There are many sorts of motor race, some more exciting than others. At Monza on Saturday afternoon the British F3 International Series boys gave us more excitement than we could possibly have asked for. This was a thriller of a race, a...
There are many sorts of motor race, some more exciting than others. At Monza on Saturday afternoon the British F3 International Series boys gave us more excitement than we could possibly have asked for. This was a thriller of a race, a rollercoaster ride with no brakes, and probably one of the best races anywhere this or any other season. Coming to a track like Monza, where everything is about slipstreaming, and speed, there was always a chance we might get something special and the Italian Grand Prix track delivered in spades. However, before we could get as far as the race, some people were having dramas, and very uncomfortable ones at that. Adam Khan (Performance Racing) was still in the paddock when the fire extinguisher went off in the cockpit, covering him in extinguisher fluid, which apparently "smells awful". In many teams that would have been the end of his race, but Performance are resourceful and very, very quick when it comes to repair work. Before you could blink, they had the offending extinguisher removed, and a new one hooked up and armed. It was so fast that the officials had to check it after the race to make sure it was all present and correct. Khan would start the race from the back of the grid, which was no bad thing as it turned out. Also starting from the back was Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport), the Mexican having had his National Class pole time disallowed for being in possession of a rear wing that was too tall.
Not only did the Round 13 race turn out to be incredibly exciting, but the track proved it bites as well. And the first person to be bitten was Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), the Estonian getting it all wrong in the first corner. As he locked up and ended up sideways, the resulting ripple effect took out a number of other competitors, and severely affected the positions of a number of others. Asmer didn't do a lot to endear himself to his team when one of the people he managed to inadvertently push into the scenery turned out to be his team-mate, Tim Bridgman who was at least able to get going again. However, in the resulting mayhem, we also lost Ryan Lewis (T- Sport), Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing), James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) and Nick Jones (Team SWR) to the nearest available gravel traps. It wasn't a good start to the race, but the incredibly efficient marshals soon had everyone dragged to various places of safety, and the race was able to continue unabated. At the front, Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) made a terrific start, getting the drop on team-mate Charlie Kimball as they tore into the first bend, the Prima Variante. There was nothing Kimball could do but slot into second, and follow the Portuguese as the two of them quickly started to build up a substantial gap to the squabbling pack behind. It was probably the best place to be; that or at the back, as Christopher Wassermann (HBR Motorsport) was discovering, the Austrian in his first F3 race having bogged down at the start. It meant he didn't get a bird's-eye view of the melee which was building up behind Kimball. It was being headed by Bridgman, with Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) right behind him, and then an indistinct gaggle of Dallaras which contained Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport), Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) and Bruno Senna (Double R Racing), though not always in that order. It rather depended where you were on the circuit when they went past! It was a train that steadily built up, as well, or perhaps a better word would be unsteadily judging by the rapid slipstreaming that was going on; this was like watching the fastest Formula Ford race in the world.
Two laps later Senna would uncouple himself from the train, ending his race in the gravel and making team manager Anthony Hieatt wonder why they'd bothered coming all this way. At the same time, Kane lost places when he got caught up in Senna's exit, and went bouncing through the gravel. At the same time, Dirani took advantage of the chaos to get the better of Conway, and then set about Bridgman. He was looking very determined, now that he had a sniff of a podium placing. Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) was also benefiting from the confusion. Having started 17th, he was in the top ten, and thus in the points. He'd once again made a terrific start, and had capitalised on other's misfortunes to haul himself into the points. He'd scored points in every round of the championship so far, and he wanted to keep that record going; no one else could say the same thing this year.
Meanwhile, in the National Class, Duran was infuriated at having started from the back of the grid, and now also at not being able to get past Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), though he got through on lap 5 when she accidentally tapped the Class leader, Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3), and spun off. That let Duran through, and Hollings' found himself dropping three places, while Duran set off in pursuit of the class leader, T-Sport's Barton Mawer. Hollings, meanwhile, was now behind Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), Ben Clucas (Fluid Motorsport) and Josh Fisher (Team SWR). It would be a race long battle between them, and it was every bit as entertaining as the scuffle for third in the Championship Class. Even the men at the back were fighting for position, with Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) and Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) having a slow speed battle not to be last.
And with a third of the race distance run, things were also hotting up in the battle for the lead, Kimball closing down Parente at a rate of knots, gaining half a second from somewhere on lap 6. He was getting ever closer to the leader, and was taking full advantage of the possibilities for gaining a tow down the long straights here. It was fascinating stuff, and in no way eclipsed by the battle for 3rd, which was becoming very fraught. This was especially obvious when both Dirani and Conway decided to make a move on Bridgman. Now while three abreast may work on the straights, it becomes a bit of an issue when you're trying to get round a corner. The inevitable happened, when Dirani went one side of the Hitech driver and Conway went the other; next thing they were through and Bridgman disappeared up one of the escape roads, here he could be seen a little later hurling his steering wheel about and kicking things to the amusement of many, but probably not of his team.
There were waved yellows all over the place, and people were getting very physical, leading to the black and white driving standards flag being waved with reckless abandon on the start/finish line. Jelley managed to trip over Ihara, to his obvious displeasure, and for that matter hers. Meanwhile Clucas claimed 2nd place in the National Class from Kennard, after a side-by-side session and a spot of elbowing. With Clucas past, Hollings saw his chance to put a move on Kennard as well, a dispute settled after the pair banged wheels together, and Kennard went for a brief off- track excursion. It was all a bit rough, but they all seemed to be having fun out there too. Certainly afterwards the general opinion seemed to be that the series' first visit to the Italian track had been a great success, and should be repeated at the first possible opportunity. Meanwhile, however, there was a race to be run.
Almost unnoticed, Bakkerud had hacked his way up to 6th, making short work of Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), the Irishman running much further up than he normally does. And while Bakkerud was trying to improve on his starting position, he gained an extra place when it all went pear- shaped for Kane. Having passed Conway for 4th, he was suddenly in trouble. Perhaps it was the result of contact in the melee, but whatever the result he was off the track, crashing through some polystyrene markers and coming to rest in the wall, with heavy suspension damage. That left Conway and Dirani duelling all the way to the finish, the Brazilian getting the better of the Englishman after an incredibly close race. It was impressive stuff. However, suddenly all eyes were on the front of the field, where Parente could see Kimball in his mirrors (he couldn't have seen anyone else - the pair of them were a good 10 seconds ahead of everyone else). In fact, the American was so close that he appeared to be the second half of an 8- wheeled Dallara. It was also very clear that there were no team orders at Carlin. It was made even clearer when Charlie slipstreamed past Alvaro, only for his team-mate to come straight back at him. What followed was tense for Carlin, but the spectators loved it. Swapping places and running side-by-side where space allowed, they fought it out to the finish. If Kimball went left to try and pass, he'd find Parente already there, and when he got in front Kimball was equally happy to return the favour. It was a wonderfully clean but fierce battle, and it was only settled on the last lap when Kimball decided to make one last lunge, got it slightly wrong and dropped his wheels in the dirt. It was enough to let Parente run for the chequered flag, while Kimball recovered and hauled himself out of trouble to claim a thoroughly deserved 2nd place and an extra point for fastest lap.
Dirani just held Conway off for 3rd, while Bakkerud was an unexpected 5th. O'Mahony claimed his best finish of the season with 6th, while the National Class winner was up in an amazing 7th overall and had an extra point for fastest lap. He had Duran closing him down in the final laps, but was able to snatch yet another win to add to his points lead in the class. Clucas had to settle for 3rd, with the next Championship Class runner Karl Reindler claiming 7th in class but 10th overall. For a man who hasn't raced at all this year, and who is new to British F3 it was a very good result. 4th in the National Class was Hollings, who had been forced to hold off Josh Fisher (Team SWR) and Khan at the end. The invitation class was won by Alejandro Nunez (HBR Motorsport), and Kennard came home behind him. 8th place in the Championship Class went to Jelley, who was 16th overall. 17th was Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing) who had Christopher Wassermann in the other HBR car behind him, Ihara finished 19th, ahead of Cheong and Teixeira, while Kane was classified 22nd, and thus scored points despite being in the gravel. If the second race of the day was only half as exciting, it would be well worth watching.
Afterwards, Parente was delighted to win, and seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed himself. "It was a great race. I got a really good start, braking on the inside into the first corner, side-by-side with my team-mate Charlie. Towards the end he caught me back. With the long straights, the tow is really important here, and the guy behind just closes in really quickly. The advantage you gain in the corners you lose on the straights. We had some really good racing in the last two laps, he overtook me, I overtook him back, he overtook me again, and then I got him back - it was really good fun and I managed to win which was really good!"
Kimball was grinning almost as widely, though he admitted to maybe being more careful than he would have been passing someone from another team. "There are no team orders at Carlin. We're all out there to win. But when it's your team-mate, you have to be a bit more careful about passing him, to make sure it's a clean pass. It was really good racing and I have to compliment Alvaro because he kept it clean and it was really enjoyable. I didn't get as good a start, but we knew we were going to try to make it a two-car race. We had a big gap, and I caught Alvaro back when the tyres came in. I was setting up for a last corner pass, when I made a small mistake that turned into a big mistake at the second Lesmo, and I got all four wheels in the gravel so I couldn't make my move, but I'll take the 16 points for second and the fastest lap."
It was Clucas who probably summed up best what everyone was already thinking: "Monza is a great track. It's so fast and you use so much of the kerb here I'll be surprised if half the cars aren't broken by the end of the meeting!"
Weather: Sunny. Breezy.