Weather: Race 24: Damp but drying. There was less of an air of urgency about the final round of the series, since Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) had claimed the title in the course of the morning's race. However, there was still the fight for...
Race 24: Damp but drying.
There was less of an air of urgency about the final round of the series, since Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) had claimed the title in the course of the morning's race. However, there was still the fight for second, with Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) in danger of losing out to James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) for the runner-up slot if he wasn't very careful. In addition to the battle for 2nd, there was also the small matter of people really wanting to get good results so they'd something to bolster their reputations while hunting drives and/or money for next season. Among those hoping to go out with a bang rather than a whimper, was pole sitter Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport), the Monegasque driver losing out on his mathematical chance at third in the final points table when he had an off track excursion in the previous race. He was keen to end his year with a win if he possibly could. Anyway, the field lined up for the last time this year, the gantry lights came on and Round 24 of the 2004 British Formula Three Championship was under way.
Both Piccione and Rossiter made good starts, with the Monegasque getting the drop on everyone. Piquet, meanwhile, came scything across to snatch second place from Lucas di Grassi (Hitech Racing). Rossiter's start promptly went to waste, as he had to get out the way of both of them, but he was soon able to get the better of di Grassi, who quickly found himself getting a large amount of unwanted attention from Carroll. Meanwhile, Danilo Dirani (Hitech Racing) was getting a bit of a twitch on as Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) hacked across him and nearly took his nose off! The shock was probably not entirely responsible for the Brazilian's exit, but shortly after that he slithered off on the grass at Graham Hill Bend and was out of the race before he'd completed his first lap. The weather didn't seem to be very cooperative either, with the odd spot of drizzle hitting the track during the first few laps.
While everyone was jockeying for position, Piccione was making the most of his opportunities, and was pulling out a gap while he could. It would take Piquet a while to shake off Rossiter, but once he did he promptly set off in pursuit of the Carlin driver. And so, initially Piccione led from Piquet, Rossiter, di Grassi, Carroll, Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport), Watts, Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) and Will Power (Alan Docking Racing). In the Scholarship Class, Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was leading as per usual, while Ronayne O'Mahony (Performance Racing) and his team-mate Stephen Jelley were fighting over second in class in a manner that must have been giving team owner Bobby Issazadhe palpitations.
The order seemed to settle down quite quickly, though there was a bit of scuffling in the midfield as Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) set about Fairuz Fauzy (P1 Motorsport), and at the back Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3) made a determined effort not to be last, by passing Lars Sexton (Planet Racing). Maybe this would be a nice peaceful race. And then again, maybe it wouldn't.Jelley and O'Mahony were still battling it out fiercely for the Scholarship Class, while at the front Piquet was reeling Piccione in at quite a rate. That looked as if it was going to turn into quite a battle, but then Piquet made a somewhat precipitate move, lunging at Piccione as they slithered through Graham Hill Bend. Contact was made, and Piccione came out of it with a punctured rear tyre. With the car now not wholly under control, Piccione skidded off at the next bend, pulled into the pit lane and smacked into the wall. Nothing daunted, the Carlin boys changed the tyre and sent him back out in record time, the erstwhile leader now pretty well last in the running order. He was about to have to do his second recovery drive of the day; and he was getting more than a little tired of them.
And while all this was going on, Jelley and O'Mahony were running side-by- side, half the time, the Irishman not wanting to give in to the Englishman. Jelley might well be in the faster car this time out, but it wasn't going to do him a lot of good if he couldn't get through. And all the while, Lewis was getting away, which would allow him to consolidate his position in the class lead.
A third of he way into the race, Piquet again had quite a lead, despite the now deranged front wing that was striking sparks from the track surface (provided you ignored the fact that Rossiter had gone with him), while di Grassi was fending off Carroll. Parente was a little further back, ahead of Watts who was being savaged by Thompson - which must have been a bit of a shock for both parties! Piccione was carving his way back through the order, and charged past both O'Mahony and Jelley, which stopped them from continuing with their own scrap for a couple of laps while the red and white car vanished from view.
Meanwhile the expected rain didn't materialize, which meant most people were having to deviate from the racing line as they tried to keep their tyres damp. It was the chance Jelley had been waiting for, and he finally got through at Graham Hill Bend, making up for his embarrassment there in the morning's race. Once he was through he had no trouble pulling away, but it was really too late to do anything about Lewis, even if he had been able to get past Piccione again.
Piquet and Rossiter continued to circulate at the front, while di Grassi was now coming under a large amount of pressure from Carroll, while Watts and Thompson had been joined by Power, who had finally managed to get past James Walker (Hitech Racing), having lost out to the youngster earlier. Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) was behind Walker, and fighting with Fairuz Fauzy (P1 Motorsport) over 11th place, which seemed like a waste of effort all round really.
And really that was it. Thompson had a couple more goes at Watts, bit nothing stuck, while Rossiter clung on to Piquet, though he was more than a little twitchy. Eventually, he just settled in and made do with 2nd, while di Grassi and Carroll kept on fighting for third all the way to the flag. The advantage went to di Grassi in the end, mostly because Carroll could only lose if it went wrong, whereas his runner up slot was guaranteed provided he stayed where he was. He wasn't about to lose out now, not if the alternative was handing the position to Rossiter.
And so, after a bit of a messy last lap with people getting sideways out of Graham Hill Bend (it had been a problem all weekend after all), the last race of the season came to an end, with Piquet a somewhat messy and deranged looking winner, from Rossiter and di Grassi. 4th was Carroll, from Parente, Watts, Thompson, Asmer, Power and Walker. Austin lost his 11th place to Fauzy at - guess where - Graham Hill Bend on the final lap, while Lewis came home as class winner, from Jelley, O'Mahony ad the lapped Calasan and Piccione.
Next Race: 2005!
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite