1999 Autosport British Formula Three Championship - Round 15 - Silverstone, October 9th/10th.
Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
Changes: Doug Bell was suffering from 'flu and elected not to appear and Toby Scheckter decided that he too had the 'flu and went home to bed half way through the weekend. Charles Hall was also not present; presumably still recovering from the events of Spa which may have hurt his budget rather badly.
Qualifying: With two points separating the title contenders this was always going to be a tense meeting, though things seemed calm enough during practice. Luciano Burti (Stewart Racing) would finally take pole position from Marc Hynes (Manor Motorsport) after the second session turned out to be slower. It seemed that Stewart had raised their game in the face of Manor's challenge, and even though they have been finding Silverstone difficult of late, they were able to pull out all the stops when it really mattered. Hynes was suffering from the 'flu and perhaps wasn't at his best but he wasn't about to stop trying just because of a minor inconvenience along the lines of looking and feeling extremely unwell. He wasn't overly concerned though, pointing out that he usually gets a better start when he isn't on pole.
Two tenths slower, and possibly not too unhappy at not being caught between Burti and Hynes, was Jenson Button (Promatecme). An engine change between sessions had made all the difference and the youngster was pleased with his performance. He was joined by Tim Spouge (S S Sport), who had put in his best qualifying performance of the season, though he was disappointed to have slipped back down the order having held pole for a while. Matt Davies (Fortec Motorsport) was fifth and much happier than he has been in recent races, considering that at least things were back to normal now. His regular sparring partner, Aluizio Coelho (Promatecme), joined him. These two have clashed a few times this year and neither of them would have been too happy to discover they were sharing a row. Back in seventh was birthday boy Kristian Kolby (Fortec Motorsport). The Dane was twenty-one on Saturday and a small party broke out in the back of the Fortec garage where Kris's birthday present of a chequered toilet seat with attached Perspex lid was on display. The lid contained photos of Kris, and the whole thing was given to him by his sisters. It's nice to be reminded that it's not just Kris who has a rather odd sense of humour! In eighth was Narain Karthikeyan (Carlin Motorsport). The Indian driver is still struggling and is beginning to wonder if the switch from his lucky but very tattered old overalls to a brand new shiny pair might be the problem. Whether it is or isn't he was threatening to swap back to the old ones. It seems more likely that his alternative diagnosis that he is overdriving the car might be the truth of the matter.
Burti's teammate Andrew Kirkaldy (Stewart Racing) was still unhappy and looked it. He was ninth, alongside Toby Scheckter (SpeedSport). He must have nightmares about Scheckter, the number of battles they have had this season. Scheckter, however, would be missing on Sunday, his 'flu attack getting steadily worse. He probably felt that from tenth on the grid there wasn't a lot of point in appearing.
Eleventh went to Michael Bentwood (Carlin Motorsport) who was just ahead of Takuma Sato (Diamond Racing). The tiny Japanese was again able to get the better of Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing) to take National Class pole from this year's champion, despite spending quite a lot of practise stuck in the gravel at Copse.
After an off in the first practice session, some people were beginning to wonder of Tor Sriachavanon (Manor Motorsport) actually remembers that you are allowed to come back to the pits on your own and you don't have to be on a breakdown truck. Of course, with most attention concentrated on getting Hynes to the title, he may be suffering slightly but it seems more likely that he is still suffering the after effects of his Spa accident. He was the first to admit that his confidence levels were somewhere around zero after Belgium.
And once again Warren Carway (SpeedSport) was not the last of the Class A (Championship Class) runners. An increasingly dispirited looking Yudai Igarashi (Alan Docking Racing) had that particular honour again. The final two places went to National Class runners, John Bender (Carlin Motorsport) and Nick Eliades (SpeedSport).
