1999 Autosport British Formula Three Championship Round 9 - Silverstone, July 8th/9th/10th Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
Yet more changes: Alex Yoong has finally got his budget together but was too late for Alan Docking Racing to run him this time out. Instead he appeared at the wheel of a Graff Racing Dallara for this event only before he plans to return to his more normal berth next time out. The National Class was further boosted by the presence of Takuma Sato in a Diamond Racing Dallara F398, the Japanese youngster stepping up from the EFDA Euroseries for selected rounds. The addition of these two brings the field up to a much healthier looking 22 cars with half the season already run. Of course how long they will stay around after the glamour of the GP meeting gives way to the grit and grind of Snetterton remains to be seen.
Qualifying: Weather - sunny, dry, hot. Practice was more than a little nerve-wracking, being spread over two days of the GP meeting. It meant that however you played it there was a large amount of hanging around with nothing to do followed by very brief periods of frantic activity. In addition, by the end of session 2 almost all the drivers were complaining about the amount of dirt and rubbish left behind on the tarmac by the F1 and F3000 cars. It was making handling very odd and the high temperatures weren't helping either. As the heat built up, the Manor Motorsport awning was definitely the place to be. Most teams have flashy screens, shiny toolboxes and banners strung about the place. They had a massive shop-sized freezer full of ice cream from Nestle, thus making it a very popular location for most of the other teams as well. It was even more popular as a location at the end of practice when a delighted Marc Hynes came back, having snatched pole position from Jenson Button (Promatecme) in the final seconds of the session. He was delighted and his good mood continued right into Saturday. At Promatecme, Jenson was still on something of a roll, things finally seeming to come together for him just when it really mattered. He would have liked pole but he would settle for second. At Stewart Racing nerves were probably strung fairly tight in comparison to the others. In all their years in the Formula this is the one event they have never managed to win. Perhaps this year would prove to be the exception. Mind you, it's also fair to say that the winner of this race never ends up as Champion these days either. Whatever, Luciano Burti thought pole should have been his, claiming that he was blocked by a slower car while he was on the only lap when he didn't have an oversteering problem. This is all very well, but the Stewart car seems to have been suffering from this problem since the Brands Hatch rebuild and it makes you wonder whether they are just not setting it up properly or if there might be something more serious wrong with it. Perhaps a more leisurely rebuild might be useful before the next race. Fourth should have been Narain Karthikeyan (Carlin Motorsport) but his fastest time (set in session 1) was disallowed after scrutineering revealed that his Dallara was lacking the safety foam that should be fitted to the fuel tank. To be fair they gained no advantage from it but the rules had been breached, no matter how accidentally, and at this particular meeting the officials couldn't let it go. Trevor Carlin offered to pay a fine instead but the penalty had to stand. As a result Narain had to go with seventh position after his second session. He was disappointed but fairly philosophical at this point. He didn't know things would get a lot worse. As a result of all of this, Kristian Kolby (Fortec Motorsport) would start from fourth, while just behind him was Toby Scheckter (SpeedSport) who had managed his best grid position so far. The fact that Darren Manning (the only driver to win this race two years in a row) was acting as driver coach to the team may have had something to do with it, but it was good to see the youngster beginning to find his feet and get to grips with the formula. He has a long way to go yet but he has the makings of a fine driver once the rough edges have been smoothed down a little. In 6th was another driver setting his best position of the year, Tim Spouge (S S Sport). Again after initial difficulties it seems that Tim is making rapid progress and he should finish in the points throughout the rest of the year, barring accidents. Andrew Kirkaldy (Stewart Racing) found his awful year wasn't getting any better and was only able to claw his way to eighth. He was joined on the fourth row by Matt Davies (Fortec Motorsport), another who thought that he had been blocked by a slower driver. Admittedly there were 22 drivers out there but the GP circuit is big enough and traffic