- Svendsen-Cook grabs R1 & R3 poles
- Fong unexpectedly on R3 front row
- Nasr crashes out of qualifying
Carlin's Svendsen-Cook claimed two pole positions
Changes: Max Snegirev replaces Riki Christodoulou at Hitech Racing, presumably for reasons to do with finance.
At Brands Hatch this morning, Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) claimed pole position for Race 1 and Race 3 of the weekend, but the real surprise was that lining up alongside him would be Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing), prompting suggestions that he must have gone round the Indy circuit or that the team had swapped drivers. He wasn’t able to repeat the feat with his 2nd fastest lap, which determines the grid position for Race 1 (later today) but even so it was enough to cause jaws to drop all round the paddock. 2nd in race 1 will be Carlos Huertas (Carlin). 3rd was championship leader Felipe Nasr (Carlin) after a late session crash derailed his planned charge for pole.
The session started on time under very black clouds, and despite the shenanigans indulged in by the GTs just prior to the session. It soon became apparent that Nasr was not messing about. He was first out and he almost immediately set about setting a ferocious pace. However, at the end of their first flying lap it was not the Brazilian but Scott Pye (Double R Racing) who was fastest, though as it was a lap in the one minute and 21 second range, it was quite obvious there was a lot more to come. That was proved when Nasr came pelting round again and got into the 1:18s, only to be pipped to provisional pole by Svendsen-Cook. With Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) 3rd and Huertas in 4th it was looking suspiciously like a Carlin lock out might be in the offing, though Fong was now 5th, presumably because he thinks he knows what he’s doing round Brands after his wholly unexpected podium at the end of last season after one of the oddest races most of us can recall.
A lap later and Nasr was in the 1:17s, pushing Svendsen-Cook back to 2nd, the latter just edging out Huertas. Magnussen was 4th and Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) was 5th now and Jack Harvey was 6th making an all-Carlin top 6 and causing some people to wonder if that meant that Trevor Carlin was elsewhere today. Shortly afterwards Fong was back up to 6th, while Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) was now up to 7th. It was still a long way from over though.
It wasn’t long before Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) was in 4th, pushing Magnussen and co down a place and splitting the Carlin cars. He was soon joined by William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) who went 4th. Pye was also showing well and was 9th, ahead of Fong 10th. As they all started to push ever harder, so the warning messages for “not respecting the track limits” became more and more frequent. First offender was Fantin, while elsewhere Nasr was pushing the limits to go quicker, as was Buller. With their first sets of tyres at their optimum, it was no surprise to see Buller go quicker although it wasn’t enough to move him up from 4th. Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) was also speeding up now and was in the top ten, with a time that was good enough for 9th. And then, suddenly, there was gravel all over the place and someone had reversed into the tyre wall. It was not great shock to discover that the spinner was Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing), the Japanese youngster struggling to get on terms with the other Rookie Class runner, Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) who held class pole all the way through the session.
With Fong going 7th it suddenly all went very quiet. Most drivers had dived into the pits for new tyres and the odd aerodynamic tweak, and the top ten at the halfway mark was Nasr, from Svendsen-Cook, Buller, Huertas, Jaafar, Foresti, Fong, Magnussen, Harvey and Idafar,
Of course when everyone pits at once, what tends to happen is that they all come back out at once as well. Losing out as a result was Nasr, who had to abort what might have been a real flyer when he encountered Foresti tootling along as he tried to get up to speed. It was a bit unfortunate really. Someone who did benefit was Pye, who was suddenly up to 6th after the pitstops, while Fantin improved again to go back up to 9th. The warnings were still going out too – this time it was Jaafar who was failing to respect the track limits, which wasn’t helping his cause. Magnussen, on the other hand, was now 5th and Huertas shot up to 2nd, 0.019 second off the pole time.
That was moved further out of reach when Svendsen-Cook nabbed pole while no one was looking to briefly make it a Carlin top six once again. However, Buller was having none of that and gate-crashed the party by squeezing in to 4th place. And that was when Fong put himself 2nd! Puzzlement deepened when it became clear that his Sino Vision Racing team-mate, Hywel Lloyd, could only manage 12th. As the session wore to a close, Magnussen was another one over-running the track limits, while he also lost places on the grid. However, he at least didn’t get a black and white flagged waved at him; that distinction was reserved for Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport) in the last few minutes of qualifying.
As Foresti improved to 5th and Fantin to 7th, luck ran out for another of the Brazilians. Nasr has been pushing very hard and finally ran out of luck, ending his morning in the gravel and allowing Svendsen-Cook to claim two pole positions for the weekend.
For Race 3 the starting order will be Svendsen-Cook, from Fong, Nasr, Huertas, Foresti, Buller, Fantin, Magnussen, Pye and Jaafar. Harvey will start 11th from Lloyd, Idafar, Tincknell, Fahmi Ilyas (Hitech Racing), Pipo Derani (Double R Racing), Snegirev, Yann Cunha (T-Sport), Hylkema and Sakurai. For Race 1 Svendsen-Cook will again be on pole, from Huertas, Nasr, Huertas, Buller, Foresti, Fong, Fantin, Pye and Magnussen. Harvey stays 11th, from Lloyd, Idafar, Tincknell, Ilyas, Derani, Snegirev, Cunha, Hylkema and Sakurai.
Weather: Cold, changeable.