Mark Asmer continued his dominance in the British F3 Championship, winning the first of today's pair of races at Silverstone Circuit. The Estonian survived a safety car period to take a convincing win for Hitech Racing, ahead of Raikkonen...
Mark Asmer continued his dominance in the British F3 Championship, winning the first of today's pair of races at Silverstone Circuit. The Estonian survived a safety car period to take a convincing win for Hitech Racing, ahead of Raikkonen Robertson Racing's Stephen Jelley.
The field rolled up for the 11th race of the 2007 British F3 season, and before we even started we were short of one car. Invitation Class runner Johnny Cecotto Junior (Raikkonen Robertson) had crashed so heavily in qualifying for this race that there wasn't enough left of the car to rebuild. He would take no further part in the meeting, and was a bit of a case of blink and you miss him. The remaining 30 cars lined up ready for the start, but not before Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) had stopped about 100 yards further forward than he was supposed to, which meant most of the front half of the field had to engage reverse and shuffle back to their rightful grid slots.
Once all that got sorted, the race finally got underway. On the front row Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) again demonstrated his apparently inherent inability to get off the line at the start, and was left sitting there as pole position man Asmer shot away into the lead. While Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) both jumped the start, there was a heart stopping moment as everyone waited to see whether the pack would all miss the stalled Finn, or whether there'd be a repeat of the accident in yesterday's Formula Ford race. Everything missed Mustonen, though how God only knows.
There was a good start from Sam "Small Person" Bird (Carlin Motorsport), the diminutive Englishman making one of his now trademark lightning starts, but any good he'd done himself evaporated almost immediately afterwards when the Mercedes power unit started to act up, dropping him back again. Meanwhile, Asmer was already breaking away from the following pack, despite all the efforts of Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Hohenthal. As Bird started to drop back, that moved Kennard to 4th and Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) to 5th. They were closely followed by Niall Breen in another of the Carlin Motorsport cars.
Breen had been having a bad week with a family bereavement, and just to add to his woes his engineer, Jimmy, was missing, having been taken to hospital overnight with stomach trouble. While his team-mates were still in the race, Bird limped into the pits and out of the race, while elsewhere the major loser in the chaos, apart from Mustonen who was dead last yet again, was Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport). The Venezuelan driver had made a poor start, his clutch slipping to begin with, though not long after that he started to really power back, and would provide what was probably the most entertaining drive of the race.
In the National Class, "Frankie" Cheng (Performance Racing) was leading from Sergio Perez (T-Sport), though not by much. The one thing saving the Chinese driver was that Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) was caught between them. However, all eyes were on the front, watching Asmer power away. Behind the Estonian, Kennard was all over Jelley, and the main entertainment was a little behind them, with Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport) getting involved in a battle with Gonzalez and John Martin (Alan Docking Racing). Gonzalez barged his way past Martin at Paddock after a side-by-side run into the corner.
That let Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) through, and left Valerio and Martin battling into Druids. You need to be very lucky to get away with a move like that and their luck didn't hold. Before you could draw breath Valerio was barrel rolling through the air to come to rest in the gravel alongside a rather surprised Australian. The Brazilian was unhurt and felt well enough to attempt to collect the wreckage and carry it back to the paddock with him. All of that meant a Safety Car period just as Hohenthal came in to serve the drive through penalty he'd been awarded for his "optimistic" start.
As they settled in behind the Safety Car, the order was Asmer from Jelley, Kennard, Engel, Breen, Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport), Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), Gonzalez and Greg Mansell. In 11th was Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), ahead of Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport), Cheng, Grubmuller, Perez, Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport) and Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport). Leo Mansell (Fortec Racing) was a distant 21st back with the National Class runners as usual, from Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing), Mustonen, Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport), Alex Waters (Promatecme F3) and Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing).
After only one lap the Safety Car pulled back in and the race went live again. Asmer controlled the restart beautifully and was never troubled again. Carrying on serenely at the front, unaware of the mayhem behind, the Estonian busied himself setting a series of fastest laps and opening out the gap to Jelley and company at a steady but impressive rate. The main scrap behind him was between the Ultimate team-mates Devaney and Guerrieri. At the restart Devaney tried to get the drop on the Argentinean into Paddock, only to fail to get through. However, Gonzalez saw an opportunity there and promptly barged past Devaney, lurking threateningly behind Guerrieri and biding his time. He didn't have to wait long. Guerrieri suddenly dropped back behind Gonzalez and was also passed by Devaney. He was dropping like a stone down the order, while Gonzalez vanished into the distance in pursuit of Breen and Engel. Guerrieri was soon in the sights of Greg Mansell, and he couldn't hold on much longer, eventually pitting with a slipping clutch that had got steadily worse and worse as the race wore on.
Further back Hohenthal was also hacking his way back up the order having come back out from the pitlane in 19th place. While he was passing Meadows, Mustonen was on a similar mission and was just behind the Swede. When Hohenthal had a moment at Clark Curve that was all the invitation Mustonen needed. He was though and into 16th, with a gaggle of National Class cars between him and a potential points score.
To return to the Gonzalez recovery drive, he was now closing on Breen, with some mightily impressive laps. It didn't take him long to catch the Irishman, and a decisive dive round the outside at Hawthorns saw him up another place in 5th. Now he had Engel in his sights. The German must have been feeling slightly nervous by now.
Back from that battle, Mansell lost out to Moraes after a brief but intense fight, despite Mansell trying his best to take the place back into Paddock. Moraes fought back and held him off though. Meanwhile Grubmuller managed to pass Cheng and Mustonen followed through, splitting the lead pair in the National Class and looking as if he might just salvage a point out of the entire debacle. A brief scuffle further back saw Petterson get clear of Jensen after a classic move into Druids that started when Jensen came past the South African at Paddock, and that ended with Petterson back ahead by the time they got to Graham Hill Bend.
While that was going on, Mustonen had caught Grubmuller and Chilton, and a three way battle for 10th broke out. Grubmuller barged past Chilton, and Mustonen managed to go with him, thus depriving the teenager of his first point of the season. Meanwhile, Gonzalez went round the outside at Hawthorns to pass Engel in pretty much the same move he'd pulled on Breen. He wasted no time setting off after Kennard, though it looked likely that he'd run out of time before he could catch the Double R car. It didn't stop him trying though.
Mustonen was still trying as well. He was right with Grubmuller now, though perhaps not quite close enough to get back into the points, However, Grubmuller went wide and the Finn thought he might have a chance. Mustonen locked up instead, and by the time he sorted it out, Grubmuller was back in control, leading a train of cars that stretched all the way back to Perez, who was the main beneficiary of the blockage - it meant he was right on Cheng's tail.
Shortly after that Greg Mansell had another go at Moraes into Paddock, but he just wasn't close enough to make it stick. And while Mansell was fighting to get back ahead, Grubmuller was again very ragged through Druids and into Graham Hill Bend. Even so, Mustonen still couldn't make it stick, and instead he went off on the last lap, throwing away any chance of a point and dropping back down the order.
And so Asmer came home to yet another victory to go 70 points ahead in the championship chase, leading home Jelley, Kennard, Gonzalez, Engel, Breen, Devaney, Moraes who was inches ahead of Greg Mansell, and Grubmuller. 11th was Chilton, from Cheng, Perez, Mustonen, Teixeira, Hohenthal, Petterson, Jensen, Meadows and Leo Mansell. Al Khalifa was 21st from Jackson, Al Fardan, Waters, Garcia and Castellacci.
Fastest laps were set by Asmer and Cheng.