Autosport British F3 Championship 1998 - Round 2, Thruxton, March 29th.
Weather: cold, damp.
Qualifying 1st Martin O'Connell, Dallara F398 TOMS Toyota 1:08.593 2nd Warren Hughes, Dallara F398 Renault 1:08.678 3rd Enrique Bernoldi, Dallara F398 Renault 1:08.731 4th Mario Haberfeld, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:08.788 5th Luciano Burti, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:08.965 6th David Cook, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 1:08.987 7th Ben Collins, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 1:09.203 8th Ricardo Mauricio, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:09.217 9th Jamie Spence, Dallara F398 Renault 1:09.257 10th Marc Hynes, Dallara F398 Renault 1:09.288 11th Alexander Yoong, Dallara F398 Renault 1:09.393 12th Narain Karthikeyan, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 1:09.449 13th Kristian Kolby, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:09.521 14th Michael Bentwood, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:09.522 15th Paula Cook, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess 1:09.647 16th Yudai Igarashi, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:09.814 17th Andrej Pavicevic, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:09.942 18th Tim Spouge, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:09.969 19th Adam Wilcox, Great Britain, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda 1:10.015 20th Phillip Scifleet, Dallara F396 TOMS Toyota 1:10.187 (National Pole) 21st Warren Carway, Dallara F396 TOMS Toyota 1:10.776
After a cold morning when the weather had threatened to turn nasty but had never quite done so, the afternoon looked like it would be wet. As the F3s lined up for the start, the first drops of rain began to fall. Team managers could be seen scratching their heads and wondering whether to switch from slicks to wet weather tyres. There were no clues to be gained from staring at the sky, but it didn't stop them doing it anyway. Finally, as the green flag lap started it seemed as if the clouds would simply settle for spitting slightly. Ben Collins was probably doing rather more than spit, as his Opel Spiess wouldn't fire up at the start. With the stricken Collins occupying a precarious position, the officials had no choice but to abort the start. At the second attempt he was still in need of a push and was finally able to start the green flag lap after the others had all gone, leaving him to trail the field round and take his place at the back of the grid. Phillip Scifleet was similarly afflicted and he too would start from the back, although in his case this meant only dropping a handful of places.
Meanwhile, at the front Enrique Bernoldi was determined that he was not going to let anyone get away ahead of him. As the lights turned green, he made a storming start, scything between O'Connell and Hughes on a trajectory that looked as if was going to take him straight into the barriers. It was a calculated gamble. If he got it wrong he would be out of the race immediately. Luck was with him, and he went into the first corner in the lead, followed by O'Connell and Hughes. From the mid-point of the race, Bernoldi was in trouble. The engine warning light was on and the temperature was going off the clock. From close behind O'Connell could see liquid leaking from the Renault unit and began to push hard. He had missed his chance on lap 3 with a missed gear change and he wasn't going to let a second opportunity slip away. Hoping that if he pushed the young Brazilian hard enough the engine would blow, Martin loomed large in Enrique's mirrors for the next nine laps. Bernoldi was also driving hard. He had nothing to lose. If it blew, he would score no points anyway. As it was, he was in the lead and he knew he might as well keep pushing. Luck had been with him all day and it stayed with him now as he came home to his second win of the season, the desperately underfunded O'Connell just behind.
The PSR civil war was now in it's 2nd round, with Burti and Haberfeld again going at each other in a manner that probably won't earn Jackie's approval if he sees them. This time the winner was Haberfeld. He goes well at Thruxton and in a forceful performance, he showed his teammate a thing or two about driving the Hampshire track. They would finish 4th and 5th. Behind them Jamie Spence was having a nice quiet afternoon, unable to catch the leading bunch but largely untroubled by Kolby who was just relieved to get a result after his first race. He was locked into a battle with Yoong and Karthikeyan, the latter dropping back a little when Collins appeared to pressure him.
