Fortec Motorsport FIA International Formula 3000 Championship Round 10 Nurburgring, Germany, September 23rd-25th 1999
Pavicevic Finishes on a High in Germany
Qualifying - 9th in group
Zepter driver Andrej Pavicevic arrived at the Nurburgring, Germany in confident frame of mind for the 10th and final round of the 1999 European F3000 Championship. A strong showing in Spa at the previous event was the basis for this confidence, added to which Pavicevic had enjoyed the luxury of an hour on the circuit in a GM Euroseries single-seater earlier in the month, to give him some advance knowledge of the famous German circuit. This proved to be time well spent as the Zepter man was on the pace immediately and looked like a likely qualifier from the outset. With ten minutes of the session still to run, the Zepter car was an extremely comfortable 6th fastest.
The mark of a good driver is the ability to produce a time in a single flying lap when needed and Pavicevic has proved increasingly adept at this as the season has gone on. However, today Andrej was to be troubled continually by the mistakes of others as Morelli, Yoong and then Mauricio went off the track, bringing out yellow flags and forcing Andrej to abort what the telemetry showed would have been a still better lap on each occasion. He ended up being bumped down to 9th. It is a measure of the Serb-Australian's progress this season that he was disappointed and frustrated with this. 6th or better was clearly his natural grid position. Nevertheless, he was just 1 second away from 1999 Champion Nick Heidfeld's pole position time, 4/10ths away from ex-F1 driver and team mate Norberto Fontana and had done better than the likes of 1998 British F3 Champion Mario Haberfeld and runner-up Enrique Bernoldi. Neither managed times good enough to qualify.
Safely lodged in the middle of the grid Andrej was in amongst the seriously quick guys for the first time. Race - 13th
The first lap served up its usual diet of incident and crashes. By his own admission, Pavicevic's start was nothing special, too many revs inducing wheel-spin in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears. Pavicevic steered the Zepter car clear of trouble but was forced to hit the brakes hard as Yoong, Wilson and Junqueira speared off the track and into retirement. This cost him a good deal of time and dropped him down to 19th by the end of lap 1. Andrej then settled into a very consistent and quick rhythm, his lap times covered by 6/10ths of a second for the entire 45 laps.
Much of his race was spent in a 3-car train with Van Hooydonk ahead and Ricardo Mauricio behind. The battle between the Zepter car and Mauricio's Red Bull liveried machine was one of the race's highlights and was featured extensively in the TV coverage. Mauricio was never more than 0.5 of a second away, the Brazilian applying constant pressure to Pavicevic and finally settling the matter in Andrej's favour by leaving the track and riding over the grass on the penultimate lap in his efforts to get by.
Pavicevic had it all covered, setting his quickest race lap on lap 40 - Andrej is now considered one of the fittest drivers in the category - and finally finishing in 13th position, 10 seconds behind team mate Fontana, who finished 10th.
Winner for the second race in succession was Danish driver Jason Watt, followed closely by 1999 champion Nick Haberfeld and Brazilian Max Wilson in third.
For someone with just a single season of single-seater experience prior to 1999 Pavicevic has had a remarkable year. 4 seconds off the pace in pre-season testing, Andrej has finished his season strongly and is now one of the drivers people expect to see qualify. He has progressively and quickly improved his technique and is now within a second of the ultimate pace. He has also begun to be a feature in the races, and has proved he is well capable of mixing it with drivers many years his senior in terms of racing experience. The learning curve has never stopped going upwards and the Zepter driver has impressed the racing scene with his ability to learn hard lessons quickly, to assimilate new experience and put it to good effect each time he has stepped into the car.
Andrej Pavicevic said: "How can I sum up the year? The keynote is improvement. We have improved every time we've driven the car. We have progressed from a position of being a likely non-qualifier to being a regular qualifier. Not only that, I am now running at the same pace in the races as some of the seriously quick guys and I have closed the gap to my experienced team mate as the season has gone on. This has been a learning year. The important thing now is to capitalize on the lessons learned and to come back stronger in year 2. I have to thank everyone at Fortec, as we are all new to the category and we have all been learning together. Above all I have to thank my sponsor Zepter for all the support given to me throughout 1999."