Changes: Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) has now gone AWOL from the Championship Class in a rather unexpected outbreak of the well-known golden rule - as in, he who has the gold, makes the rules. His sponsors have decided they want to place him elsewhere...
Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) has now gone AWOL from the Championship Class in a rather unexpected outbreak of the well-known golden rule - as in, he who has the gold, makes the rules. His sponsors have decided they want to place him elsewhere and there's nothing he can do about it.
The Scholarship Class is back down to four, with Lars Sexton and Planet Racing orbiting elsewhere, and James Winslow and Reon vanishing into the ether again.
Oh, and for reasons that are unclear, we're back to 25-minute practice sessions again. Maybe they will eventually become 30-minute sessions again sometime soon. We can only hope.
Weather: Cool, windy, dry - with short sharp showers.
With some nasty clouds sweeping in across Salisbury Plain, most people weren't hanging about waiting for this session to start. It was more a case of get out on the track, get a banker lap in, and then try and improve if you could, but don't rely on the rain clouds holding off. Certainly even as the green flag was waved at the end of the pit lane, it was already spitting with rain. Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) was among those who took one look at the conditions and promptly put his foot down to claim an early pole. He didn't get to keep it long, because James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) seemed to think it should belong to him, and was soon up there himself. He was displaced in his turn by Lucas di Grass (Hitech Racing), who now led the way from Asmer and Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport). His team-mate Clivio Piccione was next to go 3rd, dislodging Parente, while Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) had the first off of the morning, when he lost control at the Chicane and narrowly missed going straight through the polystyrene marker blocks. It was an interesting line but it hardly made for a fast lap time. Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) was another having an interesting morning, but also not going very fast, as proven by the fact that he was a mere 12th on the grid.
With the gauntlet thrown down by di Grassi, Rossiter responded to the challenge and was soon back at the top of the order, just ahead of Piccione, who was also not hanging about waiting for the rain to arrive. If Clivio has learned just one thing this season, it's to get a banker lap in while you can. The second row was now occupied by Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) and Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport). Meanwhile, down in the Scholarship Class, perhaps inevitably, Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was one class pole, in 16th place overall.
The rain, meanwhile, had arrived over the circuit and was steadily getting heavier. This, needless to say, prompted a general dive for the pit lane, though Austin seemed in no hurry to come in, and actually improved his time. Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) also stayed out a bit longer, as did Lewis, though no one else seemed very keen on being out there.
With the track completely empty of cars, and the time continuing to tick down while everyone waited for the rain to stop, the order was Rossiter, Piccione, Austin, di Grassi, Carroll, Asmer, Fairuz Fauzy (P1 Motorsport), Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport), Parente and Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing). Power was 11th, from Piquet, James Walker (Hitech Racing), Watts, and Marcus Marshall (Fortec Motorsport) on his last weekend in the UK before he has to go home to Australia to have a nice quiet winter running in the Bathurst 1000 and a number of other hairy-armed Australian Touring Car type events. Lewis headed the Scholarship Class, from Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing), Ronayne O'Mahony also of Performance, and Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3).
Just when it looked as if that would be the end of the session, the rain stopped as abruptly as it had started. Everyone sat and stared at the skies for a while, but then they eventually seemed to believe their eyes, and a slow trickle of cars wandered back out onto the track. With 9 minutes left of the session, it was suddenly very busy out there. Lewis was suddenly no longer on class pole, because Jelley improved to class pole and went to 14th overall as well. Piquet was another who was able to improve, and was now 8th. It wasn't good though it was on a par with the sort of weekend he'd been having - he had been taken to hospital the day before, suffering with some sort of allergic reaction, and while he was there his car was towed away. He was at least now in the top ten, which was better than he could have hoped for before the rain.
Unusually Piquet was also the slowest of Brazilians, which wasn't what he wanted. Di Grassi was back up on the front row again, while Dirani was now 5th. Parente was another on the move. But everyone was running out of time now. It didn't stop Alvaro from trying, the Portuguese bouncing through the Chicane with his tyres smoking lap after lap. Meanwhile, his teammate Piccione was in trouble too, and after skittering embarrassingly off onto the grass, he was brought home on a breakdown truck. And so, after very few laps and a lot of sitting around in the pits, Rossiter claimed pole, from di Grassi, Piccione, Austin, Dirani, Carroll, Asmer, Parente, Fauzy and Piquet. 11th was Marshall, who was ahead of Thompson, Power, Walker and Watts. Jelley was on Scholarship Class pole from Lewis, a sleepy O'Mahony (who'd had two hours sleep the night before as his sister had inconveniently decided to get married the day before in Ireland) and Calasan.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite