2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship Round 10, Croft, North Yorkshire, May 25th/26th Qualifying - Round 10: Weather: Cloudy, cold, strong winds. For the combined race, the Scholarship Class runners were sent out to practice...
2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship Round 10, Croft, North Yorkshire, May 25th/26th
Qualifying - Round 10:
Weather: Cloudy, cold, strong winds.
For the combined race, the Scholarship Class runners were sent out to practice first, Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing) getting on the pace early, along with Billy Asaro (Sweeney Racing). The two of them would occupy the front row for a while, which was something Ricardo Texeira (Rowan Racing) was obviously in no danger of doing. The Portuguese, on his first outing in British Formula Three, was driving steadily and improving each time he went out, but he was also still very close to the bottom of an extremely steep learning curve. He was carefully keeping out of the way of the others, and trying to keep it on the black stuff at all times. Diego Romanini (Performance Racing), who is in a similar position, was taking quite the opposite tack, however, and came through Clervaux looking very close to his limits more than once. This is not to say he looked particularly quick, just wild.
One of the pleasures of Croft is that from the banking you really can see if the drivers are trying or not. Someone who did look quick (and was) was Clivio Piccione (T-Sport), the Monegasque teenager trying very hard indeed. Another driver trying hard was Stephen Colbert, the lanky Meritus driver having spent sometime at lunchtime explaining why he didn't want to eat chilli con carne before tackling the Chicane! The pasta he consumed instead seemed to be doing its job, and he soon displaced Fairuz for pole, only to have the inevitable happen. Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing) keeps making it look ridiculously easy to set pole position times, just as James Courtney is in the Championship Class. Suddenly he was there again, and Colbert was pushed even further down by Fairuz going second - perhaps the little Malaysian has an unfair advantage; weighing as little as he does, the wind must really push him along! Perhaps not… Piccione's teammate was also out on the track, possibly still trying to nurture the illusion that Croft reminds him of Madras… anyway, he was soon up to 6th in class, with Justin Sherwood (Performance Racing) just behind him and Jesper Carlsen (Essencial Motorsport) in 8th. As Texeira came through looking for a gear (any one would do), Piccione hauled himself back up the order to 3rd, while Asaro slipped to 6th after some very lurid laps indeed. Carlsen was beginning to look pretty lurid too, and seemed to have more hands than he should have, when suddenly there were yellow flags at the Chicane, followed by red flags to halt the session.
Gavin Smith (Meritus Racing) had gone off in a big way. The car looked a complete mess, and it seemed doubtful that it could be repaired in time for Round 9 later in the afternoon. Of course, that was always assuming the driver was all right. He had managed to get out of the car on his own, but had been taken to hospital in Darlington for a precautionary check-up. Now it was a question of whether the casualty unit would let him go or not. The barrier that he had hit was also in need of some attention, and it was some while before the track was finally cleared again and the session could restart.
On cold tyres, on an increasingly cold track, it was no real surprise that many of the drivers were looking very ragged at the restart. Texeira was trying to keep out of the way, which was a good thing, as he really wasn't on the pace yet. Asaro could be seen skittering around too. And Carlsen was trapped behind Romanini now, or at least was stuck trying to find a way past him. Piccione, on the other hand, was not about to waste time and promptly improved his times to go 3rd in class. No one else seemed able to improve and the wind was making life very difficult all round. About the only other change came when Chandhok pulled himself up the order to 5th. Of the 13 Scholarship Class drivers, all but two of them were covered by less than one second. It was remarkably close, but it was still Carroll's pole. In the Championship Class session, Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport) was looking far better than he had in qualifying for Round 9, though his Dallara still looked to be handling badly. This turned out to be down to the fact that the tub they had been running had been damaged. Once this was discovered, and the necessary replacement found, the struggle was on to get the thing set up to Mark's liking. It was proving difficult, given the changing weather conditions and the blustery wind. It didn't stop Taylor from going fastest early on, but it would certainly stop him being as far up the order as he might otherwise have been by the time the session ended. Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport) was next to better Carroll's time, though that could have been the Red Bull he was threatening to drink just before the session (he claims it makes him very fast for about 20 minutes, which would have been about right). Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing) then moved up the order to go 3rd, but they well all to be disappointed. That man James Courtney (Carlin Racing) went out and claimed pole one more time. Really, he should let someone else have a go, before they all decide they don't want to play any more!
The order was now Courtney, Kovalainen, Kerr, Taylor, Carroll, Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International), Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport), Piccione and Michael Keohane (Carlin Motorsport), who had not been happy at being only 8th for Round 9. It soon became obvious that the order was not going to stay like that. Antinucci was already on the move, as was Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport), the South African also now on a charge that would take him to 4th fastest. Further down, Tom Sisley (Motaworld) had managed to squeeze into the race, as had Giandomenico Brusatin (Menu Motorsport). There would be three non-qualifiers for Sunday's race, and neither Sisley nor Brusatin intended to be among them if the could avoid it. Matthew Gilmore (Promatecme International) was also showing strongly again, and was in 11th overall. Just to reinforce what had happened in the morning session, Tor Graves (Alan Docking Racing) had a quick trip through the gravel, though he was once again able to get going on his own. He didn't look happy though, and he would be the only Championship Class driver not to qualify. While there seemed to be no shifting Courtney, the places behind him were being redistributed. Antinucci was suddenly up to second again, with Kerr in 3rd despite being troubled by locking brakes all day. Kovalainen was again 4th, and then Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) joined him to take 5th. All of this placed van der Merwe down in 6th, but he hadn't given up yet. He wasn't the only one either. Keohane finally got ahead of Carroll, to go 9th, but then had a big spin though he was able to avoid hitting anything. Kerr snatched 2nd from Antinucci, only for the America to come straight back at him and reclaim the spot. Mark Mayall (Alan Docking Racing) managed to go straight on at Hawthorn Bend, despite spending part of the morning studying that corner very closely with his driver coach, Julian Westwood. Kovalainen came through looking very sideways and very Finnish, but couldn't improve his time. This was followed by van der Merwe having quite a bizarre off at Clervaux, which saw him miss hitting anything (from a choice of two tyre walls, and the barrier), though witnesses wondered how on earth he managed it! He afterwards sheepishly confessed that the thought of being 4th again had got him annoyed, which was not a good idea. He would end up 6th, ahead of Jouanny, Taylor and Keohane.