2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship Round 14, Castle Combe, Wiltshire, June 22nd/23rd Race Report - Round 14: Weather: Hot, sunny. After Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport) pulled off a classic jump-start for Round 13 this ...
2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship
Round 14, Castle Combe, Wiltshire, June 22nd/23rd
Race Report - Round 14:
Weather: Hot, sunny.
After Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport) pulled off a classic jump-start for Round 13 this morning, you might have expected the others to be a bit more cautious when faced with the starting procedure for Round 14, especially as it seemed that the starter here was taking his time switching the lights from red to green. Not a bit of it. As the field lined up and the lights turned red, pole position man James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport) was rather premature in setting off. For that matter Antinucci was creeping again, as was Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport). This time the observers only noticed Courtney. Perhaps it might have been better if Kovalainen had jumped the start properly though; after Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) slammed the door in his face for 3rd, his teammate Fabio Carbone managed to spin out of contention, and he took Heikki with him. They also managed to entangle Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing) in their incident and he ended up in the barriers there and then.
With Courtney being called in to the pits for a stop/go penalty, Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International) looked set to inherit first place. However, Jouanny had collected a floppy-marker, which was now firmly wrapped around the front suspension of his Dallara. With van der Merwe and Michael Keohane (Carlin Motorsport) both breathing down his neck, it was quite possible that Stephen Colbert (Meritus Racing) might end up in the overall lead of the race, not just the Scholarship Class! It didn't happen that way. What did happen was that both the Carlin cars passed Jouanny, van der Merwe managing to hold Keohane off in the process. And so, when Courtney finally pulled in to take his stop/go penalty, the South African found himself leading a Formula Three race for the first time in his career. He was now going to have to work very hard to keep his teammate from taking it off him.
While van der Merwe was holding off Keohane, there was drama further back too. Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing) had the first of a series of spins, while James Andanson (Team Avanti) called in to the pits for some rapid repair work. In addition, Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), having spent the first couple of laps holding off Billy Asaro (Sweeney Racing), was now limping round with a very sick-sounding car and would make more than one visit to the pits.
At the front, Keohane was all over van der Merwe, constantly trying to find a way past, and constantly having the door closed in his face. Jouanny was having a pretty quiet time in comparison, although he could see Colbert in his mirrors. Colbert was having a real battle too, with Andanson managing to rejoin just behind him, and Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport) and Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing) both swarming all over him. Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport) was also attached to this group and Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) was beginning to close the gap too. Further back, Courtney had managed to rejoin right in the middle of the two Fortec cars, with Carbone ahead and Kovalainen behind him. It wasn't the best place to be... especially as Carbone was trying all sorts to keep both Courtney and the Finn behind him while he tried to catch up with Matthew Gilmore (Promatecme International). Once they all caught up with Shinya Hosokawa (Formula Dream Team Carlin) and Giandomenico Brusatin (Menu Motorsport) this got even more entertaining!
Van der Merwe was still hanging on to his lead as if he'd never wanted anything more in his life, and Keohane was still determined to take it from him. Jouanny now had Colbert right with him, although Colbert was still fending off Taylor. Antinucci, on the other hand, had managed to dispose of Carroll, who was under pressure from Austin, who in his turn was under pressure from Ronnie Bremer (Manor Motorsport). Asaro was next up, with Clivio Piccione (T-Sport) behind him, just ahead of Mark Mayall (Alan Docking Racing), who was locked into a tussle with Robert Dahlgren (Sweeney Racing). Jesper Carlsen (Essencial Motorsport) was holding Gavin Smith (Meritus Racing) at bay, and behind them was the tightly knit group headed by Brusatin. It couldn't go on like this, and sure enough there was a major change at about the halfway mark, when Colbert spun and lost his class lead to Carroll, narrowly missing taking Piccione with him. Colbert pulled in to the pits a lap later suspecting that there was something wrong with his car. The team could find nothing wrong, but by then his race was effectively over. That left Taylor with clear track in front of him, and meant he could concentrate on repelling the attack being mounted by Antinucci for fourth place. Carroll, realising he was now leading the class, seemed content to let the two Manor drivers get on with their own personal scrap, and settled in to maintain a watching brief and guard against Austin if necessary. Luckily for Carroll, Austin was fully occupied with Bremer, who really wanted that place. After all, it would make him 6th in class, while his teammates were 4th and 5th.
Someone else who wanted to be further forward was Courtney. However, if he couldn't score points that way, he would at least try for fastest lap. He was, therefore, in fine attacking style, and he and Kovalainen seemed to be having great fun as they tried to get past Carbone. Eventually, Kovalainen got the better of this battle, passing Courtney and then Carbone several laps later. Nonetheless, Courtney landed his fastest lap and at least salvaged a point from what might otherwise have been a very disappointing afternoon. And that was pretty much all in terms of changes. The order was now stable, no matter what anyone tried, and some of them were still trying very hard indeed. However, it was mostly to no avail. The record crowds probably went home happy anyway, and they were certainly enjoying Fairuz's spins, even going so far as to give him a round of applause when he managed a particularly good one!
Meanwhile, after 20 laps of serious pressure from Keohane, van der Merwe came home a delighted (as well as somewhat surprised) winner, with Jouanny taking the final position on the podium. .