shouldn't be an issue. So long as you can make intelligent use of the available space by dropping back to give yourself room, you should be OK. Whatever, Matt wasn't at all happy. Nor was Michael Bentwood (Carlin Motorsport) who was in tenth. But they were both pictures of happiness compared to Aluizio Coelho (Promatecme UK) who was one of the few drivers unable to improve in the second session. As he had been easily able to keep pace with Button during testing, you have to wonder what is going on here and why Promatecme seem unable to produce two good cars. Twelfth was Alex Yoong (Graff Racing). This was quite an achievement as he was running with a team that didn't know the circuit and were not used to Avon rubber either. It was only because of the importance of the meeting that Alex had even considered doing it with Graff. As Alan Docking Racing couldn't get a car ready in time he felt there was little alternative left to him. It might be surprising to some that he didn't think to contact S S Sport instead. They presumably still have the car that Doug Bell started the season in... One of Yoong's possible teammates was next, with Doug Bell just edging out Tor Sriachavanon (Manor Motorsport) for thirteenth. Tor didn't want to talk about the accident that had put paid to his first session, he was too embarrassed and after that there was no hope. There was even less for Yudai Igarashi (Alan Docking Racing) in fifteenth and the final Class A position went, as usual, to Warren Carway (SpeedSport). The irrepressible Irishman didn't care; he was handing out hats to the crowds and having a fine old time. At least he doesn't seem to harbour any illusions about his chances of winning. National Class pole position went to John Bender (Carlin Motorsport), who was nearly half a second ahead of Gavin Jones (Rowan Racing). The big surprise was Takuma Sato (Diamond Racing), the young Japanese stepping up from the EFDA Euroseries championship. To the amusement of many, he was busy in the collecting area beforehand getting his programme signed by his fellow competitors. The amusement wore thin later when he came close to taking the National Class pole position. He will almost certainly prove worth watching. Stephen Shanley (Rowan Racing) was again driving what would normally be Martin O'Connell's Dallara F398. The car is capable of better but the driver lacks experience. It remains to be seen whether he will get the chance to gain that experience or not. The rear was brought up by John Ingram (SpeedSport), in a 4-year old Dallara F395, and Jeremy Smith (Jeremy Smith Racing), who only took part in the first session. He was driving a spare Rowan Racing TOM'S 037F TOM'S Toyota, after his truck, with the car and everything in it was stolen from the circuit on Thursday night. Rowan offered him their spare car, which was being taken to be put on display, and didn't charge him for its use either. However, it did the youngster no good. He proved to be too tall and too big to fit in it properly and he reluctantly gave up the struggle when he found he couldn't move his arms freely. The truck has since been recovered and the car has also been found although the tub had been cut in half. At least he can now put in an insurance claim. You do wonder, though, why anyone stole it in the first place, and why no one noticed a truck leaving the circuit at the start of a Grand Prix weekend. Qualifying Times First Session: 1st - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:43.822 2nd - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:43.882 3rd - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:44.095 4th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:44.471 5th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:44.927 6th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.048 7th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.189 8th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.194 9th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.467 10th - No 8 - Doug Bell, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.468 11th - No 19 - Alex Yoong, Graff Racing, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:45.532 12th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.759 13th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.773 14th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:46.034 15th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:46.339 16th - No 77 - Takuma Sato, Diamond Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:46.656 17th - No 52 - Gavin Jones, Rowan Racing, TOM'S F037F TOMS'S-Toyota, 1:46.874 18th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:46.888 19th - No 51 - Stephen Shanley, Rowan Racing, Dallara F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 1:48.827 20th - No 57 - John Ingram, SpeedSport, Dallara F395 Mugen-Honda, 1:49.383 21st - No 75 - Jeremy Smith, Jeremy Smith Racing, TOM'S F037F TOMS'S-Toyota, 1:55.748 Times Disallowed: No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda (had been in fourth place)
