2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship - Round 7b -Donington Park, July 1st/2nd, Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite Qualifying: Weather: Cold, cloudy. Spots of rain. As in practice for Round 7a, Gianmaria Bruni ...
2000 Green Flag British Formula Three Championship - Round 7b -Donington Park, July 1st/2nd,
Race Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
Weather: Cold, cloudy. Spots of rain.
As in practice for Round 7a, Gianmaria Bruni (Fortec Motorsport) was again on the pace early on, driving his high-speed toothpaste tube but would slide back down the order to 6th. The Carlin Racing pair of Ben Collins and Takuma Sato joined him. Once again they were showing early signs of speed only to fade away as the session wore on. Someone who didn't show signs of fading was Nicolas Kiesa (RC Benetton Junior). The Dane is now looking very good indeed and only really needs to work on his starts to improve his results. This time he was not about to make a mistake if he could help it. Having said that, he managed to get tangled up with Class B runner Ryan Walker (Diamond Racing) at the Melbourne loop, which let Antonio Pizzonia (Manor Motorsport) back up the order and onto provisional pole. He would be replaced quite quickly though.
Both Kiesa and his team-mate, Milos Pavlovic were right up there, the Yugoslav ending the afternoon in 4th, a superb effort though like any racer he was disappointed with it. The new Opel engine seems to have come good at last. Certainly that's what the drivers believe. "Bigger engines!" was Milos's only answer when asked where they had suddenly come by their new turn of speed. Someone who looked like they were going a lot faster than they actually were was Collins. He looked desperately committed through the loop but it wasn't actually helping much. It was debatable whether anything much would and he ended up in 8th again.
Sato too was looking like he was trying very hard, locking the rear wheels and leaving clouds of tyre smoke behind, but he did manage to edge his way to a provisional pole, only to get edged out, first by Bruni and then by Kiesa who was quite clearly not going to miss out for anything this time round. Sato would be 5th on the grid, with Tomas Scheckter (Stewart Racing) behind him for the second time this weekend. Andrew Kirkaldy (Team Avanti) took his second front-row position of the day with a fine lap though he couldn't quite shift the Dane from the top slot. In 3rd was Pizzonia, content to go for points this time, particularly as his main rival, Scheckter, was still in trouble. Having managed to embarrass himself in the morning, he was only able to get up to 7th. It was two places ahead of his previous effort but it won't help his championship chances at all.
In 9th was Michael Bentwood (Fortec Motorsport). He and Bruni had been having an awful lot of trouble with their cars, but in diametrically opposite ways. Michael had a brief off at the Loop, which rather proved his point that his car was awful in the Hairpins, while his teammate was in trouble on the straights. There was a distinct feeling that suggestions that they should either swap cars mid-lap or perhaps merely hand their transponders to each other were only half-joking. Narain Karthikeyan (Stewart Racing) was another who was off the pace, at least in comparison to the morning session. From 3rd for the first race to 10th in the second race was odd to say the least. Then again this has been an odd season in a lot of ways.
In 11th was Matt Davies, after an excursion into the scenery that wrecked any chances of moving up the order. It also tore the front off the nose. It was all shaping up to a weekend to forget for Matt, as it was for his teammate, Andy Priaulx. The Channel Islands' fastest driver was only 12th, just ahead of Juan Manuel Lopez (Manor) and Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing).
15th overall was Gary Paffett (Fred Goddard Racing). Nine races into the season this was his 9th Scholarship Class pole. It must be discouraging for the others, as is the suggestion that even if he wraps up the title this weekend he will stick around for the rest of the season to try and make a clean sweep of the series. Perhaps the rest of the Scholarship drivers will have a whip-round to pay him to go away! It's probably the only chance they have of getting a win themselves. Once again he was ahead of Warren Carway (Rowan Racing) and Tor Sriachavanon (Alan Docking Racing). Atsushi Katsumata (Team Meritus) was again 2nd with Craig Fleming (ME Motorsport) just behind him. Christian Colombo (Rowan Racing) was 4th in class, the only driver who could, at least in theory, beat Paffett to the title, though it will take a miracle for the Italian. No one else is even mathematically capable of it. The last three places went to Ryan Walker (Diamond Racing), Phillip Hopkins (Phillip Hopkins Motorsport) and Mark Mayall (Diamond Racing). Phil was still wrestling with the car, the problem not having been diagnosed yet.
