2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship Round 13, Castle Combe, Wiltshire, June 22nd/23rd Race Report - Round 13: Weather: Hot, sunny. Drama has never been far away this season in British Formula Three. Castle Combe was no different.
2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship
Round 13, Castle Combe, Wiltshire, June 22nd/23rd
Race Report - Round 13:
Weather: Hot, sunny.
Drama has never been far away this season in British Formula Three. Castle Combe was no different. Tor Graves (Alan Docking Racing) limped round to the grid with a seriously sick sounding car. Despite this, he took his place on the grid. The grid lined up, the lights went red, and they stayed that way for a very long time. It was quite clearly too long for some, especially Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport). The American anticipated the green light by a very long way, pulling out of his grid slot, hesitating for a split-second, and then tearing off into the distance, past the seven drivers who qualified in front of him! As a result, a number of other drivers were somewhat premature in getting away, among them James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport) and Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport). The observers overlooked most of the misdemeanours, but Antinucci was too blatant to overlook, and was in possession of a stop/go penalty before he completed his first lap. While Antinucci motored around looking embarrassed for a couple of laps, Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing) got ahead of Courtney at the Esses before the race was a lap old, despite the latter apparently being among those making a somewhat optimistic start. Ironically, while almost all the others went too soon, Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) managed to stall on the grid and only got going when half the field had already gone past him.
All this meant that Kerr was effectively leading the race, a fact that became clear when Antinucci finally pulled into the pits at the end of lap two to serve his stop/go penalty. Courtney was second and a determined-looking Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International Motorsport) was 3rd. Kovalainen was hanging on to 4th, ahead of Michael Keohane (Carlin Motorsport), Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport) and Alan van der Merwe (also Carlin). Getting the drop on Stephen Colbert (Meritus Racing) for the lead of the Scholarship Class was Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing), who made a superb start to settle in to 7th overall.
Elsewhere in the field things were getting worse for Manor Motorsport. With Antinucci effectively out of contention after rejoining at the back of the field, his teammate Ronnie Bremer pulled in to the pits with broken rear suspension parts and retired on the spot, leaving only Taylor to score for the team. In the Scholarship category, Billy Asaro (Sweeney Racing) was another driver in trouble, after a spin on Lap 3 took him into the cornfield. By the time he had figured out which way the track was and had pulled back on, he was a long way down, and a stop to get the crop he had harvested removed from the car lost him even more time. He had been third and now he was nowhere - it was hugely disappointing for the likeable Canadian, but as usual he was refreshingly honest about whose fault it was, not trying to blame anyone or anything except himself.
At the front, though, Courtney was trying to close the gap on Kerr, getting ever closer to the ADR car with each lap, and was putting Kerr under tremendous pressure. Now, if there's one thing Kerr does superbly, it's deal with pressure, and despite all of Courtney's efforts, he didn't look likely to crack at this point. Still, there was time yet. For excitement, though, you needed to look further down the field, to where both Carbone and Antinucci were trying to make amends for their starts. Antinucci was clearly furious with himself for his mistake and was desperate to make up ground having rejoined right at the back. Carbone, on the other hand, was stuck midfield in the middle of the Scholarship Class pack and was not at all pleased about it, even when that pack was reduced by one when Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) went off. That left Carbone to try and deal with Clivio Piccione in the other T-Sport car, while the Monegasque tried to take 4th in class from Gavin Smith (Meritus Racing). Piccione's attempts were hampered once he collected a floppy marker; with the unwieldy piece of plastic wrapped around his Dallara's front suspension, all he could do was try and hold position and hope that the wretched thing might work loose. By the time it did, the race was almost over. With Piccione distracted, Carbone was able to get ahead and then he had to try and pass Smith. For a while, things settled down again after that, with Kerr holding his position at the head of the pack, and Courtney having to concentrate on Jouanny, who was gaining ground now. Kovalainen was still 4th, ahead of Keohane and Taylor, while van der Merwe had Carroll as a cushion between him and the next Championship Class runner, Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport). 10th overall and 2nd in class was Colbert, probably still kicking himself for not capitalising on his pole position, and unable to get past Austin, who indulged in a spot of wholly gratuitous wheel-banging when the Irishman tried to gain a place on the road. Colbert would spend the rest of the race trying to get past Austin, while Robert Dahlgren (Sweeney Racing) tried to get past him.
And then things started to liven up again. Smith was being harried by Carbone, while just behind this duo, Piccione was the front section of what began to look increasingly like a 24-wheeled Dallara. Behind Piccione, Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing), Shinya Hosokawa (Formula Dream Team Carlin), Matthew Gilmore (Promatecme International), James Andanson (Team Avanti), Justin Sherwood (Performance Racing), Giandomenico Brusatin (Menu Motorsport) and Jesper Carlsen (Essencial Motorsport) all squabbled for positions. Carbone eventually squeezed past Smith, only to find himself stuck behind Mark Mayall (Alan Docking Racing), which at least left Smith to enjoy a few quiet laps before the end. In the gaggle behind Piccione things were changing too. Andanson was able to pass Hosokawa, while Brusatin and Sherwood also swapped places, Andanson in particular putting in an impressive performance in his first F3 race of the season, on a circuit he doesn't know after only 138 miles in the car! The group was now beginning to break up as well, as Hosokawa lost ground, holding the others behind him back as well.
With Carbone still glued to the rear of Mayall's car, and Andanson looking for a way round Gilmore, it was anyone's guess whether they would all complete the distance or whether this would end in tears before bedtime. It didn't help their chances when Antinucci caught up with the rear of the train too and started trying to carve his way through.
As the race moved into its closing stages, Jouanny again mounted an attack on Courtney, though he failed to make it stick, while Taylor tried to get past Keohane, also to no avail. Towards the back of the field the train started to come apart. Antinucci got past Carlsen, while Gilmore was in trouble too, dropping back behind Hosokawa. Antinucci then took another place from Sherwood, who was another who had collected front-end damage from a floppy marker. Just to prove his speed, Antinucci finished off the job by overtaking Hosokawa as well, although he gained nothing for his efforts apart from a round of applause. And so Kerr took a well-deserved win, with Courtney netting another fastest lap to maintain his lead at the top of the points table.