Red Bull Jr. Team Driver Joel Nelson set the fastest lap time to qualify on pole at Jerez, Spain for round eight of the European F3000 Championship. Nelson then went on to lead 28 of the 34-lap race before being forced to retire after a collision...
Red Bull Jr. Team Driver Joel Nelson set the fastest lap time to qualify on pole at Jerez, Spain for round eight of the European F3000 Championship. Nelson then went on to lead 28 of the 34-lap race before being forced to retire after a collision with second place Matteo Grassotto damaged Nelson's radiator.
The Jerez round of the championship proved to be the most competitive of the season as the top six cars were separated by only 0.5 seconds during the practice sessions. Nelson and team worked together though out the sessions to find the best balance for the car.
"We had a very successful test here last year and I was looking forward to coming to a track I had previous experience on. During the first practice the car wasn't very good at all, yet we were still quick so I was encouraged. I knew once we got the car sorted we should be in good shape," explained Nelson.
It became apparent to all the teams that due to the tire and track surface combination, the fastest laps were being set on the first lap. Following the first lap, greater than usual tire degradation made faster laps next to impossible.
"Everyone was struggling after the first lap on the tires. It was clear that qualifying would be a one lap charge," said Nelson. "I was P3 after the first set of tires and later fell to P6 as we waited to go out on the final set. I had a lap going that was equal to P1 on the first set of tires before I got blocked so I knew pole was within reach. I then went out on the final set of tires and just tried to keep the lap neat and tidy because the smallest mistake would have cost us the pole. As I finished the lap I knew it was close but wasn't sure until I returned to the pits that it was P1."
Nelson's lap was just .02 seconds quicker then that of second place 2002 series champion Jamie Melo's.
Nelson made a good start and opened a two second lead on the first lap. Recently crowned 2003 series champion Augusto Farfus followed and later maintained a one second gap until the very end of the race before he was forced to slow because of tire wear. Matteo Grassatto then began to make a charge late in the race after conserving his tires early on.
"I wanted to slow early in the race to save the tires for the end but Farfus was maintaining pressure and we just kept extending our lead over the field. I knew that our fast pace would come back and hurt us in the end but I had to push to keep him behind. Then it looked like Augusto's tires had given up and I was finally able to relax the pace about fifteen laps from the end. Unfortunately for us Grassatto had protected his tires early on and had the best car at the end of the race and began to close. I started to push again but my rear tires were gone. I got sideways out of the chicane and Grassotto had a run on me going into the final corner. He tried to go around the outside, turned in and we touched. The contact cracked my radiator and I had to stop five laps from the end to avoid blowing the engine.
"While there where a lot of positives this weekend, I don't think I have ever been so disappointed as I am now--we were within five laps of a win," said Nelson.
The next and final round of the European F3000 Championship is at the street circuit of Cagliari, Sardinia November 2nd.