Changes: Australia's Karl Reindler has replaced Danny Watts at Alan Docking Racing. HBR Racing is visiting from the F3 Euro Series with Alejandro Nunez and Christopher Wassermann at the helms of their Dallara F305s. Qualifying ...
Australia's Karl Reindler has replaced Danny Watts at Alan Docking Racing. HBR Racing is visiting from the F3 Euro Series with Alejandro Nunez and Christopher Wassermann at the helms of their Dallara F305s.
Imagine Formula Threes racing in Italy. Sunshine bouncing off the bodywork, and glinting on helmets. Now imagine the reality. It's raining like there's no tomorrow out there, but with a cramped timetable (because we have we have an extra race - left over from Spa - to fit in before Sunday morning) they have to go out to play regardless of the weather conditions. As ever Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) is first out to play, though that may just mean that he'll also be first in the gravel. The conditions on Saturday morning at Monza were truly horrible, with water everywhere. Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) was quickly at the head of the times, with Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing) putting in a surprisingly good effort to go 2nd, and Lewis in 3rd. It was, needless to say, all change at the top for the first lap or two, with Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) in 4th, and Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) and Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) also showing signs of joining in. Lewis was determined though, and on his 2nd flying lap, took provisional pole back. Kimball was having none of it though, and immediately went faster, while Conway slipped to 3rd. All of this pushed Parente down a couple of rows. The times were coming down significantly as the tyres came in and the rain started to ease off slightly.
The Double R Racing boys had been fast in Friday's testing sessions, and Daniel Clarke was now in the 2.06s. This was a significant improvement on the earlier laps, while another significant improvement came from Christian Bakkerud. The Carlin Motorsport Dane had continued his recent run of demolition jobs, by crashing out of the first test session on Friday and thus missing all but three laps of the second session, he was down on track time, so any progress would be good. He was now in the top ten, but unfortunately didn't stay there for long. An indiscretion at the Parabolica resulted in him skittering off into the gravel, and then sliding drastically down the order as everyone else speeded up. He really wasn't having a good weekend...
Someone who was having a pretty good weekend was Duran, who was now 6th overall and needless to say was on provisional National Class pole. The Mexican has been here before and likes the circuit; it showed. Steven Kane was also showing signs of liking this place, the Promatecme F3 Lola runner grabbing a place on the front row. He lost it almost immediately to Lewis, who promptly lost out to Parente, and to Kimball. The Portuguese was the first to break into to 2 minutes 5 second bracket, and was looking very smooth indeed. Kimball too was looking good, and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself on this demanding track. The lap times didn't seem to be about to settle, with Bridgman clawing his way back up to 4th, and Lewis again flinging to car round to claim 2nd. Kimball wasn't about to let that stop him, however, and was soon in the 2.05s along with his team-mate. Parente then went faster, looking very smooth round here. Between them, it was looking as if the Carlin pair just might have the front row sewn up by the end of the session. However, there was still a long way to go before it was all over. This was proved when Conway shot back up the order, to claim 5th, while Parente increased his hold on pole by setting an even faster time. He'd bargained without Bridgman, whose aggressive style is far better suited to wet running, however, and had to temporarily cede his lead to the Hitech driver. A lap later he was able to answer back, this time with a superb 2.04.577, around 3/4 of a second faster than Kimball, who was back in 2nd again after a brief dip down the order.
Someone we hadn't seen much from by this point was Marco Asmer, the Estonian leaving it very late to emerge from the pits and join the session. He'd looked good - but not good enough - in testing, and was now showing in 7th overall, not what he needs if he's going to keep his chances alive in this championship. Kane was still in there fighting, his session vastly better than might have been suggested by testing, at least at the halfway stage. He was now 3rd, pushing Bridgman down to 4th, while James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) was 5th. And while all that was going on, Kimball snuck onto pole.
At the halfway point, the top ten was Kimball, Parente, Kane, Bridgman, Walker, Lewis, Dirani, Clarke, Asmer and Conway. Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) was heading up the National Class, and was 11th overall, holding off Duran and Josh Fisher (Team SWR). However, the rain was easing off a little, which meant that there were still multiple changes in the offing. Walker certainly wasn't done yet, and promptly grabbed 3rd place, while Asmer decided he'd like some of that too. The result was 4th, though he probably wouldn't get to keep it for long. Most people were in the pits now, but that didn't matter too much given how much space there was on the track. The National Class battle wasn't over yet either, and Duran managed to get ahead of Hollings not long after the round of pit stops began; Fisher took it straight off him, but it was tense. It was a long way from settled at the front either as Lewis demonstrated by getting into 3rd place.
The Double R Racing lads appeared to be locked into their own battle, with Bruno Senna now 9th, just ahead of his team-mate Clarke. That particular scrap would take a while to settle too. Meanwhile Asmer was battling valiantly to edge back up the order and was 4th, only to be edged back out by Walker again. And then the Carlin stranglehold was broken by Lewis who grabbed pole, with a time of 2 minutes 3 seconds lap. He would enjoy the feeling of being fastest for a short while, but Parente certainly hadn't given up and was quickly up to 2nd. A little back from there, Clarke was up to 5th, with Bridgman up to 6th. It was beginning to look like the last man to cross the line might well be the poleman. Bridgman then found himself demoted by Walker, then by Kane, which didn't amuse him too much. He retaliated by going back up to 4th a lap later, but then Walker got him again. It was like watching a yo-yo going backwards and forwards and was probably fun for everyone except those immediately involved.
Meanwhile Kimball was still pushing hard, even though the majority of the drivers out there had found that the improvements were long gone. It didn't stop Charlie from gaining an improvement, though he was still 3rd at the end of the lap. He got unexpectedly demoted by a hard charging Asmer, but came back to grab pole, with Parente just behind him. It looked as if the two of them were about to swap places when Parente set the fastest first sector time of the session, and looked on pole to set another scorching time, only to run out of fuel in the second sector and have to weave and junk to get the car home without the aid of a breakdown truck. Finally, after about 32 minutes, the flag came out and various people were brought back to have the gravel shaken out of their cars (and any other places it may have got). Once the dust settled, Carlin was again dominant, with a lock out of the front row. Kimball was happy to be on pole, and Parente was certain that he could have been there without the lack of fuel. Lewis was 3rd, from Asmer, Walker, Bridgman, Walker, Clarke, Dirani and Kane. Next up was National Class pole man Salvador Duran, from Senna, Fisher, Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), Ben Clucas (Fluid Motorsport), Hollings, Bakkerud, Reindler and Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport), who'd spent quite a lot of the session sitting in the gravel repeatedly asking the marshals to push him out, only to have them refuse. 21st was Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), from an uncharacteristically slow Barton Mawer (T-Sport), Adam Khan (Performance Racing) and Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing). Next up were the two Invitation Class runners, Nunez and Wassermann, ahead of Nick Jones (Team SWR), Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) and Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing).
It was only later that the news came out that Duran's car had a rear wing that was too tall. His times were duly disallowed and he would be starting the afternoon's race from the back of the grid.
Wet (as usual).