Autosport British F3 Championship 1998 Round 9, Snetterton, June 13th/14th by Stella Maria Thomas
Still no Narain Karthikeyan or Miku Santavirta. ADR are talking to other drivers but as yet they don't have a replacement.
David Cook has quit the Formula and the family team (D C Cook) and has gone off to join Redman Bright in International F3000.
John Ingram is back in at Speedsport.
Steve Hayr from New Zealand is now in the Tarry Falcon Racing car, reportedly for the major part of the remainder of the season.
The weather was looking very ominous at Snetterton on Saturday morning as the field lined up for first practice. With strong winds blowing and a lot of threatening black clouds scudding along, it seemed that wise drivers would get their times in as soon as possible. The forecast was not good and it was highly likely that the second session, at the end of the afternoon, would be a complete washout.
That said, newcomer to the series Steve Hayr promptly put himself in a position where he couldn't avoid having to qualify in the second session by going off the track before he could set a time. As he is in the Tarry Falcon Racing entry, and the team has little experience of the Formula, he was in for a tough time at this most difficult of circuits. The problem with Snetterton is that it looks easy. It isn't. It'll bite back if you don't treat it with respect.
Certainly it bit Michael Bentwood when he overdid it at Russell and ended up stuck in the gravel five minutes before the end of the session. This made little difference to Bentwood's place on the grid. However, it may have lost him a few more friends as the waved yellows didn't help anyone who was really going for it in the last few minutes.
As a result, Luciano Burti took pole with a time set just before the incident. With the predicted torrential downpour all but wiping out the second session, this was the one that counted. Burti's fellow Brazilians, Enrique Bernoldi and Mario Haberfeld, were separated from him on the grid by Darren Manning. The young Englishman was having his last race for Speedsport before Michael Bentwood returns. Manning has certainly proved a point in the two outings he has enjoyed this year. In fact, he has proved more than one. The first point is that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with the Speedsport car if Darren can get this sort of performance from it. This should, perhaps, lead to a pause for reflection from the other drivers in the team (Bentwood, Ingram). Another point is that Manning is one of the fastest, most committed racers out there. If his career ends now due to lack of finance those people who could have helped him need not turn round in five years time and ask why there are no English drivers winning at the top levels.
The same of course applies to Martin O'Connell, though he is marginally better off, at least being able to continue this season for the foreseeable future. He wasn't too happy with his grid position on the third row alongside Warren Hughes.
If Martin was unhappy, championship leader Bernoldi seemed positively sullen. With a major shortage of parts for the old, tried and tested Renault engine, he faces the prospect of having to race for the remainder of the season using the new model. This, as Hughes and co have already demonstrated, has nowhere near the performance levels of the old one and Enrique is quite clearly not too pleased about it. Into the bargain, having had to take avoiding action when Haberfeld spun in front of him, the result was a wrecked set of Avons on a day when they were not exactly warming up until well into the session.
As usual, Phillip Scifleet qualified on pole for the National Class although his team-mate and only real rival Warren Carway was not that far off, probably just hoping for a mistake from the youngster. He didn't get it, and had to be content with second in class, a good half a second down.
