BF3

Thruxton Round One Qualifying Results

2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship - Round 1 - Thruxton, March 25th/26th. Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite Line Up: With a new sponsor, Green Flag, a new format (races last 30 minutes, rather than a...

2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship - Round 1 - Thruxton, March 25th/26th. Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite

Line Up: With a new sponsor, Green Flag, a new format (races last 30 minutes, rather than a set number of laps, and large prize funds for the Scholarship Class (Class B), there is a lot of interest in this year's British F3 series. The entry list looks very healthy, containing as it does a lot of new faces, a number of last year's men back for another go, and one or two old faces returning to one of the best testing grounds in European racing. <pre> Championship Class No 1 - Antonio Pizzonia, Brazil, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 2 - Juan Manuel Lopez, Argentina, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 3 - Narain Karthikeyan, India, Stewart Racing, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 4 - Tomas Scheckter, South Africa, Stewart Racing, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 5 - Matthew Davies, GB, Promatecme UK, Dallara F300 Renault No 6 - Andy Priaulx, GB, Promatecme UK, Dallara F300 Renault No 7 - Michael Bentwood, GB, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 8 - Gianmaria Bruni, Italy, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 9 - Takuma Sato, Japan, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 10 - Ben Collins, GB, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 11 - Milos Pavlovic, Yugoslavia, RC Motorsport, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel No 12 - Nicolas Kiesa, Denmark, RC Motorsport, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel No 15 - Westley Barber, GB, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 16 - Tor Sriachavanon, Thailand, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 17 - Martin O'Connell, GB, Rowan Racing, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda No 18 - Warren Carway, Ireland, Rowan Racing, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda

Scholarship Class No 51 - Christian Colombo, Italy, Rowan Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda No 52 - Phillip Hopkins, GB, Phillip Hopkins Motorsport, Dallara F398 Spiess-Opel No 54 - Craig Fleming, GB, ME Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda No 55 - Atsushi Katsumata, Japan, Team Meritus, Dallara F398 Toyota No 61 - Gary Paffett, GB, Fred Goddard Racing, Dallara F398 Renault No 66 - Ryan Walker, USA, Diamond Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda No 77 - Mark Mayall, GB, Diamond Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda

</pre> Qualifying: The biggest problem with qualifying was the weather. There seemed to be a mini-storm following the F3 boys around all day. Just prior to both practice sessions, the rain came sweeping in across Salisbury Plain and soaked everything. Westley Barber (Alan Docking Racing) was especially despondent about it, even though he had predicted rain himself. As he remarked, it didn't mean he wanted it. "I'm going to stop wearing a watch and get a sundial. Then, when it stops working, I'll know it's time to go out." This was particularly trying for the teenager, as he doesn't know the tracks at all well; his racing up until now has all been in France. He wasn't the only one who didn't look too happy. Gianmaria Bruni (Fortec Motorsport) had a woolly hat seemingly welded to his head and an expression that suggested he would be on the first available plane back to Italy if he had any choice in the matter. One person who didn't seem at all troubled by the weather was the sensational Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia (Manor Motorsport). Then again, he has spent the last three years racing for various Yorkshire-based teams, so he knows all about cold weather. Pre-season testing form, to say nothing of his utter domination of the 1999 Formula Renault championship, suggested that the young man from the Amazon would be the man to beat as soon as the season got underway. However, he was not on pole by the end of practice, possibly due to his engineer electing not to put his lucky shoes on for the session. The championship-winning teapot was back though, having been welded extensively during the off-season. It's to be hoped that Marc Hynes giving the pot a quick flying lesson at Silverstone last year was a one-off. However, don't get the idea that Manor are superstitious - not a bit of it! Whatever the reasons for it, Pizzonia was edged out of pole in the first session by Takuma Sato (Carlin Motorsport), the Japanese looking very confident on the newly surfaced track. Although he got the better of the Carlin driver, he was again beaten to the top spot, this time by Tomas Scheckter (Stewart Racing). It was close though, the South African squeezing in by a very narrow margin. We were faced with the alarming situation of a pair of F3 debutants sitting on the front row. The potential for difficulty was huge, given that the curse of the F3 newcomer is a tendency to stall on the grid. Luckily the line-up behind them was rather more experienced.