Overall: 1st - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:43.506 2nd - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:43.511 3rd - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:43.561 4th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:44.107 5th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:44.364 6th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:44.512 7th - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:44.526 8th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:44.532 9th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:44.564 10th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:44.790 11th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:44.927 12th - No 19 - Alex Yoong, Graff Racing, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:45.020 13th - No 8 - Doug Bell, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.189 14th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.200 15th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:45.375 16th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:46.000 17th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:46.062 (National Class Pole) 18th - No 52 - Gavin Jones, Rowan Racing, TOM'S F037F TOMS'S-Toyota, 1:46.518 19th - No 77 - Takuma Sato, Diamond Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:46.656 20th - No 51 - Stephen Shanley, Rowan Racing, Dallara F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 1:48.319 21st - No 57 - John Ingram, SpeedSport, Dallara F395 Mugen-Honda, 1:49.383 22nd - No 75 - Jeremy Smith, Jeremy Smith Racing, TOM'S F037F TOMS'S-Toyota, 1:55.748 (No time set in second session)
Race: Weather: hot, sunny, dry. The drama started even before the lights turned green. On the warm up lap Aluizio Coelho (Promatecme UK), found his Renault-engined Dallara decidedly reluctant to run, and had to be pushed off the grid. A fuel pump failure was diagnosed although the reasons for it seemed unclear. There were suggestions that the heat might have been to blame, but Jenson Button, in the other Promatecme car was not plagued in a similar way, so it seems unlikely. Whatever, the field was already reduced by one. When the lights did finally go green, Button made one of only two good starts so far this season and shot into the lead, while Marc Hynes (Manor Motorsport) was a little slower away. However, Hynes was not having any young hotshot spoiling his Grand Prix meeting. Not when he had his lucky Star Wars underpants on! He saw his chance at Club. "I thought this is the only chance I might get, so I went for a bit of a lunge... anyway, I was so far back I don't think he was expecting me." Jenson certainly can't have been expecting anyone to try and go round the outside at Club. It was a heart stopping moment but it worked. That was not the end of the battle, however. Button was determined not to lose, but Hynes was equally determined to win. Time and again he tried to get past Hynes, only to be rebuffed. The only time Hynes got any peace was when Button backed off in order to try for fastest lap. The rest of the time the Manor Motorsport driver defended brilliantly, and was delighted to win the race by a margin of 0.4 seconds. "If he's the new Ayrton Senna," Hynes said afterwards, "that must make me pretty special, mustn't it?" Button's comment showed the good-natured side of racing that we have seen a lot of in this year's series. "I knew he wouldn't let me have any ice cream if I beat him, so I had to let him win!" Just behind, Luciano Burti (Stewart Racing) was having nothing to do with the two lunatics at the front, particularly after a bit of a moment of his own. He backed off, hoping to capitalise if they tripped each other up. Otherwise he would happily take the points and keep Hynes in range for the next round. The Stewart car was also starting to oversteer, which was no real help to him. By contrast, Kristian Kolby (Fortec Motorsport) was having a nice, quiet afternoon's drive to come home in fourth. He might not have found it very exciting but there were others who would have happily swapped places with him. Toby Scheckter (SpeedSport) was one who had a seriously difficult time. His first battle was with Narain Karthikeyan (Carlin Motorsport). The Indian set about Scheckter, eventually relieving him of fifth place. Meanwhile, Tim Spouge (S S Sport) was suffering at the hands of Andrew Kirkaldy (Stewart Racing) and Matt Davies (Fortec Motorsport). Davies got his chance when Kirkaldy squeezed through. Davies followed just as the gap began to