FORMULA 3 CHARGERS READY FOR SPA BATTLE
The Cooper Tires British F3 challengers begin the second half of their championship season next week (30/31 July) at the Belgian Grand Prix circuit of Spa-Francorchamps and, with eight drivers from five different teams having already tasted the victory champagne this season - and several drivers from top European teams joining the fray - the competition in Belgium will be intense.
Leading the pack into battle is the championship leader and six-time race winner Jean-Eric Vergne, whose 51-point advantage looks comfortable but is by no means unassailable should his chief title rival, Oli Webb, return to the form which brought him twin wins at Magny-Cours in May.
Webb's Fortec team-mate Daniel McKenzie claimed his maiden outright win last time out, at Rockingham, and is fired up to add to his tally at Spa. "I've had one win and I want to grab at least another one," said Daniel, who was the quickest Mercedes-powered runner in testing at Snetterton this week. "I turned up to Rockingham knowing I was going to have a win; it was just something that I knew was going to happen, and I hope it will be the same at Spa. It's my favourite circuit and I think the car will be quick there. The car is working well, I've worked really hard with the team and my engineer, and I'm extremely confident."
But as well as his team-mate Webb standing in the way of his hopes, Dan will also have to overcome the reigning champion team Carlin's trio of 2010 race winners - Vergne, Rupert Svendsen-Cook and James Calado - plus Brazilian race victors Gabriel Dias (Hitech) and Felipe Nasr (Raikkonen Robertson).
And then there is the added challenge of cars from the Formula 3 Euro Series from top teams ART Grand Prix, Prema Powerteam and Mucke Motorsport. ART will field cars for Frenchmen Jim Pla and Nathanael Berthon, and a third Dallara for English driver Alexander Sims, who claimed a notable British F3 win at Silverstone in May. Prema's two drivers are Nicolas Marroc (France) and Daniel Juncadella (Spain), while Mucke will have a single car, for London-based Spanish-Colombian Carlos Munoz. A field of approaching 30 cars is expected at Spa.
Last year's Spa rounds of the championship brought wins for Carlin's Daniel Ricciardo, who went on to win the title, and for Adriano Buzaid, then driving for T-Sport, who made the best of the damp conditions to take his maiden win. Now with Carlin, the Brazilian will be hoping to add a further Spa success to his racing CV. The other top-10 men still chasing their first wins are Hitech's Will Buller, Raikkonen Robertson men Daisuke Nakajima and Carlos Huertas, and Carlin's Malaysian ace Jazeman Jaafar.
After 15 races the National Class battle couldn't be any closer: T-Sport team-mates James Cole and Menasheh Idafar are separated by just five points, Cole having taken class victory on eight occasions and Idafar seven times.