Race Report: Weather: Dry, no wind, overcast. The track was covered in all sorts of dirt left behind by exploding Corvettes and the like, and into the bargain there'd been some rain and more looked set to fall before this race was completed. We...
Weather: Dry, no wind, overcast.
The track was covered in all sorts of dirt left behind by exploding Corvettes and the like, and into the bargain there'd been some rain and more looked set to fall before this race was completed. We might get away with it, but we'd need some luck.
Pole position man Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) had already done enough to gain his place in the record books by putting the Lola-Dome F106-4 on pole position, the first time anything other than a Dallara has had pole position in a British F3 race since 1997, as far as anyone could recall. However, he still had a race to run and he was very keen to win it, especially as he'd thrown away what should have been a perfectly good win this time last year when he crashed out in the lead of Round 11 of the 2003 series. Putting thoughts of the 2003 debacle behind him, Watts now lined up with his car sharply angled to the right, which made it look alarmingly as if he had his sights set on the cornfield already! Anyway, the field duly set off on the formation lap, and after some extreme weaving to get heat into their tyres, they all arrived back at the start/finish line in a reasonably orderly fashion. This time, when the lights went green, Watts made no mistake, though Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) promptly lost out to Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport), the Monegasque making a blinding start and forcing his way up the inside at Folly to grab 2nd before anyone could stop him. Carroll wasn't helped by the fact that he'd got teammate Ernesto Viso right on his rear wing, and the Venezuelan was in a determined mood. If this was going to be his last F3 weekend, he was going to make the most of it.
At the other end of the grid, Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was leading the seriously reduced Scholarship Class as per usual, much aided by the fact that his only real rival now, Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing), pulled into the pits at the end of the first lap. Although he returned to the fray later, he was a lap down, and that really put an end to any excitement the Scholarship Class could offer, though to be fair Lewis did his best to make things interesting later on. Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3) was no threat to the series leader, and was already dropping back at a rapid pace (unlike his driving, which didn't seem to be going at all well, gear changes appearing seemingly at random as he rattled though Camp corner).
At the front Watts was still pressing on regardless (and probably rewardless) and was merrily taking out the floppy markers as he tried to break away from the pack and begin building a cushion between himself and Piccione. It wouldn't be that easy, but he seemed to be in control of the situation. Behind the top four Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) was holding off Will Power (Alan Docking Racing), but the latter was less of the threat than he might have been because the Australian was having to hold off Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports), the Brazilian needing to get ahead if he could, although he might have been slightly reassured by the fact that James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) was still four places behind him and out of the points.
With the weather beginning to warm up at last, some people were able to find extra speed, among them Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), the Indian driver taking James Walker (Hitech Racing) at Camp on lap 4, although it didn't improve his situation much. He was still only 15th after all that effort. At the same time, Piquet made a move on Power, but couldn't quite get enough momentum to make it stick. Maybe next time round. While all this was going on, Watts was still pressing on, setting the fastest lap of the race so far, although he still couldn't shake off Piccione, who was having a great afternoon.
A lap later, Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport) got the drop on Lucas di Grassi (Hitech Racing), while the other two members of the quartet, Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) and Rossiter also swapped places, but without the bumping and barging the two Brazilians had indulged in. That wasn't the end of the reshuffle in the middle though, because somewhere round the back, Dirani came off, and when the remaining threesome returned, they were again a foursome as Marcus Marshall had got ahead of Thompson, as well as Fairuz Fauzy (Promatecme F3) in the ensuing chaos.
At the front, there was more than a hint of internecine rivalry in the battle for 3rd place, with Viso pressing Carroll very hard, and Carroll resisting with everything he had. Watts was still serenely fronting the pack, and Piccione was unable to find an answer to the Englishman's very wide Lola. It looked as if we were well on our way to seeing a little piece of F3 history being made, though there was still a fraction over half distance left to run.
Someone who wouldn't be part of the second half of the race was Chandhok, the Indian coasting to a halt at the beginning of the pit lane entrance, the fuel pump on his Dallara well and truly dead. And then there were 17. And of them, Jelley was now being lapped. At least he was on for a podium finish in his class, provided he could just keep running till the chequered flag. He was driving sensibly, meanwhile, and carefully getting out of the way of anyone that wanted to lap him.
With 9 laps left, Rossiter worked out a way past di Grassi, though he nearly got sideswiped in the process. He was now 9th, and looking to catch Piquet if he could. Anyone with any sense was now trying to make as much progress as possible, because there were dirty great big black rain clouds sweeping in from the south, threatening to wash the rest of the afternoon out, just like it did at Silverstone.
And all the while, Watts continued on his way, leading from Piccione, while Carroll was being hounded unmercifully by Viso, the foursome still being followed by Parente, while Power and Piquet fought it out for 6th, and Rossiter kept a watching brief in case either of them did anything. stupid. Di Grassi was 9th, while Marshall was in the last points position in 10th. While Viso continued to threaten Carroll, Watts recorded a new fastest lap.
In the Scholarship Class, Lewis was progressing smoothly, until three laps from the end that is, when he got into a very noisy spin, and came close to throwing it all away. As it was, he took a few seconds to sort himself out, but was able to get going again without losing his lead. While we'd suggested he might like to make the races a bit more interesting, so that we'd have something to write about, that wasn't quite what we had in mind. With just over two laps to go, the scrap for the final Championship Class point also took a turn for the interesting, when Thompson passed Marshall, and Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) and Fauzy decided to join in, despite the fact that they had a fight of their own going on. No matter what Fauzy tried, Asmer was having none of it, the Estonian resisting right to the flag.
And with the weather gradually warming up again, and the rain holding off, a delighted Watts became the first driver since 1993 to win a British F3 race at the wheel of anything other than a Dallara. Piccione came home in a fine 2nd place, looking like a new man (and causing some of us to wonder just what his manager, Jim Warren, has been saying to him), and seemingly fully focused for the first time this season. Carroll was 3rd, the points gained going a long way towards moving him up close to the top of the championship points table at last, while Viso had to settle for 4th ahead of Parente, Power and Piquet. Rossiter remained in 8th, ahead of di Grassi and Thompson, the Scot claiming the final point. In the end, Marshall just missed out on a point and was 11th, from Asmer, Fauzy and Walker. As predicted Lewis won the Scholarship Class, with Calasan an unprecedented 2nd, and Jelley taking 3rd place and the extra point for fastest lap. This usually goes to Lewis as well, so at least it made a change, though it seems unlikely that anyone can stop him taking the title now. We say give him the trophy now and be done with it. He's going to win it anyway.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite