1999 Autosport British Formula Three Championship - Round 2 - Silverstone, March 28th.

Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas

Still missing were Warren Hughes, Alex Yoong (who should be out from Round 3 onwards), John Bender (also scheduled to appear for round 3), John Ingram and the second Rowan Racing runner, rumoured to be Gavin Jones (both of whom may race from Brands Hatch onwards). Qualifying: Weather fine and sunny

In fine, sunny conditions, the first of the two practice sessions for Round 2 was faster; inevitably perhaps, as the track was relatively clean and the air was cool. In the afternoon session, the air was far warmer and it was asking a lot from anyone to see much in the way of improvements. F3 engines just don't like warmer weather that much.

Most of the front-runners didn't appear to be very keen to come out to play either, leaving the running to the new boys or the less-experienced teams. For a long while nothing much happened through it was clear that most of the best times would be set in the morning session if the weather didn't change. As it was, the front five on the grid remained exactly the same, with a seemingly revitalised Kris Kolby (Fortec Motorsport) on pole alongside Marc Hynes (Manor Motorsport), while Luciano Burti (Stewart Racing) was 3rd, a position he seems far too attached to. To be fair to him, Stewart Racing seem to have a lot of work to do if they are going o catch up with Manor Motorsport, and this is testimony to the abilities of John Booth as a team boss. Manor got the first of the new Dallara's and made sure they didn't waste the opportunity this offered, getting in hundreds of miles of Winter testing. With Jenson Button (Promatecme) in 4th and Matt Davies (Fortec) just behind him, it was left to Aluizio Coelho (Promatecme) to spoil Andrew Kirkaldy's (Stewart) afternoon by bumping him down a place for 6th even after a small spin. Even so, the young Scot was far happier than he had been at Donington; the brake problems that had plagued him there had been cured and he was beginning to feel he was getting the hang of this F3 business.

Yudai Igarashi (Alan Docking Racing) was getting to grips with his car after a very late start to his testing campaign, while Narain Karthikeyan (Carlin Motorsport) was probably praying for rain and wondering why he was only 9th. Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing) knew why he was only 10th, having trailed in at the very start of the first session with a gearbox that sounded like a bag of loose bolts and cogs. Behind him came the Toby Scheckter (Speed Sport), slightly bemused by F3 at present, and still feeling that things were happening too fast for him. A trip into the gravel at Luffield in the morning hadn't helped him any. Tor Sriachavanon (Manor) also went off at Luffield late in the first session and was then unable to make any real progress in the second one. Meanwhile Doug Bell and Tim Spouge (both with S S Sport) swapped places, the more experienced Spouge improving enough to just move ahead in the second session. Bringing up the rear was Warren Carway (SpeedSport) and at the very back, the only other National Class driver, Jeremy Smith (Jeremy Smith Racing).

First Session Times: 1st - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.466, 107.28 mph 2nd - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.701 3rd - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.895 4th - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 1:15.912 5th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.114 6th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.369 7th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.482 8th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.487 9th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 1:16.565 10th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.699 11th - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.713 12th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.740 13th - No 16 - Doug Bell, S. S. Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:16.917 14th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S. S. Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:17.063 15th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:17.576 16th- No 75 - Jeremy Smith, JSR, F398 Spiess-Opel, 1:18.588 17th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan Racing, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 1:30.518

Combined Times: 1st - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.466, 107.28 mph 2nd - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.701 3rd - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.895 4th - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 1:15.912 5th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.114 6th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 1:16.285 7th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.369 8th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.409 9th - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.415 10th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan Racing, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 1:16.473 (National Class pole) 11th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.482 12th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.669 13th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.699 14th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S. S. Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:16.780 13th - No 16 - Doug Bell, S. S. Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:16.917 15th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:17.573 16th- No 75 - Jeremy Smith, JSR, F398 Spiess-Opel, 1:18.588

Race: Weather fine, sunny but windy

Marc Hynes (Manor Motorsport) made the most of his front row slot, moving slightly just before the lights changed though not actually crossing the line and therefore not jumping the start. It gave him one hell of an advantage when the lights went green though. Pole man Kristian Kolby (Fortec Motorsport) looked like he was asleep in comparison and was well and truly demoted to second before the field got anywhere near Copse corner. Luciano Burti (Stewart Racing) settled into his slot as the Third Man and was never to get on terms with the top two again. He was unchallenged from behind either and settled in to score more points. The only flaw with what appears to be his plan to win the series is through consistency is that Hynes will insist on finishing ahead of him. Further back, Kolby's team mate Matt Davies had moved across on a Promatecme car that he thought was Jenson Button's. It wasn't, it was Button's team mate Aluizio Coelho, another driver who had made a storming start. In Little Al's case it didn't help as Davies came close to shoving him into the wall and he had to back off. Afterwards, the stewards would have things to say about the manoeuvre, handing out a warning not to repeat the offence to the young Englishman. In his own defence all Matt could say was that he was sorry but he really hadn't seen the other car. He was not given a penalty.