Qualifying Times: 1st - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.052 2nd - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.088 3rd - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:15.211 4th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, Dallara F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:15.271 5th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.536 6th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme UK, Dallara F399 Renault, 1:15.600 7th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.620 8th - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.628 9th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.746 10th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.890 11th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.215 12th - No 77 - Takuma Sato, Diamond Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.417 15th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.631 13th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan Racing, Dallara F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 1:16.698 14th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.870 16th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:17.090 17th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:17.391 18th - No 57 - Nick Eliades, SpeedSport, Dallara F398 HKS-Mitsubishi, 1:18.091
Combined times: 1st - No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.052 2nd - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.088 3rd - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 1:15.211 4th - No 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, 1:15.271 5th - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.536 6th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 1:15.600 7th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.615 8th - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.628 9th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.746 10th - No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.890 11th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.215 12th - No 77 - Takuma Sato, Diamond, F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.417 (National Class Pole) 13th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, 1:16.545 14th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.577 15th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.631 16th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.884 17th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin, F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:17.391 18th - No 57 - Nick Eliades, SpeedSport, F398 HKS-Mitsubishi, 1:17.583
Race: Weather: Cloudy, dry but threatening rain.
As the field lined up for the penultimate round of the series, it looked as if there might have to be a delayed start. The clouds had been gathering and spots of rain began to fall. But just as suddenly it stopped again. Perhaps it knew it was about to be eclipsed by events on the track, because what happened next may well turn out to be the turning point of the series. As the lights turned to green, Marc Hynes (Manor Motorsport) made a blinding start, moving alongside Luciano Burti (Stewart Racing). Luciano, having started from pole, was already on the racing line but he had lots of wheelspin and promptly moved across on Hynes, leaving the Manor driver with no place to go apart from the pit-wall. It was as blatant a piece of aggression as anything seen on a circuit since the days when Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost were locked in combat. Hynes was furious about it and immediately considered retaliation, though he would think better of it before he was in a position to carry out the threat.
As a result of all of this, Jenson Button (Promatecme) would go past both of them but even he would have to give way to Matt Davies (Fortec Motorsport). The former French Formula Ford and Formula Renault champion simply kept his foot down and drove between Burti and Hynes before going up the inside of Button into Copse. This wasn't the leader anyone was expecting at this stage. Aluizio Coelho (Promatecme), who slotted into fourth place, further demoted Hynes. The man to come off worst in all of this was Tim Spouge (S S Sport). Tim tried to pass Hynes round the outside at Becketts in what Marc would later describe as "a rather naive move. It can't be done." Especially if the driver you are trying to overtake isn't prepared to help you. Taking on the livid championship leader at that stage was not the smartest move Tim could have made and he ended up going off. By the time he had recovered everyone had gone.
Coelho took a couple of looks at passing Burti only to have the door slammed on him. He wasn't too surprised. "Luciano can be a bit silly sometimes," was all he said. To be absolutely sure of keeping his position, Burti then proceeded to make his Dallara very wide indeed, despite being shown the black and white flag to inform him that the stewards were not too happy with his conduct so far and were watching his driving very carefully. Finally, Coelho decided that this was not his fight and he would be better off not sitting between the two of them. When Marc made yet another attempt to get past, "I made it easy for him and anyway there was always a chance they might take each other off and I would benefit!" This was almost certainly the sensible move, and as Hynes and Burti scrapped for lap after lap Little Al concentrated on holding off Kristian Kolby (Fortec). He was almost forced to take Hynes on again when Burti slowed the group right down, but it wouldn't have been a good idea, not the mood Hynes was in. Who knows what was going through Burti's mind at this point. It looked as if he was simply determined not to risk Hynes getting a point for fastest lap, because as they were, they would go to the final round at Thruxton on equal points.
Because of what was happening with the two series leaders, Davies and Button were getting away. However, Matt couldn't quite shake Jenson off, no matter how hard he tried. And he really was getting quite alarmingly sideways in his attempts to hold onto his lead. It really was going to take something very special from Button if he was going to get ahead. It finally happened at Abbey when Matt left his defence just a little too late and Button was through. "It's quite difficult to overtake here. You have to be very late on the brakes. Matt made a mistake, so thanks to him!" And that was the last Matt would see of the teenager. For the remainder of the race, Button simply cruised round to come home a delighted winner. "It's lovely to win at Silverstone as it's my local circuit now, especially as when I was leading, it was good to look at the scenery. The car was excellent here today."
