Qualifying Report: Weather: Dry, sunny. The weather was actually on our side for a change this weekend, though the track was extremely dirty at the start of the session as a result of a GT crash/engine blow up in the previous practice ...
Weather: Dry, sunny.
The weather was actually on our side for a change this weekend, though the track was extremely dirty at the start of the session as a result of a GT crash/engine blow up in the previous practice session.
Would-be winner Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) was first to set a pole time, but was rapidly demoted by Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing). It was also clear that Nelson A Piquet had plans for this session, and the Piquet Sports driver set a 42.3 second lap straight off. James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) was an early 2nd, just ahead of Danny Watts (Promatecme F3). In the Scholarship Class Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was ahead of the pack, but that was no surprise to anyone either. Nor was the fact that Piquet was still going faster, and looked as if he would go faster yet. Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport) was still in the pits, an interested observer, biding his time and refusing to come out till he thought the track was clean enough. As it turned out that was probably the intelligent choice. Meanwhile Watts was now 2nd, but quickly had to pit for new tyres, as did Carroll. Not everyone had that luxury available to them of course. In the Scholarship Class both Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) and Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing) had used all their new rubber in qualifying for Round 23, and so didn't have any to spare for this one. Ronayne O'Mahony, on the other hand, had save a set and was hoping to make use of them to try and claim his first class pole. As Piquet got steadily quicker, Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) was floundering in an uncharacteristic 16th, having done hardly any miles in the session so far. Fairuz Fauzy moved up to 5th, while Carroll was slipping down the order and was a less than happy 8th, just ahead of Lewis who didn't seem to be suffering too much from his shortage of fresh rubber.
Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) was also a bit out of sorts, and was 10th, not looking like the driver he can be. With almost half the session over, Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) finally decided to come out to play, but Piccione was still not ready to emerge. At the front the order was now Piquet, Rossiter and Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing). Rossiter finally pitted for fresh tyres at around the 10-minute mark, just as Austin finally hit his pace, and jumped up to 4th, while Carroll also improved to 6th. In addition, Piccione had finally emerged and was looking like he meant it. Piquet meanwhile upped the pace again, while Lucas di Grassi (Hitech Racing) was now breathing down his neck in 2nd. With Fauzy in 4th, and a gap of 0.0064 between Piquet and di Grassi, no one was expecting Piccione to slingshot up the order and grab pole on his first flying lap, having gone out on new tyres straight away. It was very impressive, and it certainly made Piquet sit up and take note. Carroll was being pushed back down again, and was now back to 10th, while Austin was an unhappy 12th, just ahead of an even less happy Power.
And then it all came apart again. The guilty party in this session was Andrew Thompson, the Hitech Racing driver throwing it off at Druids. The yellow flags gave way to red flags, and the rescue trucks went out to bring the Scot back. Eventually the session restarted, but there wasn't much anyone could do with what was left. Piccione was still on pole, from Piquet, di Grassi, Rossiter, Watts and Parente. Piquet didn't even bother to go back out, and he wasn't the only one. As it turned out, he was probably right, because no one was able to improve after the restart.
Parente might not have managed to improve but it wasn't for want of trying, the Portuguese sliding wide and ending up on the grass, very neatly putting himself in a position which would have led to another stoppage. He was lucky; he managed to pull it all back together again. And then we got the only improvement of the restarted session. From somewhere, Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport) was able to find something extra, and was able to improve to 7th. But that was it. The session was over, and Piccione had claimed the last pole of the season. Piquet was 2nd, from di Grassi, Rossiter, Watts, Parente, Dirani, Fauzy, Asmer and Carroll. Power was 11th, ahead of Thompson, Austin and Walker. Scholarship pole went once more to Lewis, from O'Mahony whose nice shiny new tyres didn't get used because he ran out of 2nd gear just as he tried to go out and use them. Jelley was 3rd in class, ahead of the last placed Championship Class runner Ivor McCullough (Menu Motorsport). Lars Sexton (Planet Racing) and Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3) filled the final two slots.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite