Kimball Strong in Macau Debut
Charlie Kimball made a very strong debut in the 52nd Macau Grand Prix, Formula 3's biggest international race of the year, held November 17-20th, 2005. Kimball, who was the only American competing in the prestigious event, gained speed and experience every session as he mastered the technical Guia circuit, his first ever street circuit outing. After the first practice session Kimball's lap time placed him only 19th, but he continued to learn and progress all weekend. The 20-year-old rookie qualified 12th and worked his way up to 9th during the 10-lap qualification race before continuing to make progress in the feature race. He was running 8th in the feature race before being taken out by British driver Dan Clarke. Kimball's efforts were all the more impressive considering he suffered from a serious cold and fever all weekend.
The first of the two qualifying sessions did not go as planned for the Carlin Motorsport driver. An engine problem meant that the Kimball managed far fewer laps than most of drivers and was only 17th at the end of the session. Kimball continued to work on the car and study the data, meaning in the next practice session he put in a top-ten time. The second qualifying session was interrupted by multiple red flags and then Kimball's qualifying attempt was cut short when the young American pushed just over the limit and ended his session in the wall. His quick time was good enough to place him 12th on the grid for the qualification race.
Kimball spoke about his qualifying afterwards, "I was disappointed not to get a whole session yesterday and so was pushing really hard today to make up lost ground. I know there is at least another half a second in the car and myself, but a very small mistake around here has very big consequences."
Kimball proved there was more available in the qualification race, where he progressed from 12th to 9th despite feeling feverish before the race. He used the technical 'mountain' section of the circuit to close on the cars in front of him and then took advantage of the mile-long straight to make passes. At one point, Kimball used a three car slipstream in front of him to hit a top speed of 170.6mph. The British Formula 3 Rookie of the Year had a great battle with Danny Watts, an experienced Macau F3 competitor. They swapped positions 3 times in the last two laps, with the American coming out on top.
Kimball was pleased with the result, "That was so much fun!! Even as poorly as I was feeling, I enjoyed the challenging racing immensely. I am coming to terms with how close you have to run to the walls to be quick here. It seems there are only millimeters left!"
Kimball's progress continued in the final race before being brought to a premature end. The Californian made a good start and was running comfortably in 8th place, completing lap times up to 8 tenths of a second quicker than his qualifying. Then with 6 laps to go, the driver in front of Kimball, Dan Clarke spun in one of the tighter sections of the track. With nowhere to go and no time to react, Kimball made contact and then was collected from behind by an innocent Watts. It was a disappointing end to what was going to be an impressive race result.
Kimball's disappointment was palpable afterwards, "I was running so well and gaining experience to put to use next year when Dan braked way too late. He was pushing too hard trying to follow Loic Duval when he lost the car. I thought he would hit the wall and stay to the outside, but he tried to save it and spun across the track in front of me and I had nowhere to go. It is a terrible way to end the race and the F3 season, but I am still pleased with the job I did all weekend as well as all year."
Kimball is now in discussion with teams for next year and will make an announcement shortly. The young Californian will also go home for Christmas and is looking forward to spending some focused time training in preparation for the challenges of next season.