2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship - Round 1 - Thruxton, March 25th/26th. Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite Race: Weather: Sodden. Cold. At one point in the afternoon it looked as if the weather ...
2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship - Round 1 - Thruxton, March 25th/26th. Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
Race: Weather: Sodden. Cold.
At one point in the afternoon it looked as if the weather would hold. However, by 1.45 the clouds were racing in and you could see the edge of the rainstorm as it approached. With ten minutes to go, the clouds opened, the rain started to fall, and with the race start imminent, and marching bands all over the place, the whole thing was beginning to look like a washout. Even so, the next break in the clouds was visible in the distance but how long it would take to arrive was anyone's guess. The race was delayed while everyone changed to wet weather tyres; everyone except Carlin that is. Based on the patch of blue sky that was edging towards Thruxton, they decided to take a chance on the weather changing again during the course of the race. With Ben Collins that far back, they could afford to take a chance with him. Takuma Sato, too, might have felt it was worth the risk. They would be proved very badly wrong.
As the lights turned to green, Tomas Scheckter (Stewart Racing) was looking to get the advantage over Antonio Pizzonia (Manor Motorsport), the South African trying everything he could think of to intimidate the tiny Brazilian. It failed. He may look about ten years old, but Pizzonia gives way to no one, and he wasn't about to start now. He powered around the outside of the Stewart car and was away into the lead. It wasn't quite the last anyone saw of him, but it may as well have been. A past master of the art of pushing hard on cold tyres, his performance was nothing short of awesome in the atrocious conditions. For each of the first three laps he pulled out another second, making the gap look very hard to close and all Scheckter could do was follow his tail lights in the spray. Other people were making inroads too. Narain Karthikeyan (Stewart Racing) was able to make three places up with a fine start, and slotted in behind Scheckter. He would finish in third too, though he didn't seem too worried about it. "Scheckter's car was a bit better. He was three tenths faster than me. We need to go away and look to see where I can catch him," the Indian said afterwards. When questioned as to whether this meant he was the number two or the number one driver, he was suddenly reticent. "I can't answer that question."
Meanwhile, the first casualty of the race was Martin O'Connell, the veteran F3 racer skating off the sodden track on the first lap. He was soon joined in retirement by the first of the Carlin cars as Collins went off at Allard. In a display of team togetherness, it wasn't long before he was joined by his team-mate. Coping with slicks in what was beginning to look more and more like a power boat race than a car race, Sato had already been off the track in a number of places before he coasted to a final halt alongside his team mate. As the two of them squelched back to the pits, the Safety Car came out whilst Sato's car was moved. At Carlin afterwards there was a fair amount of unhappiness, but if the gamble had paid off they would have been heroes. "Dumb! Dumb! Dumb!" was the only comment fit to print! It's fair to say that the Safety Car had some trouble picking up the leaders, but when it did, Pizzonia was a head of the first of the backmarkers, Phillip Hopkins (Phillip Hopkins Motorsport), while Scheckter was not. Whether it would have made any difference if he had managed to lap Hopkins before then is anyone's guess. When the Safety Car finally pulled back in, Pizzonia made a lightning move and was streaking away again by the time Scheckter found his way round the Class B car. Pizzonia coasted home to victory, unworried by the weather or the fact that in the closing stages Tomas was starting to catch him. Afterwards, the South American was delighted, a smile as wide as the Amazon on his face. "We didn't practice any starts in the wet but the car was really good and the team did a really good job. We had a choice of two different tyres and I think we chose the right one. Anyway, I'm very happy, very! My first race in Formula Three! My tyres were - the temperature was quite high at the end and we had the same problem with the qualifying yesterday. We never know if the track is gonna dry or not. Scheckter was closing at the end but there was only six minutes to go. I knew he couldn't really do it." As if his performance wasn't enough to make everyone stop and think, he was also happy enough to be going to Croft next. "I'm quite confident about Croft," he said. Which makes you think that the others are going to have to raise their games significantly if they want to beat the Flying Pizza. Even so, Scheckter will be keen to take the fight to the youngster. "I beat myself," he said, admitting that he had made a mistake. Elsewhere, though, tempers were a bit frayed. Michael Bentwood (Fortec Motorsport) managed to spin through 360 degrees on the main straight, caught it again, but was passed by Milos Pavlovic (RC Motorsport) and Gary Paffett (Fred Goddard Racing). The latter was then very reluctant to be re-passed though Bentwood felt that, as a Scholarship Class runner, Paffett should have made way and let him through to catch the Class A cars. Paffett, needless to say, saw it rather differently. The situation resolved itself on the final lap, coming into the Chicane. Bentwood had managed to get back ahead but Paffett decided to make a fight of it. What happened next rather depends whose viewpoint you listen to.
Paffett: "I just braked later and got round the outside of him. Then, on the turn-in as we got to the corner, it was all just going nicely when he suddenly turned in on me. I was past him, because his front wheel was just in front of my rear wheel, and he just drove into the back of me."
Bentwood: "In the very last corner, on the very last lap, Gary decided to start battling with me again, pointlessly to my mind. And then we made contact. He was winning the B class by miles. I wasn't going to let him through. I don't know what he's playing at really, he wasn't even in my race. Earlier on, he knew I wanted to get past him, because I wanted to catch the A cars, and when I did get past him he was steering into me. I'm going to go and sort him out. It was immature, unprofessional and stupid."
