2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 16, Brands Hatch, Kent, June 29th/30th Qualifying - Round 16: Weather: Sunny, dry. This session was for Round 16, which was a combined Championship/Scholarship Class race. For this ...
2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 16, Brands Hatch, Kent, June 29th/30th
Qualifying - Round 16:
Weather: Sunny, dry.
This session was for Round 16, which was a combined Championship/Scholarship Class race. For this session, Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing) was quickly on the pace, but he was soon displaced by Adam Jones (Team Park). Jones in turn he was displaced by Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing), as the class points-leader tried to get back on top of the order and claim his accustomed class pole position. The trouble with that was that his teammate, Robert Dahlgren, wasn't too keen on that plan, and nor was Clivio Piccione (T-Sport). In rapid succession they both bettered Carroll's time. The third Sweeney driver, Billy Asaro, was not having any fun at all in comparison. He had ventured out onto the track briefly, but then pitted with an engine problem. His mechanics began working on the car, even changing and then rechanging the plugs on the recalcitrant Mugen-Honda. All this was taking far too much time, however, and the Canadian meanwhile sat and stewed furiously in the cockpit while he waited for the problem to be solved. Out on the track, Dahlgren snatched pole, pushing Fairuz back down a place, but then they were both beaten out of first place by Karun Chandhok (T-Sport). Another driver on the move was Jesper Carlsen (Essencial Motorsport), the Dane having one of his best qualifying sessions of the year and now in 3rd place. Carroll, also, was still on the move and was soon fastest again.
At the other end of the order, Stephen Colbert (Meritus Racing) was last, and there was all sorts of mayhem still going on in the Sweeney pit garage as the team failed to get Asaro moving. It was clearly still a long way from over though, since no one was lapping at anything like the speed they had been able to manage in the morning. When they did start to show real pace, it was Chandhok who got there first, with Dahlgren dropping to 3rd, and the unfortunate Jones finding himself bringing up the rear as he tried to get to grips with the Brands Hatch Indy circuit.
And then it was all change again. Carroll snatched pole, from Piccione, with Colbert slotting in to 3rd ahead of Chandhok and Dahlgren. Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing) was 6th, Jesper Carlsen (Essencial Motorsport) was 7th and Gavin Smith (Meritus Racing) 8th. Behind them were Justin Sherwood (Performance Racing) and Adam Jones, while Asaro was still trapped in the pits and his temper was not improving with each minute that passed. The battle for class pole, however, was beginning to boil down to a two-way scrap between Carroll and Piccione, the Monegasque really on stunning form this weekend. When challenged as to where his speed came from, he suggested it was a case of too much sugar in his tea! Whatever the reasons, he was soon back to pole position again, and there was nothing Carroll could do about it, although he was clearly giving his all in his attempts to squeeze more speed out of the Sweeney car.
After the morning session, Carlsen also seemed to be on a real roll, moving up the order from 8th, to 6th, and showing every sign of being able to find more speed as the session wore on. He did just that, slotting in to 3rd place, and equalling his best qualifying position of the season. Now the question was could he hang on to it. There was always a possibility that Asaro could do something if the team could only get him out there. There was a little more time left and it seemed that the mechanics had finished working on the engine, but now they seemed to be having difficulties reattaching the requisite bodywork. In addition, just as they finally got the last screws tightened up, and the engine fired up at last, Dahlgren arrived in the pits and got in his way. The Canadian gunned the engine and tore away from the pit apron, leaving a trail of tyre rubber, and ensuring that anything he did manage out on the track would probably be a waste of effort because he would surely be penalised for exceeding the speed limit in the pits. With just under four minutes of the session still to go, Carlsen again improved his time, as did Piccione, but no position improvements were forthcoming.
Meanwhile, Asaro was now lapping like a man possessed, and it says much for his talent that he was able to set a time that was at least respectable in the two flying laps available to him. Unfortunately, that time was promptly disallowed after the session as the officials took a dim view of his pit lane antics. He was out of the race with immediate effect.
And now the Championship Class runners came out to play, and it soon became clear that Piccione had left them with a lot of work to do. His pace in testing was obviously no freak occurrence, and he had set a time that the supposedly faster cars would be hard pressed to match. James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport), as is so often the case, was among the very early pace-setters, although after Round 15 he needed to be. The adjustments made to his car in the morning session had clearly been a mistake, and now the championship leader needed to pull himself up the order if he wanted to protect his lead. He was almost immediately joined at the front (though actually in 11th overall at this point), by Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport), the Finn giving the lie to his protestations that this was unlikely to be a good weekend for him or his teammate Fabio Carbone. It was another Carlin driver, however, who was the first to break into the Class B times, Alan van der Merwe moving up to 9th overall, just before Courtney cracked Piccione's time to take pole.
A little further down the order, Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing) was also on the move, and was now 2nd in class (10th overall), followed by van der Merwe, and Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport). It seems odd that one of the few circuits Austin believes he can be fast on is Brands, especially as there are plenty of easier circuits where he struggles. Who knows what goes on in the average racing driver's head? Michael Keohane (Carlin Motorsport) now snatched pole from his teammate, the Irish driver looking to be very much on the pace in qualifying for once. Another Brands specialist, Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport) was now 3rd, pushing van der Merwe down the order to 4th. With the Manor driver, the real question was now could he keep the pace up? Or was this another bad day to be a Manor boy?
Kerr then put in a real flyer to snatch pole position from under Keohane's nose, and Courtney was now 3rd, with van der Merwe fourth in class but still slower than Piccione. With over half the session now run, the changes pretty much stopped. It was really getting too hot for anyone to get the best from either engines or tyres, and with Courtney in the pits for more adjustments, the order stabilised somewhat. The real threat now seemed to be coming from Carbone, who had been lurking way down the order in 18th, while Kovalainen had slipped back so far he wasn't even visible on the 1st timing screen (which goes down as far as 20th). Just as it seemed the Finn was going to be proved right about the Fortec chances, Carbone hit his stride, the Brazilian beginning to creep up the order. Austin also found some time from somewhere, to go ahead of van der Merwe for 5th, but he was still behind Piccione.
However, it seemed everyone had overlooked Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International). Certainly the Frenchman seemed to appear from nowhere, bettering Piccione's time to go 4th and push the Scholarship Class poleman down to 5th. Carbone then managed to go even faster, and grabbed 3rd from Courtney, while further back Kovalainen improved to a disappointing 12th. While Keohane ended his chances of improving to pole by spinning off and then stalling the engine, there were still one or two changes to come. At the front, Kerr managed to improve on his time, and Courtney, in a last ditch attempt to get the better of his main rival, dragged his recalcitrant Dallara into 3rd place, which was certainly an improvement on his morning efforts. Late improvements from James Andanson (Team Avanti) and Matthew Gilmore (Promatecme International) saw them move to 10th and 12th respectively, which dropped Kovalainen back to 13th. He may have been right about Fortec, but he was still in better shape than the Manor drivers, who ended the session 14th (Taylor), 21st (Ronnie Bremer) and 22nd (Richard Antinucci). It was still a bad day to be a Manor driver. It was an even worse day to be Giandomenico Brusatin, however, as the Menu Motorsport driver failed to qualify for the race and would join Asaro on the sidelines.