Andy Priaulx (Promatecme UK) was in third place, edging out Michael Bentwood (Fortec Motorsport). Priaulx wiped the floor with the opposition in last year's Renault Spider series, but that shouldn't necessarily mean anything when it comes to single seater racing. Then again he had a handful of F3 drives in the past and tended to look useful then. It may have been a bit of a surprise to Matt Davies, his team-mate, especially as Bentwood was ahead of him too, leaving the Essex man in 5th place. The Altrincham native is back for yet another season, and so should have got the hang of it by now. He was sure that he was on fine form. "I've always had the speed. It's just been getting it out of me that's been the problem," he said.

Narain Karthikeyan (Stewart Racing) completed the third row, the Indian admitting that he and the team had made a mistake, putting the new tyres on just too late. He was only able to get three laps in before the flag fell, leaving him surprisingly low down the grid for an acknowledged wet-weather specialist. Perhaps he's wishing he had stayed where he was last year (Carlin). Certainly unlike most Stewart drivers, he was roaming around the paddock talking to whomever he wanted to talk to. It may be the team will have trouble keeping him under control so life in the paddock could be very interesting for the casual observer. Sato, who failed to cash in on his form in the first session, joined Karthikeyan on the third row of the grid. Like his team-mate, Ben Collins, the day was falling apart for the young Japanese. The weekend wasn't going to get any better either, but luckily he didn't know that on Saturday. If he had, he would probably have stayed in bed on Sunday instead of dragging himself to the track.

Ironically, the fourth row saw Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing), former Class B champion (twice now), alongside the first of this year's B class boys. Gary Paffett (Fred Goddard Racing) was looking to do a spot of giant killing. Now Fred knows a thing or two about Class B, and especially about running one of these cars around Thruxton. And it also seems as if Paffett knew a thing or two as well.

Rookies dominated the next two rows. Nicolas Kiesa (RC Motorsport), this season's Dane, was next up, with the second Manor driver, Juan Manuel Lopez, right beside him. It isn't going to be an easy season for the Argentinean. Pizzonia is a very hard act to follow, and there will be few other drivers who will envy him this particular task. Still, based on his showing on Sunday, he should be able to get closer to his team-mate before the season is much older.

Gianmaria Bruni (Fortec Motorsport) was 12th, a creditable effort for a driver who also doesn't really know this circuit at all. Thruxton is deceptive at first sight. It looks very fast but it also looks very easy. It isn't. You underestimate this place at your own risk, especially the notoriously difficult Church corner. In 13th was Milos Pavlovic (RC Motorsport). He may know the circuits, but the team don't, so they will probably take a while to settle in to this series. On the other hand, they have always been among the best of the Italian teams, so good results are not beyond reach.

The seventh row was occupied by both Alan Docking Racing drivers. After a year with Yudai Igarashi and Doug Bell, the latter a rookie last year, the information and set-ups available to the team are unlikely to be of much use to either driver. It was no real surprise to find Tor Sriachavanon and Westley Barber this far back at present. Barber in particular is unlikely to continue in this sort of position however. As he starts to learn the English tracks his talent should shine through. Certainly last year at Pau, in French F3, he was startlingly quick.

The second Carlin driver, Ben Collins was a lot further back than anyone could have predicted. He failed to get any laps at all in the second session, and as it was the faster session, his chance to challenge for a win was gone for good. The Englishman was not happy, and must have been wondering why he didn't stay in the States. Still, it's good to see a driver of his calibre back in Europe where he belongs. He was joined on the 8th row by a young man having a very torrid time. Craig Fleming (ME Motorsport) had never driven an F3 car before, and had never driven in the rain at Thruxton either. To cap it all, at the start of the session his car started, the engine ran for less than a minute and then died of a fuel-pump failure. The repairs took most of the session, and he then managed just four laps. He was the penultimate runner after the morning session, so to pull himself up to 17th was quite a feat. "It's a bit of a learning curve," he remarked, with what seemed like remarkable understatement.