disappear. This was a fine piece of opportunistic driving and only a supremely confident individual could have got away with it. Scheckter lost out next to the hard charging pair. Davies demoted him to seventh before setting out after Karthikeyan. He couldn't quite catch the Indian driver but it wasn't for lack of trying. Davies was driving to the best of his considerable ability on Saturday and it was good to see. It was Kirkaldy who paid the price for the move though. Pushing hard, he too set about Scheckter. After a fierce battle, the young South African spun at Becketts, taking Andrew with him. Kirkaldy dropped back to twelfth and never recovered while Scheckter came home in seventh. Tim Spouge was eighth, with Michael Bentwood (Carlin Motorsport) in ninth. Michael was another who ended up having a far more exciting time than he could have anticipated, when the engine cover on his Dallara worked loose. Some last minute adjustments on the grid meant that it didn't get attached properly and it suddenly took off, nearly taking the rear wing with it. The loose projectile startled Alex Yoong (Graff Racing) too, bouncing off his head. The fact that he finished at all was perhaps fortunate although he was just outside the points. A ferocious battle for the final point had been fought between Yoong, Doug Bell (Alan Docking Racing) and Yudai Igarashi (Alan Docking Racing). As Yoong is about to rejoin ADR, this doesn't bode well for the future and it seemed that they all had a point to prove to each other. The presence of Andrew Kirkaldy, who finally finished twelfth, was the only thing to break up this party. Tor Sriachavanon (Manor Motorsport), was fourteenth and Warren Carway (SpeedSport) was fifteenth. The National Class was won by Takumo Sato (Diamond Racing), the young Japanese putting in a fine performance in his first ever F3 race. As he intends to contest 4 more rounds he should prove a major threat to the usual leaders. John Bender (Carlin Motorsport) set fastest lap, but had to accept third place behind Gavin Jones (Rowan Racing). Stephen Shanley (Rowan Racing) and John Ingram (SpeedSport) completed the field. Of all the drivers who started the race, unusually not one retired.
Results: 1st - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 26:24.564, 108.95 mph 2nd - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Gap: 0.383 3rd - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 4.784 4th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 6.005 5th - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 15.378 6th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 22.367 7th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 22.596 8th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 24.959 9th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 30.283 10th - No 8 - Doug Bell, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 30.379 11th - No. 19 - Alex Yoong, Graff, F399 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 31.619 12th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 36.013 13th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 40.233 14th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 51.994 15th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 54.028 16th - No. 77 - Takuma Sato, Diamond, F398 Mugen-Honda, 27:23.249, 105.04 mph (National Class Winner) 17th - No 52 - Gavin Jones, Rowan, F037F TOMS'S-Toyota, Gap: 59.515 18th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin, F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 59.613 19th - No 51 - Stephen Shanley, Rowan, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, Gap: 1:22.960 20th - No 57 - John Ingram, SpeedSport, Dallara F395/6 HKS Mitsubishi, Gap: 1:35.726
Did Not Start: No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Fuel pump failure
Fastest laps: Championship Class - No 6, Jenson Button, 1:44.630, 176.86 kph, 109.90 mph National Class - No. 54, John Bender, 1.47.389, 172.32 kph, 107.07 mph
Standings: Championship Class: 1st - Marc Hynes - 124 points 2nd - Luciano Burti - 121 points 3rd - Narain Karthikeyan - 88 points 4th - Jenson Button - 83 points 5th - Kristian Kolby - 69 points 6th - Matt Davies - 56 points 7th - Andrew Kirkaldy - 46 points 8th - Alex Yoong - 37 points 9th - Michael Bentwood - 30 points 10th - Aluizio Coelho - 24 points 11th - Tim Spouge - 19 points 12th - Doug Bell - 13 points 13th - Yudai Igarashi - 11 points 14th - Toby Scheckter - 9 points 15th - Tor Sriachavanon, 8 points 16th - Warren Carway - 2 points National Class: 1st - Martin O'Connell - 127 points 2nd - Jeremy Smith - 111 points 3rd - John Bender, 64 points 4th - Gavin Jones, 45 points 5th - Stephen Shanley, 22 points 6th - Takuma Sato, 20 points 7th - John Ingram, 8 points
Next Round: Snetterton - July 24th/25th