by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite -

48th Macau Grand Prix, November 15th/18th 2001

Free Practice 2:
Weather: Sunny, clear, hot.

As we have come to expect, Andy Priaulx was first out of the pits while Takuma Sato was among the last. It meant that Priaulx was also the first driver to set a target time, though this time he didn't get to hold the top spot for very long at all. Joao Paulo de Oliveira was right up there with him, trying to make the running. With the earliest times in the 2:18 second range it was clear that we could expect better results from today's sessions and that the grid was a long way from decided yet. Jonathan Cochet was also improving on his times and, unusually, Sato went fastest on his very first lap, just to give the lie to the theory that he always needs time to wind himself up to a quick lap. The times were beginning to tumble dramatically when Bjorn Wirdheim upped the ante and became the first driver in the 2:15s. Priaulx was still on the pace, and Kaneishi was soon up at the front, getting in to the 2:14 range. He wasn't alone there for very long of course. Toccacelo overtook him and Sato and Priaulx were just behind him. There was more pressure than ever on Sato now, with his teammate Davidson being out of the event. If Carlin were going to complete their clean sweep of F3 it was all down to the little Japanese.

The order just kept changing - if you wanted to get an idea of how things might go in the afternoon, there were more pointers than anyone could want, but keeping track was getting confusing as Priaulx went 2nd, with Treluyer 3rd and Montin 4th. Then de Oliveira set the fastest time. However, no one was able to improve on 2:14 and at this stage the field was noticeably slower than it had been the day before. Pierre Kaffer, who had been languishing down the order, suddenly shot up to 2nd while Fukuda moved to 3rd in the ongoing scrap of Japanese F3 champions (Sato of course is British series champion, Fukuda won the French series and Kaneishi the German series after a court decision). This seemed to spur Sato on and he became the first driver to crack the 2:13 barrier, though Cochet, whose speed so far had been impressive, quickly joined him. Wirdheim moved to 3rd, the fastest of the rookies and Toccacelo was also clearly on the pace having looked rather slow yesterday.

Runner-up to Fukuda, Tiago Monteiro left it late to start his own attack but he was now on the move, while Benoit Treluyer was putting in a strong challenge as well, setting the fastest time of the morning before attacking the barriers nose first! He was able to extract himself and get going again, but it was a bit silly. Monteiro, on the other hand, stayed away from the Armco to go 4th on his 4th visit to this event. He knows this is probably the last time he will do this race and he won't want to fail, especially after somewhat disappointing showings at the other internationals throughout the season. He would soon set the fastest time, which was pretty much what happened at Spa too. He was fastest in the sessions that didn't count but he and the team seemed unable to pull it together when it mattered. Hopefully this time he would be able to break the pattern.

Another one looking very determined was Wirdheim, the Swede getting it all very sideways and locking his wheels. It looked spectacular as well as horrible. It certainly wasn't doing his tyres any good...

And as the 30-minute session came to a close, Sato moved back into 2nd place, while the man who was supposed to challenge him for the British title but singularly failed, Derek Hayes, managed to hit the barriers; maybe he was just trying to copy his team-mate... It set a bad example too, as Sakon Yamamoto decided to join in as well. <pre> Classification - Free Practice 2:

1st - No. 18 - Tiago Monteiro, P, ASM-Elf, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:13.241 2nd - No. 6 - Takuma Sato, J, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen, 2:13.353 3rd - No. 3 - Benoit Treluyer, F, Mugen X Dome Project, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen, 2:13.542 4th - No. 25 - Jonathan Cochet, F, Signature Competition, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:13.786 5th - No. 10 - Pierre Kaffer, D, Team Kolles Racing, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:13.804 6th - No. 8 - Ryo Fukuda, J, Saulnier Racing, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:13.868 7th - No. 27 - Bjorn Wirdheim, S, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:14.049 8th - No. 19 - Joao Paulo de Oliveira, BR, Swiss Racing Team, Dallara F399 Opel-Spiess, 2:14.089 9th - No. 2 - Enrico Toccacelo, I, Opel Team BSR, Dallara F300 Opel-Spiess, 2:14.400 10th - No. 30 - Andy Priaulx, GB, Promatecme, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen, 2:14.437 11th - No. 28 - Kosuke Matsuura, J, Prema Powerteam, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:14.601 12th - No. 12 - Paulo Montin, I, Tom's, Dallara F301 Toyota Toms, 2:14.630 13th - No. 1 - Toshihiro Kaneishi, J, Opel Team BSR, Dallara F300 Opel-Spiess, 2:14.696 14th - No. 15 - Derek Hayes, GB, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:15.136 15th - No. 17 - Tristan Gommendy, F, ASM-Elf, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:15.263 16th - No. 26 - Yuji Ide, J, Signature Competition, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:15.351 17th - No. 31 - Bruce Jouanny, F, Promatecme, Dallara F301 Honda-Mugen, 2:15.742 18th - No. 16 - Mark Taylor, GB, Manor Motorsport, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:15.914 19th - No. 11 - Sakon Yamamoto, J, Tom's, Dallara F301 Toyota-Toms, 2:15.935 20th - No. 21 - Peter Sundberg, S, Three Bond, Dallara F301 Nissan-Tomei, 2:16.160 21st - No. 23 - Heikki Kovalainen, SF, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F301 Renault-Sodemo, 2:16.950 22nd - No. 20 - Haruki Kurosawa, J, Swiss Racing Team, Dallara F399 Opel-Spiess, 2:17:421 23rd - No. 36 - Matteo Bobbi, I, Target Racing, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:18.835 24th - No. 32 - Michael Ho, MAC, Cram Competition, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:18.918 25th - No. 9 - Marchy Lee, C, Saulnier Racing, Dallara F399 Renault-Sodemo, 2:19:102 26th - No. 7 - Peter Hackett, AUS, Carlin Motorsport, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:20.128 27th - No. 33 - Raffaele Giammaria, I, Team Kolles Racing, Dallara F300 Honda-Mugen, 2:20.906 28th - No. 22 - Lei Kit Meng, MAC, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F301 Renault-Sodemo, 2:21.948 29th - No. 29 - Jo Merszei, MAC, Cram Competition, Dallara F301 Opel-Spiess, 2:24.792