Button had seemingly not been awake at the start either and was dropped to an unaccustomed 12th place after the excitement died down. He promptly set about hacking his way back through the field, a drive that would earn him a trip to the stewards office too after an aggrieved Doug Bell claimed the new superstar had pushed him out of the way. Like Davies, Button was warned to behave in future but no penalty was imposed. The main interest of the race was probably the battle between Button and Toby Scheckter (SpeedSport), the South African's performance suggesting that he will be a hard man to beat once he gets comfortable with F3. He's certainly at least as tough as his father ever was and it took Button a very long time to pass him. Jenson went on to hack past anything that got in his way (Andrew Kirkaldy - Stewart Racing - for example) to finish 6th overall, 5th in class.

Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing) was also making steady progress, passing Coelho on lap 9 and shortly thereafter Davies, through it's fair to say that neither of them tried too hard to stop him. Neither one of them wanted to lose points battling with a National class runner so it was safer to move aside and let him claim fourth place on the road. Coelho only lasted another lap anyway, going off at Priory on oil left behind by Tim Spouge (S S Sport). The same oil claimed Tor Sriachavanon (Manor) a lap later. The young Thai's only consolation was watching the Opel-Spiess engine blow up properly 5 laps later and take Spouge out of the race.

Kolby, meanwhile, was having what those of us who watched him closely last year have come to know as a Kolby moment. It usually involves something very odd happening to him for no good reason, and sure enough it happened about halfway through the race. The powershift button, which allows the driver to change up through the gears without lifting off the throttle, had been switched off. Kris tried to switch it back on, only to have it come away in his hand. After he got over that and realised he would have to drive normally, he set about chasing Hynes down, while the latter steadily lost traction and fell back into the Dane's clutches. Given a 23 lap race instead of 22, it seems likely that Kolby would have translated his first ever pole position in the series into victory but he had to settle instead for one of the closest finishes in F3 in a very long time.

Afterwards, Hynes was relieved to have got a second victory but didn't think it would be quite so easy in future. Even so, he's beginning to look like a potential champion and he has a very smart outfit behind him. Two in a row is not bad going for a new team and added to John Booth's pleasure on the same day that two out of three of his Formula Renault drivers (Antonio Pizzonia and Rob Austin) had utterly dominated the first round of the Formula Renault Eurocup series. Certainly the other teams must raise their games if they are going to stop Manor Motorsport from taking over where Stewart Racing left off.

Results: 1st - No. 17 - Marc Hynes - 28:12.036 105.37 mph 5th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby - Gap 0.217 3rd - No 1 - Luciano Burti - Gap 15.517 4th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell - 28:30.085, 104.26 mph (National Class winner) 5th - No. 3 - Matt Davies - Gap 23.662 6th - No 6 - Jenson Button - Gap 24.061 7 - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy - Gap 29.735 8th - No 16 - Doug Bell - Gap 31.213 9th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi - Gap 35.418 10th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter - Gap 39.932 11th - No 10 - Warren Carway - Gap 55.455 12th - No 75 - Jeremy Smith - Gap 1:14.655 Not Classified: No 15 - Tim Spouge - Lap 17 - Engine failure No. 18 - Tor Sriachavanon - Lap 10 - Spun off on oil from Spouge's car No 5 - Aluizio Coelho - Lap 9 - Spun off on oil from Spouge's car No 14 - Michael Bentwood - Lap 2 No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan - Lap 2

Fastest laps: Championship Class - No. 4, Kristian Kolby, 1.16.111, 171.19 kph, 106.37 mph (Lap 7) National Class - No. 51, Martin O'Connell, 1.16.932, 169.36 kph, 105.24 mph (Lap 5)

Championship Standings: Championship Class 1st - Marc Hynes - 41 points 2nd - Kristian Kolby/Luciano Burti - 24 points 4th - Jenson Button - 23 points 5th - Matt Davies - 12 points 6th - Narain Karthikeyan/Doug Bell - 10 points 8th Andrew Kirkaldy - 8 points 9th - Michael Bentwood - 4 points 10th - Aluizio Coelho/Yudai Igarashi - 3 points 12th - Toby Scheckter/Tim Spouge - 1 point 13th Warren Carway - 1 point

National Class 1st - Jeremy Smith - 35 points 2nd - Martin O'Connell - 22 points

Next Round: Thruxton - April 11th