FORMULA THREE FRIDAY (19/11) QUALIFYING Weather: Sunny
MANNING ON POLE AS BUTTON IMPRESSES
Briton Darren Manning will start Sunday's Macau Grand Prix from pole position despite failing to improve his fastest lap during final qualifying on Friday. The TOM'S driver could not find a clear lap around the Macau circuit and was forced to watch his rivals steadily close his advantage during the session.
It was left to Macau rookie Briton Jenson Button to be Manning's closest challenger as he set the second fastest lap, less than five tenths slower than pole, on his very last lap. Austrian Robert Lechner, who sat on pole last year, will start third after crashing out early in the session.
"I am overjoyed with this result but there was so much traffic out there that I could not improve my lap time," said Manning, this year's Japanese Formula Three Champion. "It was a terrible session for me and I think my only clear lap was my first one out of the pits.
"I have been dominant all weekend but I know at Macau that nothing can be guaranteed, so I'm going to concentrate everything on the race now and ensure I make a good start."
Button underlined his potential with the second fastest time, although even he was surprised that his final lap was so fast. "It wasn't an especially clean lap because I had to get past Andrew Kirkaldy going into the first corner, but I am obviously very happy," explained the Promatecme driver. "I know the race is a completely different prospect to qualifying, but I've been watching previous events on video so I've got a pretty good idea of what to expect."
Lechner was left thankful that the race is not until Sunday after banging his knee in his accident at Police bend, which came on the lap after he had set his best time. "Before practice I had said that I would save myself until the last moment and then I would push really hard, but everything seemed to be going so well that I was pushing harder and harder," he said. "I went into the corner too fast and had to make a split second decision about whether to go straight on or take the bend. I thought I could get around it, but I was wrong."
Swede Peter Sundberg, this year's Italian Formula Three Champion, admitted that he was surprised that he managed to set such a quick lap time after struggling for much of the weekend. "We lost our way a little this morning with the set-up but we changed something on the car and during qualifying it felt completely different," explained the Prema driver. "I am hopeful the car will be just as good in the race."
The session witnessed a number of accidents as drivers pushed their cars to the limit. Tsugio Matsuda crashed heavily at Police bend while Christijan Albers was lucky to escape injury after being hit side-on by Michele Spoldi at Lisboa.