Changes: We have lots of additions for the final rounds this weekend. We have Danny Watts out in a spare Raikkonen Robertson Racing in an attempt to give Bruno Senna a tow and help him beat Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport) to 2nd in the...
We have lots of additions for the final rounds this weekend. We have Danny Watts out in a spare Raikkonen Robertson Racing in an attempt to give Bruno Senna a tow and help him beat Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport) to 2nd in the Championship chase. In addition, there's Oliver Turvey (Team Loctite) making his debut in the category, and the Mansell brothers, Greg and Leo, taking over the two empty Fortec Motorsport cars. Given how uninspired the pair of them have been in Formula BMW not much is expected from them, despite the fact that they are technically in Championship Class cars. In fact, all four drivers are running in the Invitation Class and won't score points regardless of where they finish. And there are a couple of subtractions in that Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing) and Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing) decided they have better things - in the shape of A1GP at Zandvoort - to do this weekend.
Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) made an early attack on the session, only to find that a problem with a loose rear upright was making the car almost undriveable. He would retreat to the pits quite early on. In fact, the session was like the first Silverstone session, with people heading out onto the track on wet tyres, then eventually coming in, once the cars were warmed up, and the track was starting to dry, to have slicks fitted. Everyone that is, except for young Mr Turvey, who managed to do it the wrong way round. Still, given he was in the car for the first time, it probably didn't make a lot of difference. In effect this was his test session. Unlike the Mansell brothers, he hasn't been going round and round for weeks on end prior to his F3 debut.
Oliver Jarvis was soon on the pace, while Watts was leading the Invitation Class to no one's great surprise. In the National Class, Juho Annala (Performance Racing) was well ahead of everyone, though that might have had something to do with the fact that Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) hadn't been out yet. With a rapidly drying track it was almost impossible to track all the changes, but the main ones were obvious. It started with Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and team-mate Senna claiming 2nd and 3rd, joining from Jarvis, joining him in the 1.12s. That didn't last long. Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) was next to leap up the order to pole, while Senna and Conway came across the line behind him, and Jarvis slipped to 4th.
The National Class was still shuffling around as well. Alex Waters (Promatecme F3) was now 2nd, behind Annala. Meanwhile back in the Championship category the Carlin boys were still charging hard, and Jarvis was hanging onto 4th, with Bakkerud now 5th, despite the nasty vibration. Meanwhile, Stuart Hall was running well too, the T-Sport driver in 6th, ahead of Watts as the track dried out. A further shuffle and Conway was right up there, with Senna just behind, while Engel and Hall were now 3rd and 4th. The speed of the changes was becoming dizzying. A lap later and Jarvis and Senna took turns at the top. Then it was down to Stephen Jelley, in the third Raikkonen Robertson Racing car, who put in what he described as "the scariest lap I've ever driven" to claim pole, the car on dry setting and wet tyres. All the while, Watts was slowly settling in to the car and moving ever further up the order. He was now 6th overall and Senna was using him to get a decent tow, or at least was trying to. While all that was happening, the inevitable Gonzalez National Class pole seemed to be developing, although Annala was trying very hard not to let the Venezuelan get away, wanting to end his own season on a high.
At the front, it looked like the Double R plan was starting to work as they locked out the first three positions, with Senna settling in behind Jelley, and Conway 3rd. The Carlin boys, Engel and Jarvis, were next up, while Watts was 6th still Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport) clearly decided the Mansell boys could sort themselves out without any help from him. He was 8th, while they were still very distant, and he didn't look like he'd be giving them a tow any time soon. Anyway, this session was a long way from over. A general rush to the pits ensued, with most people sticking on slicks now before going back out to play. The Mansells seemed to be among the first to benefit from the changes, with Greg finding some speed to go 10th overall. However, it was now looking like the change to slicks could be premature, as a big black rain cloud approached, only to turn into a brief shower that barely dampened the track. Bakkerud re- emerged, set the 9th fastest time, then headed back to the pits again, the car still doing odd things. Hall, meanwhile, got back ahead of Watts, and was still running very well indeed. And then Watts snatched 4th, locking out the first two rows for Double R according to plan. It might not last, but it must have made the team very happy.
In fact, it didn't last, Engel suddenly rocketing ahead, raising the bar considerably with a 1:09.477, a massive 1.006 seconds ahead of Conway, who was now 2nd. He didn't get to stay there long either, with Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) now 2nd. A lap later and Conway had it back, with Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3) now showing a remarkable turn of speed to go 3rd behind Kennard, who had just displaced Conway again. Engel remained on pole, but now Jarvis was 4th. It was getting ever more fraught.
While Gonzalez was now a long way ahead in the National Class, the Championship battle continued unabated. Conway went back to 2nd again, while Engel went ever faster. It wasn't enough and Jarvis suddenly snatched pole, with Valerio appearing alongside him. We were in a constant state of flux, and it really did look as if it would be the last man with good tyres who would make it home in pole position. The order now was Jarvis, from Valerio, Senna, Engel, Buurman, Conway, Kennard, Jelley, Gonzalez, Hall, Watts and Bakkerud. Jarvis managed to find some more time from somewhere, and was now 1.007 seconds ahead, though Senna and Jelley were doing their best to catch up, going 2nd and 3rd. Conway then split the pair of them, while Watts was languishing in 13th, two paces behind Greg Mansell. A further reshuffle saw Engel back to 3rd, and Buurman to 5th, but Watts was also on the move. Jarvis speeded up even more, but Watts suddenly put in a real flyer, snatching pole with a 1.06.932 just as it started spitting with rain again. At the back of the order, Bakkerud was slipping out of contention as the team tried to sort out the recalcitrant suspension parts on his car, while the Mansells were now scrapping with each other, and had Annala trapped between them. While the rain came and went, Watts had abandoned the effort and was out of the car. Jarvis also pitted and didn't bother going back out. Clearly he thought second was the best he could hope for. He was ahead of Bruno, and that was what really mattered. Buurman was on the move, and was now 7th, while Bakkerud finally re-emerged, a last ditch effort moving him to 11th just before the chequered flag. It was better than where he had been.
In the National Class, the Mansells kept right on swapping places, with Greg eventually getting the better of Leo, while in the National Class Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) was now showing in the top 3 after a very quiet session. He couldn't catch Annala, and would end the session a long way down on Gonzalez and Annala. By the time the flag was hung out to end the session, it was Watts, from Jarvis, Senna, Engel, Jelley, Conway, Buurman, Valerio, Kennard and Hall. Bakkerud was 11th, ahead of Greg Mansell (who managed a last lap improvement), Gonzalez, James Jakes (Hitech Racing), who had been plagued with engine problems, Leo Mansell, Annala, Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Morgado, Turvey and James Walker (Hitech Racing), also suffering engine problems. Waters was 21st, ahead of Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing).