Towards the end of a long, cold August day, the 14th round of the British F3 International Series finally got underway at Silverstone. The weather was unseasonably cold, but dry. The disadvantage of dry weather was that it meant the cars...
Towards the end of a long, cold August day, the 14th round of the British F3 International Series finally got underway at Silverstone. The weather was unseasonably cold, but dry. The disadvantage of dry weather was that it meant the cars would be running on a batch of Avon tyres that frankly were not up to scratch. The wear rate was alarming and any set that had been used for more than a couple of laps in qualifying were pretty much gone now.
Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3) elected not to start the race, so the field was reduced to 23 cars before they even lined up. There was much speculation as to why.but it's fair to say that the Lebanese has been struggling since he started running a Championship Class car.
At the start Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), his engine smoking alarmingly as he applied the power, made the most awful getaway, and the Carlin Motorsport pair of Oliver Jarvis and Christian Bakkerud tried to go round either side of the series leader, only to find Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) trying to squeeze in between them. This was never going to work. When the dust cleared, Bakkerud was 2nd, and Senna was on the grass after he dropped back then tried to go round the outside of Jarvis. That left Senna vulnerable to attack from Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing), the Mexican making the most of his chance and demoting Senna, who seemed to be going backwards at an unexpected rate.
Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport), meanwhile, had apparently fallen victim to an engine failure and was off at Bridge, as was Basil Shabaan (Comtec Formula 3), the Lebanese modifying his car quite heavily. There was a brief moment of panic as everyone expected the Safety Car, but Buurman was dragged out of the way, and the boys kept right on racing. Meanwhile, Senna's backward slide was continuing, with him now in 7th place and having to defend himself against another Hitech Racing driver, in this case James Walker. The Brazilian really wasn't having a good afternoon.
Bakkerud, on the other hand, was having a very good afternoon, and was stuck to Conway like a limpet, his efforts earning him a fastest lap early on. It didn't matter what Conway did, Bakkerud wasn't about to disappear any time soon. And while all that was going on, Bakkerud's team-mate Maro Engel had made a good start too, and was now all over Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), determined to take 5th place from Kennard if he possibly could. It didn't take long for Engel to claim that place.
Back in the National Class, Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) was back to his normal winning ways, or at least leading ways at this point, while Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) was busy spinning over at Club. Juho Annala (Performance Racing) was now 3rd in class having taken the position away from his own team-mate, Rodolfo Avila.
Near the front Senna was busy trying to salvage something of his race, and was all over Kennard. It got a bit silly when he made an attempt to go round the outside of Kennard, got it all wrong, and lost another place to James Walker (Hitech Racing). It was possible that the Brazilian's relative inexperience was causing him serious problems, because afterwards the drivers were all complaining that the tyre wear issue was causing hideous levels of understeer and making the cars almost impossible to handle. And as Senna only has a season and a half of single-seater racing under his belt, it was no real surprise that he was struggling. He was now 8th and had to try and hold off Stephen Jelley, also of Raikkonen Robertson Racing, who was also having serious problems with the tyres and had made a really horrible start. It was all a bit galling considering how far up the pair of them had qualified. They really shouldn't have been this far back now. The only thing that looked likely to save Senna was that Jelley had Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing) all over him.
Right at the front, in contrast, Conway still led, but he couldn't relax. Bakkerud was right on the tail of the Double R Racing driver, and he wasn't about to be shaken off whatever Conway tried. The Dane was there, glued to the rear wing of the Mercedes-powered car. So who says on the high- speed circuits you must have a Mercedes? Bakkerud was busy proving them wrong. Again and again the Dane pulled right up to the rear of Conway's car, and then had to back off as he found himself running in the dirty air generated off the back wing of the Dallara. It doesn't make overtaking easy because the car handling deteriorates and you find you can't get the power down enough to get past. It's frustrating, but that didn't stop Bakkerud from trying to find a way through anyway.
While the two-way scrap at the front continued, the Senna/Walker/Kennard scrap was also still raging. Kennard lost out to Walker, and Senna used the momentary loss of momentum on Kennard's part to nip through. He nearly got Walker as well, but then Kennard came back and sling-shotted past both of them by nipping up the inside. In effect they were now all back where they'd been a lap earlier, despite a lot of excitement for the spectators. Kennard was now able to break away and leave Walker holding up Senna, Jelley, Reindler, and, just for good measure, James Jakes (Hitech Racing). It was a lot of fuss and nonsense for very little effect really.
Meanwhile, in the National Class, Avila had dropped another place, this time to Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport), while Annala was also finding his car's handling to be a very long way from what he likes. The understeering was horrible, so he was just hanging on as best he could. That left him unable to catch the leaders and meant that when Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport) arrived on the scene, he couldn't prevent her coming through, though as a Championship Class runner she had no effect on his place in the National Class results.
The mid-field fracas behind Walker was further augmented when Alberto Valerio (Cesario Formula UK) tacked onto the back of it, but then it lost a player when Jelley went off. That didn't lessen the excitement, of course, because the next thing that happened was that Senna again had a go at Walker. This time it looked like it might end in tears, because going into Club really isn't the sort of place to try that sort of thing. However, no one was really watching this battle. All eyes were now on the leader. Bakkerud took a look at passing Conway, but couldn't quite make it stick. Not content with that, he had another go at Luffield, and was able to catch up as they came out of the complex. By the time they crossed the line, the Dane was 0.3 seconds adrift and closing.
A lap later, as the race moved into its closing stages, Bakkerud had another go, pulling alongside Conway as they exited Luffield. When the crossed the line with a lap left to run the timing screen recorded the gap as 0.0 seconds, not something you see every day, or even every decade. Bakkerud made a couple more attempts to grab the lead on the last lap, really giving Conway something to think about, but in the end, Bakkerud couldn't risk throwing away 15 points, and Conway's nerve held, allowing him to come home for his second victory of the weekend.
Behind the two of them, Jarvis came home 3rd complaining of lack of pace in the car, though he was comfortably ahead of Duran. Engel was 5th from Walker, Senna, Reindler and Jakes. Valerio was 11th, from Stuart Hall (T-Sport) and Jelley. Gonzalez won the National Class, finishing 14th overall, ahead of Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), Morgado, Ihara, Annala and Avila, who had gained a place back in the closing minutes of the race. Kudzak, who was struggling with a sick-sounding car for the last couple of laps, was 20th, and the last finisher was Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing).
The extra point for fastest lap went to Bakkerud (in the Championship Class) and Gonzalez (National Class).
Next Race Meeting: Rounds 15 & 16, Brands Hatch, UK, August 26th/27th.