Elsewhere, Michael Bentwood continued to win friends and influence people, managing to take David Cook and Ricardo Mauricio out before the race was a lap old. Bentwood himself escaped with no damage. It seems likely that he was also responsible for Marc Hynes finding himself in a spin after an unknown assailant hit him from behind. The youngster wasn't too pleased as he had made a good start and was progressing well. Suddenly he was going to have to work hard as he was last but one by the end of the lap. His charge back up the order was impressive and would probably have gained him the Driver of the Day award if it hadn't have been for Collins who was also carving his way back towards his first points of the season. Given a little more time, in fact, it is likely that he and Hynes would have been scrapping for a place. As it was, Collins progress was mightily impressive and was only halted when he caught up with Paula Cook. The Yorkshire woman was determined not to let him by and when Ben finally figured out how to do it, she came close to squeezing him into the pit wall. He finally got into the points but 10th was the best he could manage; he deserved better.
In the National category, it didn't take Scifleet long to see off his teammate for victory. At least this time he had some opposition.
Results 1st No. 5 Enrique Bernoldi, F398 Renault Time 22:08.552, 19 laps, 121.29 mph/195.20 km/h 2nd No. 16 Martin O'Connell, F398 TOMS Toyota Time 22:09.501 Gap: 0.949 3rd No. 21 Warren Hughes, F398 Renault Time 22:12.968 Gap: 4.416 4th No. 2 Mario Haberfeld, F398 Mugen Honda Time 22:18.161 Gap: 9.609 5th No. 1 Luciano Burti, F398 Mugen Honda Time 22:22.499 Gap: 13.947 6th No. 14 Jamie Spence, F398 Renault Time 22:23.975 Gap: 15.423 7th No. 4 Kristian Kolby, F398 Mugen Honda Time 22:27.960 Gap: 19.408 8th No. 22 Alexander Yoong, F398 Renault Time 22:33.017 Gap: 24.465 9th No. 32 Narain Karthikeyan, F398 Opel Spiess Time 22:41.848 Gap: 33.296 10th No. 27 Ben Collins, F398 Opel Spiess Time 22:42.533 Gap: 33.970 11th No. 6 Marc Hynes, F398 Renault Time 22:44.642 Gap: 36.090 12th No. 9 Michael Bentwood, F398 Mugen Honda Time 22:47.754 Gap: 39.202 13th No. 19 Paula Cook, F398 Opel Spiess Time 22:48.144 Gap: 39.592 14th No. 8 Yudai Igarashi, F398 Mugen Honda Time 22:48.754 Gap: 40.202 15th No. 42 Adam Wilcox, F398 Mugen Honda Time 22:53.652 Gap: 45.100 16th No. 20 Tim Spouge, F398 Mugen Honda Time 22:53.956 Gap: 45.404 17th No. 3 Andrej Pavicevic, F398 Mugen Honda Time 22:54.321 Gap: 45.769 18th No. 52 Phillip Scifleet, F396 TOMS Toyota Time 22:54.680 Gap: 46.128, Speed 117.22 m.p.h./188.65 k.p.h. (National Class winner) 19th No. 51 Warren Carway, F396 TOMS Toyota Time 22:40.059 Gap: 1 lap
DNF No. 7 Ricardo Mauricio, F398 Mugen Honda Accident - Lap 1 No. 18 David Cook, F398 Opel Spiess Accident - Lap 1
Fastest Laps: Bernoldi - Lap 5, 1:09.133, speed 122.68 m.p.h./197.44 k.p.h Scifleet - Lap 5, 1:10.835, speed 119.73 m.p.h./192.69 k.p.h.
Points after 2 rounds: International Class 1st Bernoldi, 42 points 2nd O'Connell, 30 points 3rd Burti/Haberfeld, 20 points 5th Hughes/Spence, 12 points 7th Hynes, 8 points 8th Mauricio/Karthikeyan/Kolby, 4 points 11th D Cook/Yoong, 3 points 13th Igarashi/Collins, 1 point
National Class 1st Scifleet, 42 points 2nd Carway, 15 points