Davies was not as disappointed as you might expect at coming home second. "I have Marc and Luciano to thank for the lead actually. The team might forgive me for Spa now! At the start I was about halfway past Jenson and thankfully he didn't turn on me. After that the first lap was boring but I realised I probably couldn't win as the car started going off and suddenly there he (Button) was and off he went. I knew once he was past me I'd finish second at worst today. I'll be looking forward to Thruxton and I'll be better than last time."
Burti would come home in third, just ahead of the still furious Hynes, who stormed back into his own garage. He got out and knocked the team teapot flying halfway across the garage before breaking a fire alarm point. This is a team that sometimes seems to be fuelled on tea, so this is serious. "I had to hit something!" he said, and probably very wisely he refrained from going down to the Stewart garage and using Luciano as a punch bag. The word soon came back from the Clerk of the Course that the Brazilian had been disqualified, though this did not do much to mollify Hynes. Most of all, his sense of fair play and sporting behaviour was affronted by what Burti had done to him and he was extremely voluble about it afterwards. "I was ahead and the next thing I knew I was in the air. I was worried about going over the pit-wall. In the past there have been avoidable situations but not this time; I had no opportunity to avoid it. I decided not to take him off because I was sure they (the officials) would throw him out. But then when they started waving the flag at him, I nearly changed my mind. If they didn't do anything, then I was sure there were no rules in motorsport. They've told us plenty of times about this sort of thing. It was unacceptable, unprofessional and dangerous. It was just a blatant attempt to put me off. I've lost the respect I had for him. I thought this was going to be a close championship and the best man should win. I wasn't prepared to take him off to do it. If we're not up to the job, that's our problem. I have a sporting attitude but it's obviously not mutual. I'd rather have gone to Thruxton with a seven-point lead. I suppose I was lucky the car was still working afterwards. It was a little dodgy in the right hand corners and it wasn't as good as it could be anymore. I just don't like being put in a compromising position."
Predictably, Burti tried to defend his actions though to most observers they were completely indefensible. It was certainly simply his reaction to finding Hynes slightly ahead, as I am sure no one would make a premeditated move of such stupidity. However, there were no less than six separate observers reports about it and the stewards were quite correct to describe it as reckless. "I mean, I don't want to say too much. If I say I didn't mean it no one will believe me. It wasn't how I expected it to be. I didn't mean to crash with him. My car was badly damaged afterwards. We will see what happens. I am happy for the championship. To go to the last race at Thruxton, this is how a championship should be. I am sorry for what happened between me and Marc; I didn't want this sort of a race. The car was good enough to win the race and I didn't mean for this to happen. An F3 car is very sensitive and the car was understeering and oversteering but it was good enough to keep Marc from passing me and to stay on the road. Everyone wanted the championship to go to the last round and this is how it deserves to be." He seemed rather shocked by what had happened, though he claimed he was only defending his line. "I was defending my line. You choose a line and stay on it so long as you don't weave." When it was pointed out to him that received wisdom says the racing line is on the left, and at the point where the impact occurred he was over on the right, all he could say was that that was not his line.
It all seemed so unnecessary and has soured what has been up to now a very good-natured series. Behind the battling duo, was Aluizio Coelho, promoted to fourth place with the disqualification of Burti, his best F3 result to date. He had managed to hold Kolby off for most of the race and so the Dane came home fifth. The next battling pair were Narain Karthikeyan (Carlin Motorsport) and Andrew Kirkaldy (Stewart Racing), the Scotsman being far enough back not to have got involved in any unpleasantness.
And then, in eighth place overall, was National Class winner Takuma Sato (Diamond Racing). He had had a very tough afternoon, when he had suddenly found Martin O'Connell trying to demote him. "It was a hard race for me. I had a small problem; I was just adjusting the brake balance and Martin caught me, so then I had to work very hard." When O'Connell caught him, he was alongside by the time they came through Bridge, and he stayed that way almost all the way to Copse, neither the chunky Midlander or the tiny Japanese being prepared to back off. Despite Tim Spouge, who was on a recovery drive and moving up through the point, trying to join in too, Sato would eventually emerge the victor. It wasn't at all easy though. Still, Sato seemed to have enjoyed himself immensely and had only praise for his rival afterwards. "Martin was very fair. I am looking forward to Thruxton and I know I can go at the same speed as Martin."