Qualifying: 1st No. 1 Luciano Burti, Paul Stewart Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:02.667 2nd No. 9 Darren Manning, Speedsport, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:02.867 3rd No. 5 Enrique Bernoldi, Promatecme, Dallara F398 Renault, 1:02.973 4th No. 2 Mario Haberfeld, Paul Stewart Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:03.067 5th No. 16 Martin O'Connell, TOM'S GB, Dallara F398 TOMS Toyota, 1:03.074 6th No. 21 Warren Hughes, Piers Portman Racing, Dallara F398 Renault, 1:03.087 7th No. 14 Jamie Spence, Martin Donnelly Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:03.113 8th No. 4 Kristian Kolby, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:03.171 9th No. 27 Ben Collins, Intersport, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess, 1:03.191 10th No. 6 Marc Hynes, Promatecme, Dallara F398 Renault, 1:03.230 11th No. 7 Ricardo Mauricio, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:03.412 12th No. 22 Alexander Yoong, Piers Portman Racing, Dallara F398 Renault, 1:03.494 13th No. 42 Adam Wilcox, TOM'S GB, Dallara F398 TOM'S Toyota, 1:03.504 14th No. 20 Tim Spouge, S. S. Sport, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:03.550 15th No. 19 Paula Cook, D C Cook, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess, 1:03.669 16th No. 8 Yudai Igarashi, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:03.693 17th No. 32 Michael Bentwood, Intersport, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess, 1:03.842 18th No. 3 Andrej Pavicevic, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:04.114 19th No. 52 Phillip Scifleet, Rowan Racing, Dallara F396 TOM'S Toyota (National Pole), 1:04.200 20th No. 51 Warren Carway, Rowan Racing, Dallara F396 TOM'S Toyota, 1:04.709 21st No. 10 John Ingram, Speedsport, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda, 1:05.592 22nd No. 53 Steve Hayr, Tarry Falcon Racing, Dallara F395/6 Mugen Honda, 1:18.206 (2nd session)
"There was this bloke in a white car stalled in front of me," was Walsall's Martin O'Connell's laconic comment when asked what happened at the start of the race.
While Enrique Bernoldi was startled by the speed of Darren Manning's getaway, and found himself in the unexpected position of having to back off or go off, there was trouble elsewhere. Pole man Luciano Burti, "the bloke in the white car," was stranded on the line with the field screaming past him. Mario Haberfeld jinked out of the way but there was nowhere left for Martin O'Connell to go apart from into the back of the stalled PSR car. The impact ripped wheels off both Dallaras and left Martin with a badly swollen and painful right thumb where the steering wheel had caught him, and a dryly philosophical reflection on the afternoon's events. "The thumb's OK. The medical centre people say it's only broken," he joked. He must have been bitterly disappointed but he was concealing it well. The only consolation he had was that neither Burti nor Bernoldi would score points that afternoon.
Bernoldi was further miffed by the fact that Warren Hughes also got past him, when he had to avoid Manning. This was made especially galling as Hughes had been back in 6th on the grid and probably shouldn't have been able to do that. The Brazilian settled in behind the Geordie in 3rd and followed him round, hoping for the best. He could at least try and force a mistake from the more experienced man, although obviously that was not going to be easy. It looked as if that was what had happened on lap 16.
A short, sharp shower that seemed incredibly localised, caught Hughes out going into Riches. The Portman car started to slide and Warren thought that would be the end of it, Bernoldi was so close. However, the youngster was even more unsettled by the wet. It caught him out to the extent that he went off the track altogether, to the relief of Hughes. "The track was so slippery that it caught me out. I was sure Bernoldi would come by. But when I looked in my mirrors, there he was going backwards." Warren sorted himself out and continued on his way in 2nd as if nothing had happened. Bernoldi's weekend took a turn for the worse when Jamie Spence joined him in the gravel, the latter doing his car no good at all.
Hughes wasn't finished with drama either, losing it a lap later at Russell. This time he was not so lucky and Mario Haberfeld, never one to miss an opportunity, was through and into second. With 8 laps to go, Hughes' recovery from 5th place was mightily impressive, as he fought his was back on to the podium, startling both Ben Collins and Ricardo Mauricio in the process.
Mauricio was in especially fine form at this stage, not at all the rather lacklustre driver he has been on occasions this year. He looked as if he might take a podium place when an attempt to get past Haberfeld for second saw him run wide and let Hughes through. Afterwards the tiny Brazilian was distraught, but he had been right to go for it and if it had worked he would have been delighted. Collins, meanwhile, was in trouble too, trying to pass backmarker John Ingram, whose single seater experience is not exactly impressive. Ingram comes from the Caterham K series and it could be argued that he is doing remarkably well to qualify at all. However, Collins would argue that he should not be out there mixing it with drivers who have the experience needed to realise their potential in the Formula. Indeed Collins was pretty furious afterwards, claiming that Ingram cost him his place, tripping Ben up.