In 18th, pretty much as last year, was Warren Carway (Rowan Racing). The personable Irishman is back again, although why remains a mystery. Even with the most up-to-date equipment, he is still running at about the same level as before. Still, if he enjoys it, why not? There are worse ways of spending large sums of money, after all. The two Diamond Racing drivers were next up, sticking together all the way through. Ryan Walker headed Mark Mayall by two tenths of a second. In 21st place was another returnee, Phillip Hopkins (Phillip Hopkins Motorsport), the Bristolian making a serious misjudgement of the weather. Faced with changeable conditions, the team spent some of their limited funds on a set of dry weather tyres. This was the wrong choice and left Phil to run on tyres that had already been used for over 200 miles at Donington. It seems Phil's luck hasn't improved while he's been away. In 22nd was Japanese newcomer Atsushi Katsumata (Meritus). This team, in various guises, has been here before. They didn't get the hang of F3 then and it doesn't look as if they have yet either. On the other hand, with a brand new driver, and no solid testing time, it's hard to tell what their potential is. Another slightly baffled, and very cold looking, Italian, Christian Colombo, brought up the rear in a Rowan Racing Class B car.

<pre> Qualifying Times:

1st - No 9 - Takuma Sato, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.312 2nd - No 1 - Antonio Pizzonia, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.342 3rd - No 7 - Michael Bentwood, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.499 4th - No 3 - Narain Karthikeyan, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.644 5th - No 5 - Matthew Davies, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, 1:13.676 6th - No 17 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.730 7th - No 12 - Nicolas Kiesa, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, 1:13.732 8th - No 4 - Tomas Scheckter, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.767 9th - No 11 - Milos Pavlovic, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, 1:13.836 10th - No 2 - Juan Manuel Lopez, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:14.017 11th - No 10 - Ben Collins, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:14.150 12th - No 15 - Westley Barber, ADR, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:14.168 13th - No 8 - Gianmaria Bruni, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:14.321 14th - No 6 - Andy Priaulx, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, 1:14.601 15th - No 61 - Gary Paffett, FGR, Dallara F398 Renault, 1:14.748 16th - No 16 - Tor Sriachavanon, ADR, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.284 17th - No 18 - Warren Carway, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.847 18th - No 52 - Phillip Hopkins, GB, PHM, Dallara F398 Spiess-Opel, 1:16.469 19th - No 51 - Christian Colombo, Rowan, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:17.125 20th - No 66 - Ryan Walker, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:17.164 21st - No 77 - Mark Mayall, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:19.929 22nd - No 54 - Craig Fleming, ME, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:20.538 23rd - No 55 - Atsushi Katsumata, Meritus, Dallara F398 Toyota, 1:24.154

Combined times: 1st - No 4 - Tomas Scheckter, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:12.421 2nd - No 1 - Antonio Pizzonia, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:12.502 3rd - No 6 - Andy Priaulx, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, 1:12.514 4th - No 7 - Michael Bentwood, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:12.742 5th - No 5 - Matthew Davies, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, 1:12.810 6th - No 3 - Narain Karthikeyan, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:12.918 7th - No 9 - Takuma Sato, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:12.986 8th - No 17 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.211 9th - No 61 - Gary Paffett, FGR, Dallara F398 Renault, 1:13.257 (National Class Pole) 10th - No 12 - Nicolas Kiesa, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, 1:13.320 11th - No 2 - Juan Manuel Lopez, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.383 12th - No 8 - Gianmaria Bruni, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.515 13th - No 11 - Milos Pavlovic, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, 1:13.570 14th - No 16 - Tor Sriachavanon, ADR, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.900 15th - No 15 - Westley Barber, ADR, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:13.982 16th - No 10 - Ben Collins, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:14.150 17th - No 54 - Craig Fleming, ME, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.311 18th - No 18 - Warren Carway, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.752 19th - No 66 - Ryan Walker, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:15.979 20th - No 77 - Mark Mayall, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:16.104 21st - No 52 - Phillip Hopkins, GB, PHM, Dallara F398 Spiess-Opel, 1:16.250 22nd - No 55 - Atsushi Katsumata, Meritus, Dallara F398 Toyota, 1:16.439 23rd - No 51 - Christian Colombo, Rowan, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:17.125

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