Spouge finally got ahead of these two, only to trip over Michael Bentwood (Carlin Motorsport). The result was that both of them ended in the gravel though Bentwood emerged, just as Yudai Igarashi (Alan Docking Racing) appeared on the horizon, or rather right on Michael's rear wing. The car had obviously sustained some damage in the clash with Spouge and so Michael was unable to hold Yudai off, promptly skating through another lot of gravel and limping home the last classified runner.
Warren Carway (SpeedSport) claimed eleventh on the road (ninth in Class) ahead of Tor Sriachavanon (Manor Motorsport), who claimed the last point. Third in the National Class was John Bender (Carlin Motorsport), and fourth was Nick Eliades (SpeedSport)
Results: 1st - No 6 - Jenson Button, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 28:15.956, 105.13 mph 2nd - No 3 - Matt Davies, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 5.744 3rd - No 17 - Marc Hynes, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 7.181 4th - No 5 - Aluizio Coelho, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Gap: 8.691 5th - No 4 - Kristian Kolby, Fortec, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 9.494 6th - No 12 - Narain Karthikeyan, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 17.907 7th - No 2 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 28.204 8th - No 77 - Takuma Sato, Diamond, F398 Mugen-Honda, 28:45.280, 103.34 mph, (National Class Winner) 9th - No 51 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, F398 TOM'S-Toyota, Gap: 29.796 10th - No 7 - Yudai Igarashi, ADR, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 42.995 11th - No 10 - Warren Carway, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 45.668 12th - No 18 - Tor Sriachavanon, Manor, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 45.919 13th - No 54 - John Bender, Carlin, F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 46.359 14th - No 57 - Nick Eliades, SpeedSport, F398 HKS-Mitsubishi, Gap: 1:07.749 15th - No 14 - Michael Bentwood, Carlin, F399 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 2:20.187
Not Classified: 15 - Tim Spouge, S S Sport, F399 Spiess-Opel, Lap 20
Did Not Start: No 9 - Toby Scheckter, SpeedSport, F399 Mugen-Honda, Flu
Disqualified: No 1 - Luciano Burti, Stewart, F399 Mugen-Honda (fined seven hundred and fifty pounds and licence endorsed for reckless driving)
Fastest laps: Championship Class: No 6, Jenson Button, 1:16.160, 171.09 kph/106.31 mph
National Class: No 51, Martin O'Connell, 1:17.117, 168.96 kph/104.99 mph
Standing Championship Clas s: 1st - Marc Hynes - 203 points 2nd - Luciano Burti - 189 points 3rd - Jenson Button - 168 points 4th - Kristian Kolby - 137 points 5th - Matt Davies - 107 points 6th - Narain Karthikeyan - 104 points 7th - Andrew Kirkaldy - 64 points 8th - Michael Bentwood - 50 points 9th - Aluizio Coelho - 42 points 10th - Alex Yoong - 37 points 11th - Tim Spouge - 34 points 12th - Toby Scheckter - 23 points 13th - Doug Bell - 22 points 14th - Tor Sriachavanon - 15 points 15th - Yudai Igarashi - 14 points 16th - Yves Olivier/Warren Carway - 6 points 18th - Tiago Monteiro - 4 points 19th - Julien Beltoise - 3 points 20th - Christijan Albers - 1 point
National Class: 1st - Martin O'Connell - 221 points 2nd - John Bender - 124 points 3rd - Jeremy Smith - 111 points 4th - Takuma Sato - 91 points 5th - Gavin Jones - 45 points 6th - Stephen Shanley - 22 points 7th - Nick Eliades - 25 points 8th - Charles Hall - 12 points 9th - John Ingram - 8 points
Final Round: Thruxton - October 17th