairpin, though to be fair the Dane decided he wasn't about to try and make an issue of it. This was probably a wise decision. Said Kiesa, "I saw him coming. Anyone who makes up that much ground in 40% of a lap is a man on a mission and I wasn't going to get in his way. " And that was really the end of any excitement at the front. Sato saw the Brazilian coming up behind him but chose to ignore him as much as possible and get on with his own race. He spent the remainder of the race absorbing all the pressure Pizzonia could throw at him, both of them knowing that unless Takuma made a mistake he was not going to give away his maiden victory.
As a smiling Sato said afterwards, when asked if he thought there was any risk of the Brazilian getting past and stopping him from taking this victory: "I didn't think so. There was a big pressure and once he was very close because of the yellow flags and I was catching one of the B Class cars but I could not overtake him because of the yellow flag. I just concentrate on my driving."
Pizzonia too thought that getting past the Japanese was pretty unlikely and seemed content to come home 2nd: "Yes, I think second was good. In the beginning I thought that I could catch Sato but not after that. I was going to try but I was losing traction. There was nothing I could do."
In the early stages Scheckter, probably still wondering where Pizzonia had come from, was left to fend off Andrew Kirkaldy (Avanti) but soon managed to get away from the Scot, who fell back into the clutches of Andy Priaulx. Scheckter then settled down to a run a very quiet race and came home in a solid 4th place. He was too far back to trouble Kiesa and no one got near him again. It wasn't quiet further back though.
Gianmaria Bruni (Fortec Motorsport) was able to overcome Karthikeyan to take 5th place from the Indian driver while behind them the two Andrews (Kirkaldy and Priaulx) settled down to battle it out for 7th. At least they provided some interest in what was, in most respects, a pretty typical Silverstone procession. Unfortunately, it all ended in tears at Abbey. As Priaulx was quick to admit, it was probably his own fault but it was just one of those things. "I just passed him on the inside at Abbey out of Farm hairpin and he was beyond my peripheral vision and I didn't see him. I clipped his wheel and it shot me over the top of his car." Whoever was to blame, their race was over and Juan Manuel Lopez (Manor Motorsport) inherited his best result of the season so far with that 7th place. He wasn't about to complain having run a solid race while others were falling off all over the place.
Ben Collins (Carlin Motorsport) was also on a charge but quietly, and was able to get a good start although he was soon challenged by Michael Bentwood (Fortec Motorsport) only to have the challenge vanish, leaving him to come home 8th. And almost unnoticed in 9th was Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing). It was 10th place and beyond that was causing all the trouble.
Bentwood was having serious trouble with his car, which was still vibrating horribly and oversteering all over the place. He was also having trouble with his fellow competitors. First he fell victim to Westley Barber (Alan Docking Racing), although Westley thought Michael was to blame, and then he joined the rapidly growing Warren Carway Appreciation Society. As he tells it: "The car was oversteering terribly, it was really bad. At the start I just avoided Matthew and I got past Ben Collins although we were wheel to wheel and then Westley Barber sent me straight on at Abbey and I was ploughing my way through the fields. After that I got stuck behind Warren and then he made a mistake at Becketts and I got past him, well past him. He was on the inside for Abbey and I was on the outside and I was screaming past him and he didn't brake for Abbey, he just smashed straight into the back of me. I did have words with him. It was disgraceful really... " That was the end of Michael's race.
As if this was not enough, Carway (Rowan Racing) also made a new friend in Barber, who wasn't too keen on Bentwood either. "We've been struggling for pace all weekend. But in second qualifying we were about 10th or 11th and we didn't change anything for the race and I was quicker than the four or five cars in front so we should have been around 11th quickest. And I overtook Michael" (Bentwood) "down into Farm. I don't know if he didn't see me but I was past him when he decided to turn into my sidepod and my inside wheel just went onto the grass and it was dusty there as well. It wasn't the best place to use traction and that's what caused me to lose all the places back so I was fighting through again. I was a bit ambitious with Warren" (Carway). "I was a lot quicker through Becketts and I just thought I'd go for it. If it doesn't work it doesn't work. Unfortunately it didn't work..." It left Westley needing a new nose, yet again. All this aggravation with Carway rather made one wonder if, perhaps, Pizzonia hadn't been yet another innocent victim, though this sudden departure from his normal Mr. Nice Guy persona seems rather odd. The Irishman has always seemed to keep out of trouble in the past so who knows what possessed him this time out.
And just to complete the set, Barber wasn't exactly Gary Paffett's best friend either. The Scholarship Class winner would probably have preferred to finish further up the overall order but decided discretion was the better part of valour. He was able to move up when Barber pitted for a new nose. "I saw a gap on the outside and I drove around and got alongside of him and he just pushed me off the circuit. From then it was just a case of I wasn't going anywhere near him... he took himself off in the end." Even so, the Fred Goddard Racing driver was happy to finish 10th on the road, although he was less than happy with the performance of the car that afternoon. Still, with his complete dominance still unthreatened, Gary is beginning to think about wrapping up the title early so he can concentrate on finding the money for next season. Even winning so easily all the time, he isn't bored. "Winning is never boring!" For once, the 2nd placed driver in the Class, Atsushi Katsumata (Team Meritus) was immediately behind him in the order although he was a good few seconds adrift. In 3rd in the Scholarship Class was Christian Colombo (Rowan Racing), the Italian just beating off Marcel Romanio (Team Meritus). The Brazilian was just happy to complete this race and hold on to his second place in the points table given the state of the tyres available to him for the weekend. He needs an injection of cash and he needs it soon if he is to keep going this year, but then, the same can probably be said of most of them with the probable exception of Paffett. Ryan Walker (Diamond Racing) continues to improve and was 5th, while the final two places in the class went to Mark Mayall (Diamond Racing), who finished just behind Tor Sriachavanon (Alan Docking Racing), and Phillip Hopkins (Phillip Hopkins Motorsport). Phillip had a particularly trying afternoon, spinning more than once and driving a Dallara that appeared to be handling like a truck. The final two runners were Warren Carway, winning the award for Mr. Popular this time out, and the unfortunate Barber.