A HAT-TRICK OF WINS AT SPA FOR VERGNE & CARLIN Championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne capped a remarkable weekend for himself and the Carlin team at Spa-Francorchamps this afternoon (Saturday) with a another fine victory in the Cooper Tires...
A HAT-TRICK OF WINS AT SPA FOR VERGNE & CARLIN
Championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne capped a remarkable weekend for himself and the Carlin team at Spa-Francorchamps this afternoon (Saturday) with a another fine victory in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series. The Frenchman seized control of round 18 from his title rival Oli Webb on the third lap and enjoyed an untroubled run to his third win of the Spa weekend.
He is the first driver to win all three British F3 races in a weekend, has now taken nine wins for himself and, thanks to Webb crashing out of the race, has extended his championship lead to 87 points with 12 races remaining. Carlin, who enjoyed a 1-2 thanks to James Calado's spirited second place, have now won 12 rounds. Vergne's hat-trick has meanwhile taken engine supplier Volkswagen's tally of British F3 victories past the 100 mark.
"This weekend was amazing," said a triumphant Vergne. "Big thanks to Carlin for an amazing car. It's too early to think about the championship. If I leave Silverstone [the meeting after next] more than 100 points ahead then the championship will be in the pocket. But we have first the meeting at Thruxton, and it's a circuit I do not know."
Although Webb's Fortec-prepared and Mercedes-powered car led the opening two laps, the Mancunian could not sustain the searing qualifying pace which netted him pole position. That Vergne, who made a good getaway to slot into second behind Oli, would eventually find a way past was beyond doubt from the outset. Webb defended hard but Vergne swept past him at Les Combes and was gone.
Webb had no answer either to Calado's pace, James's Racing Steps Foundation car snatching second from him on the fifth of the 17 laps. "Oli was pushing really hard to keep me behind," he said. "I made the same move on him at Les Combes which had worked on the first lap for me when I passed Dias; Oli was slightly harder but I managed to do it. Unfortunately Jean-Eric had pulled a three-second gap by then."
The next man targeting Webb's position was Carlos Huertas, but alas their dice for third ended in collision at Les Combes. Webb's car hit the barriers and was out on the spot and left Huertas limping towards the pits. Their accident promoted the ART invitation class car of Alexander Sims to third place overall, a brilliant drive from 16th on the grid. Gabriel Dias was fourth (and claimed the final spot on the International class podium) after getting the better of Prema's Daniel Juncadella and then holding back his countryman Felipe Nasr in the only Raikkonen Robertson car to survive.
Nasr placed fifth ahead of Juncadella and Carlin trio Rupert Svendsen-Cook, Jazeman Jaafar and Adriano Buzaid. Daniel McKenzie recovered from a poor start to take 10th for Fortec, with Hywel Lloyd, another startline stutterer, driving a storming race to fight back to 12th on the road, and ninth in class, for the CF/Manor team. The Welshman's efforts earned him the Sunoco Driver of the Weekend award. Jay Bridger collected the final International class point for Litespeed.
There was a fraught National class battle between T-Sport team-mates James Cole and Menasheh Idafar which resulted in an opening lap collision between them. "He made an ambitious move on me into the Bus Stop chicane," said James. "He tried to cut in and took off my front wing, and got himself a puncture at the same time." Cole stayed on track while Idafar pitted but his reduced pace was enough to keep him ahead at the end and take the class win. Cole and Idafar now tie on points for the National class lead.
The relentlessly competitive pace of the championship sees the contenders in action again next weekend (7/8 August) at the fastest circuit on the calendar, Thruxton in Hampshire, and then again seven days after that, on the Silverstone Grand Prix circuit.