BUURMAN LEADS MANOR CHARGE ON NOGARO DEBUT
Yelmer Buurman emerged from rounds 17 and 18 of the Formula 3 Euroseries season at Nogaro in France as the highest scoring of Manor Motorsport's drivers, the 20-year-old's best result of the weekend coming with a top five finish during Saturday's first encounter at the FIA GT Championship supporting event.
Although the race meeting -- which saw the Circuit Paul Armagnac host F3 Euroseries for the first time in the category's history -- wasn't Manor's finest hour in terms of results, the pace was undoubtedly there for Buurman and team-mate Franck Mailleux to achieve strong finishes but the Dinnington squad had more than its fair share of bad luck.
Buurman produced the quickest Manor performance during Friday afternoon's qualifying session with the fourth fastest time and during Saturday's race he was forced to settle for fifth place after losing out to fellow front-runner Sebastian Buemi at the start.
Round 17 proved to be particularly processional, even with the addition of rainfall during the second half of the race, and for Mailleux a lost position early on to Edoardo Mortara also meant he came home one spot lower than his starting place.
For Sunday's race, round 18, hopes were very high among John Booth's squad of great success for Mailleux on home soil as the 22-year-old started from the front-row by virtue of his finishing position of seventh on Saturday.
Terrible luck befell the Frenchman at the start, however, when the lights on the gantry failed to illuminate correctly and, seeing Mortara creep on the line, Mailleux went to go before realising he was about to jump the start. Stopping his car in time, it then stalled and he was incredibly fortunate not to be collected by other drivers.
Buurman, who lined-up fourth on the grid directly behind his team-mate, just managed to avoid colliding with the stricken Manor car but did lose positions in the process and with overtaking at a premium at Nogaro, his race was effectively nullified at the beginning.
Further back, Tom Dillman came closest to making contact with the rear of the Mercedes engined Dallara of Mailleux but thankfully managed to steer clear. The Frenchman would finally get going as the remainder of the grid raced into the distance ahead of him and came home in a creditable 18th position all things considered.
The result, however, means the Frenchman's lead at the top of the rookie standings has been cut to just two points by nearest rival Mortara and so it's all to play for a fortnight from now during the season finale in Germany.
Buurman, who was very unfortunate to lose ground at the start to several rivals when taking avoiding action, raced strongly to finish in seventh place and just six 10ths of a second shy of the round 18 points.
For British sensation James Jakes the Nogaro event turned into one he would rather forget. After the disappointment of qualifying an uncharacteristic 16th fastest he went on to finish round 17 in 18th place and was then forced to retire to the pits halfway through Sunday's encounter following a driveshaft failure.
Having made up a couple of positions on lap one of round 18, Jakes was one of just a handful of drivers to have made headway but then on lap 14 he had no choice but to park his car in the pits. The unfortunate result of a non points-scoring weekend means Jakes has slipped from fourth to fifth position in the championship standings.
Lady racer Cyndie Allemann was the only one of Manor's four drivers to actually gain places during round 17, finishing in 20th position having started 23rd on the grid. On Sunday, the Swiss starlet again produced a good run and climbed from 20th position to 17th place. The demise of fellow Manor star Jakes, however, lifted her into the top 16.
"It's been a very tough weekend, the pace was there for Yelmer and Franck in particular but we've had nothing but bad luck again", said Manor team owner John Booth, "There was a mess-up with the start lights on Sunday, which has happened more than once this year, and that's probably why Mortara jumped the start which spooked Franck a bit.
"It was very unfortunate as Franck could have challenged for a win there and Yelmer's race was ruined too having to avoid Franck's car. Cyndie raced well but it was a bitterly disappointing weekend for James. The driveshaft failure capped it off."
Booth added: "We're looking forward to Hockenheim now though where we've been very strong over the last few years. Our three lads and Cyndie are all driving well and they deserve some good results to end the season on a high."
The world-famous German circuit at Hockenheim will host the final two rounds of the 2007 F3 Euroseries two weeks from now on 13th/14th October with the championship returning to its regular support slot on the ever-popular DTM package.