Changes: We have an additional Brazilian in the shape of Ernesto Otero, who has joined Raikkonen Robertson Racing, taking over Alistair Jackson's old National Class car. Meanwhile, Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport) and Alex Waters ...
Changes: We have an additional Brazilian in the shape of Ernesto Otero, who has joined Raikkonen Robertson Racing, taking over Alistair Jackson's old National Class car. Meanwhile, Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport) and Alex Waters (Promatecme F3) have gone missing, the former from the Championship Class and the latter from the National Class, suffering from glandular fever.
With an outbreak of collective amnesia in the paddock as everyone pretended that the Masters at Zolder last weekend didn't happen, it was something of a relief to get back to business as usual at Silverstone today. And it was business as usual, with Marko Asmer claiming pole for Hitech Racing as he has done so often this season. Second was Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), ahead of the re-energized Rodolfo Gonzalez (T- Sport). Gonzalez's team-mate, Sergio Perez again claimed the National Class pole after a somewhat dull session.
Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport) seemed pleased to have his normal engineer back in action after an illness, and while Jimmy didn't look too well, Niall looked a lot happier. He was out there at the very start of the session, along with team-mates Sam Bird, Mario Moraes and Maro Engel. That meant that Bird was first over the line to start a flying lap with the rest of the team (apart from Alberto Valerio) joining in immediately. Moraes was the first of the drivers to head the times, but obviously with everyone just setting their first flying laps, it was all a bit weird to start with. Sergio Perez (T-Sport) was suddenly on pole by 0.7 seconds from Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), while Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport) then moved into 2nd, and Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing) was 3rd. It was all a bit odd right now, but no doubt it should all sort itself out soon.
It certainly did, with Bird now going fastest, only for Moraes to better his effort. Engel then slotted into 2nd and things settled briefly as various people set fastest sector times but couldn't quite string it all together. Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) was the next to hold provisional pole, but then the series leader Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) hit his stride and went ahead of everyone, which probably didn't surprise anyone much. What was surprising was that Chilton was still 6th. However, it wasn't a full contingent by any stretch of the imagination. There were only 22 cars out there right now with six minutes of the session already gone.
Engel was soon back to 2nd, but seemed to be slogging it out with Hohenthal, who almost immediately took it back. A lap later Engel was again back in place. They didn't seem to be able to do anything about Asmer though. Breen and Bird were 4th and 5th at this point, and Greg Mansell and Chilton were next up in 6th and 7th.
Perez was still leading the National Class but was now a long way down in 9th, while Frankie Cheng (Performance Racing) was the only one looking likely to challenge the Mexican. Meanwhile, Greg Mansell was up in 3rd with Bird 4th. Elsewhere, Stephen Jelley and Atte Mustonen, both of Raikkonen Robertson Racing, were still in the pits, as was Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport). They seemed to be keeping their powder dry and letting the rest of the field clean the track before they'd even consider going out. With the heat intensifying and affecting the performance of the engines, it remained to be seen if this was the correct strategy or not.
Certainly Hohenthal and Bird were both pushing on, and were now 3rd and 4th. Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) was also now troubling the leader board and was suddenly really flying, the Venezuelan now up in 6th while Valerio, Jelley and Mustonen all finally emerged from the pits well after the 10- minute point had been passed. Bird was still pressing on and was now 2nd, presumably no longer being distracted by grid girls or whatever as he had been before the session.
Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) was now 7th, a much happier man now he's back in a Mygale after his one-off Dallara drive at Zolder last weekend. It had been a somewhat tense affair, so he seemed relieved to be back to normal. Something else was back to normal too as Teixeira trekked slowly back to the pits, bringing lots of gravel with him. He was now near the back of the field, despite his brief showing at the top of the order.
At the real front, Engel was now back up to 2nd, but Asmer remained annoyingly in place no matter what anyone tried. Perez was now well ahead in the National Class, with Cheng still 2nd in the running but a long way further down behind a number of Championship Class cars.
A further shuffle of the order saw Mansell move into 3rd, while Gonzalez improved to 5th and was now really flying - the result was that the Venezuelan was suddenly 2nd, his best effort of the year so far. Of the late starters, Jelley was now beginning to show though he was a somewhat disappointing 10th.
At the halfway point, the order was Asmer, from Gonzalez, Greg Mansell, Engel, Bird, Jelley, Hohenthal, Devaney, Breen and Moraes. 11th was Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport), ahead of Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Chilton, Perez, Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), John Martin (Alan Docking Racing), Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Cheng and Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport).
Notably missing from that top twenty was Mustonen, who was not improving at the rate one might have expected. He seemed to be having some trouble, at least at this stage. It was further highlighted by the fact that Jelley was now 6th, and a lap later he went 5th, to place him ahead of Bird who was already out of the car. He wasn't the only one. Gonzalez was also now in the pits, and appeared to have decided there was nothing further to be gained from flogging round and wearing out his tyres. A fresh improvement from Mustonen saw the Finn go 8th while Kennard improved to 12th, not where you'd expect to find the winner of one of the rounds at Spa. It seemed symptomatic of the general lack of consistency that has prevented anyone mounting a serious challenge to Asmer, who also came in and got out of the car, confident that he'd done enough for the session.
The one car that all eyes were now on was that of Mustonen, who seemed at last to get it into gear and really go. Certainly he managed a blinding first sector but then he messed up the 2nd sector. With hardly anyone still out there, and well over 10 minutes left, he had plenty of clear track to play with. Jelley was still out, and Valerio and Devaney were also still circulating, though the Irishman was now only 11th. There were only 13 drivers still out there - in fact there were more drivers on the pit wall than there were on the track as the clock ticked slowly round to the end of the half hour. Devaney came in for some adjustments then went back out, and Greg Mansell wandered out again too, but the only change came when Mustonen posted a real flyer and claimed 2nd, and then it all went very quiet till the chequered flag came out.
Asmer, then, has yet another pole position to add to his growing collection, and Mustonen again gets a front row slot (and everyone will be hoping that this time he can get it off the line when the lights go out - his record, after all, is not good). 3rd is Gonzalez, from Greg Mansell, Engel, Jelley, Bird, Hohenthal, Devaney and Valerio. 11th was Breen, ahead of Moraes, Kennard, Guerrieri, Chilton, Perez, Grubmuller, Martin, Jackson and Cheng. 21st, as is often the case, was Leo Mansell, leading Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport), Teixeira, Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing), Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing), Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), Otero and Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport).
Weather: Hot, sunny, clear.