Others felt that Ingram had done nothing wrong, although one of those defending him was Adam Wilcox, coming home to his first points place in the series, so perhaps he was more than a little biased. Wilcox was remarkably blase afterwards. Qualifying 13th and coming home 5th is no mean performance but he played it down. "It was nothing really. But we are improving. It just wasn't very interesting."
Further down the order, Alex Yoong was again demonstrating that he has the makings of a very good driver, while Tim Spouge came home in 8th to score his first points of the season. Yudai Igarashi was just ahead of Kristian Kolby, whose character-building season is continuing. Kolby just made it into the points ahead of Paula Cook, these three often seeming to end up fighting for space.
The main consolation both for O'Connell and for Bernoldi was that the other didn't score any points. Haberfeld, however, did and has moved just ahead of O'Connell in the series scrap. With the next round being the British Grand Prix support race at Silverstone in July, reputations are at stake. It should be a great race and of course this one often springs a surprise. Manning is desperately trying to find the budget for this one, while O'Connell is keen to make up for not being the first English driver to win a round this year. Hughes is as fired up as can be, and the Brazilian's all want to win this one. This is turning into a cliff-hanger when it originally seemed to be Bernoldi's for the asking.
Inevitably perhaps, Phillip Scifleet once more won the National Class, shortly before he headed back to Australia to try and raise some more sponsorship. With his drive secure until Pembrey at present, the youngster is keen to start looking for next year's money. With the same team behind him as Mark Webber, he should be good for a reasonable drive. Meanwhile, he still has a championship to win, although it looks increasingly likely that it will all be over by Pembrey. Team mate Warren Carway came home second and Steve Hayr was third, a long way back.
Results: 1st Darren Manning, F398 Mugen Honda, Time: 29:32.239, Speed: 99.12 mph 2nd Mario Haberfeld, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 2.949 3rd Warren Hughes, F398 Renault, Gap: 3.357 4th Ricardo Mauricio, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 3.905 5th Adam Wilcox, F398 TOM'S Toyota, Gap: 8.086 6th Ben Collins, F398 Opel Spiess, Gap: 9.756 7th Alexander Yoong, F398 Renault, Gap: 10.163 8th Tim Spouge, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 15.575 9th Yudai Igarashi, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 26.474 10th Kristian Kolby, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 27.057 11th Paula Cook, F398 Opel Spiess, Gap: 27.728 12th Andrej Pavicevic, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 27.861 13th Michael Bentwood, F398 Opel Spiess, Gap: 28.773 14th Phillip Scifleet, F396 TOM'S Toyota, Time: 1:04.200, Speed: 96.63 mph, Gap: 45.779 (National Class Winner) 15th Warren Carway, F396 TOM'S Toyota, Gap: 1:00.328 16th John Ingram, F398 Mugen Honda, Gap: 1 lap 17th Steve Hayr, F396 Mugen Honda, Gap: 2 laps DNF: Enrique Bernoldi, F398 Renault, Lap 16, spun off trying to pass Hughes Jamie Spence, F398 Mugen Honda, Lap 16, spun off trying to pass Haberfeld Marc Hynes, F398 Renault, Lap 12, Puncture Luciano Burti, F398 Mugen Honda, Lap 1, stalled on start line Martin O'Connell, F398 TOMS Toyota, Lap 1, crashed into Burti's car
Fastest Laps: Darren Manning, Lap 12, 1:03.285, 111.04 mph/178.70 kph Phillip Scifleet, Lap 11, 1:05.033, 108.05 mph/173.89 kph
Points after 9 rounds: International Class 1st Bernoldi, 119 points 2nd Haberfeld, 101 points 3rd O'Connell, 95 points 4th Burti, 81 points 5th Hughes, 77 points 6th Mauricio, 42 points 7th Spence, 36 points 8th Hynes, 32 points 9th Collins/Kolby/Manning, 29 points 12th Yoong, 21 points 13th D Cook, 10 points 14th Wilcox, 8 points 15th P Cook/Igarashi, 7 points 17th Pavicevic, 5 points 18th Karthikeyan, 4 points 19th Spouge, 3 points 20th Santavirta, 1 point
National Class 1st Scifleet, 180 points 2nd Carway, 102 points 3rd Hayr/White, 12 points