Two drivers also locked in battle were the Promatecme pairing of Andy Priaulx and Matt Davies. It was nail biting stuff and you had the feeling that the fact that they both drive for the same team was of no interest to either driver. In the end, Davies got the upper hand, not really surprising given his experience. In the battle for supremacy within the team, Davies quite obviously does not intend to be the loser. He's a hard racer and now he knows the tracks, his results will begin to reflect this. 6th place fell to Pavlovic, with Gianmaria Bruni (Fortec Motorsport) still looking very fed up with English weather five seconds behind him. He too had been battling with his teammate (Bentwood) until the English driver got involved with Paffett. In 8th was Nicolas Kiesa (RC Motorsport). The Dane was having quite a struggle just to stay in touch with anyone. The kill switch on his Italian-run Dallara was faulty and he was having to keep hold of it to stop it cutting the engine. If he's planning on replacing Kris Kolby, this was a fine way to start. The Kolby Moments (very bizarre things happening) were a regular feature of last year's series, so maybe we are now going to have Kiesa Moments... just a thought.
Next up in 9th was Paffett, having left Bentwood in the scenery after their final lap clash. He was streets ahead of the next Scholarship Class runner before the incident, especially after Craig Fleming spun out of second in class at the Chicane with six laps to go. This left Christian Columbo in second place, in 14th overall and a lap down.
The final points places in the Championship Class fell to the two Alan Docking Racing drivers. These two were also locked in combat for most of the race, which must have got some sort of reaction out of the Doc. God knows, it takes a lot to make him react. However, the sight of the two blue cars fighting it out was most entertaining for the spectators, especially when Westley Barber finally came out ahead of Tor Sriachavanon. Here's Westley's version of it. "I got a good start but then I lost a chunk of time because the tyres didn't feel very good. I didn't push it on the warm up lap, because I thought I'd be on slicks. I did enjoy it though - at the end there I outbraked both of us at the Chicane. When I came out I was on the grass, heading towards a big mud patch!" Afterwards the stewards wanted a word, but no action was taken. It seems likely that the youngster convinced them that he didn't do it on purpose, he couldn't possibly do it again and he didn't really gain any advantage from it. His opinions on the weather had proved wrong again as well, though his parting shot, at the end of the afternoon, as the sun finally came out. "See! I told you it would be dry!" <pre> Results: 1st - No 1 - Antonio Pizzonia, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 30:52.035, 22 laps 2nd - No 4 - Tomas Scheckter, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 1.190 3rd - No 3 - Narain Karthikeyan, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 4.384 4th - No 5 - Matthew Davies, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, Gap: 18.472 5th - No 6 - Andy Priaulx, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, Gap: 22.077 6th - No 11 - Milos Pavlovic, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 29.822 7th - No 8 - Gianmaria Bruni, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 33.464 8th - No 12 - Nicolas Kiesa, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 34.629 9th - No 61 - Gary Paffett, FGR, Dallara F398 Renault, 31.26.664 (National Class Winner) 10th - No 15 - Westley Barber, ADR, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 45.708 11th - No 16 - Tor Sriachavanon, ADR, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 46.105 12th - No 2 - Juan Manuel Lopez, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 51.451 13th - No 18 - Warren Carway, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 1:08.269 14th - No 51 - Christian Colombo, Rowan, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 1 lap 15th - No 55 - Atsushi Katsumata, Meritus, Dallara F398 Toyota, Gap: 1 lap 16th - No 52 - Phillip Hopkins, GB, PHM, Dallara F398 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 1 lap
Not Classified: No 7 - Michael Bentwood, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Lap 22, Accident with Paffett No 54 - Craig Fleming, ME, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, Lap 16, Spun off at Chicane No 77 - Mark Mayall, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, Lap 11, Spun No 9 - Takuma Sato, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Lap 6, Spun off at Allard (and just about everywhere else) No 10 - Ben Collins, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Lap 4, Spun off at Allard No 66 - Ryan Walker, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, Lap 2, Spun off No 17 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Lap 1, Spun off.
Fastest laps: Championship Class: No 4, Tomas Scheckter, 1:12.242, 188.95 kph/117.41 mph National Class: No 61, Gary Paffett, 1:13.855, 184.82 kph/114.84 mph
Standings: Championship Class: 1st - Antonio Pizzonia - 20 points 2nd - Tomas Scheckter - 16 points 3rd - Narain Karthikeyan - 12 points 4th - Matthew Davies - 10 points 5th - Andy Priaulx - 8 points 6th - Milos Pavlovic - 6 points 7th - Gianmaria Bruni - 4 points 8th - Nicolas Kiesa - 3 points 9th - Westley Barber - 2 points 10th - Tor Sriachavanon - 1 point
Scholarship Class: 1st - Gary Paffett - 21 points 2nd - Christian Colombo - 15 points 3rd - Atsushi Katsumata - 12 points 4th - Phillip Hopkins - 10 points
Next Round: Croft, North Yorkshire - April 8th/9th