<pre> Qualifying Times: 1st - No 12 - Nicolas Kiesa, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, 1:28.544 2nd - No 22 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Avanti, Dallara F300 -Spiess-Opel, 1:28.559 3rd - No 1 - Antonio Pizzonia, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:28.686 4th - No 11 - Milos Pavlovic, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, 1:28.786 5th - No 9 - Takuma Sato, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:28.804 6th - No 8 - Gianmaria Bruni, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:28.899 7th - No 4 - Tomas Scheckter, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:28.905 8th - No 10 - Ben Collins, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:28.938 9th - No 7 - Michael Bentwood, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:29.009 10th - No 3 - Narain Karthikeyan, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:29.019 11th - No 5 - Matthew Davies, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, 1:29.106 12th - No 6 - Andy Priaulx, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, 1:29.164 13th - No 2 - Juan Manuel Lopez, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:29.474 14th - No 17 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:29.576 15th - No 61 - Gary Paffett, FGR, Dallara F398 Renault, 1:29.633 (Scholarship Class Pole) 16th - No 18 - Warren Carway, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:29.803 17th - No 16 - Tor Sriachavanon, ADR, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, 1:30.385 18th - No 55 - Atsushi Katsumata, Meritus, Dallara F398 Toyota, 1:30.860 19th - No 54 - Craig Fleming, ME, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:30.884 20th - No 51 - Christian Colombo, Rowan, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:31.143 21st - No 66 - Ryan Walker, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:31.253 22nd - No 52 - Phillip Hopkins, PHM, Dallara F398 Spiess-Opel, 1:31.607 23rd - No 77 - Mark Mayall, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, 1:31.850
Weather: Hot and sunny.
From the front of the grid Andrew Kirkaldy (Team Avanti) made a superb start to leave Nicolas Kiesa (RC Benetton Junior) trailing in his wake looking rather surprised. Kiesa's problem was somewhat unusual perhaps for this stage of the season, until you recall what has happened to him on the start line so far this year. Really, his starts have been the one area where he has tended to let himself down, and so it would be again here. As he sheepishly admitted, "I was so afraid to stall it again after last time that I thought the best I could do was just slip the clutch a bit. I knew I was going to lose a place, but not two."
The second place fell when Takuma Sato (Carlin Motorsport) tore off the line and into the lead, getting the jump on everyone. Sadly, it was later judged to be too good a start and he would be called in for a stop/go penalty. Things always seem to be difficult here for Carlin, even when one of their cars is running very well. None of this helped Antonio Pizzonia (Manor Motorsport) at all as he was caught behind Kiesa at the start and had to lift as they all went into Redgate. He would slip back to 5th place, behind Milos Pavlovic (RC Benetton Jr) and then have to play a waiting game. He wasn't as worried as he might have been under other circumstances. "Kiesa had a really bad start and I just sat behind him. I couldn't really move so I was what? 4th? Then I got Milos."
Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing) again started well, gaining a couple of places by the first corner. And then there were waved yellows all over the place after Juan Manuel Lopez (Manor Motorsport) and O'Connell tangled at Coppice, leaving the Argentinean sitting disconsolately in a gravel trap. The flags would stay out for a lap or two which allowed everyone to calm down, with the possible exception of Craig Fleming (ME Motorsport), who reckoned Sato wasn't the only one who had been a bit optimistic in his reading of the gantry lights. As far as the Scholarship Class driver could see both Christian Colombo (Rowan Racing) and Atsushi Katsumata (Team Meritus) had been somewhat premature too: "But no one watches the Scholarship Class cars!" Which is harsh but probably true too.
Once the yellow flags were taken back in Ben Collins (Carlin Motorsport) and "Gimmi" Bruni (Fortec Motorsport) were soon locked into a hard scrap for 5th. Unlike his unceremonious bundling out of the way of Kirkaldy in the previous race, this time Bruni played it fair and ended up stuck behind Ben for lap after lap. "I overtake Milos and Collins and I think it's a good car but the problem is Collins when we start the race. He close the door always for 6-7 laps." When it was suggested that he would have done the same to Collins, his reply was a good-natured "Yeah, always!" In the end, Collins was forced to let him by when the Mugen-Honda that powered his Dallara took sick and he had to limp in to the pits with a very unwell-sounding car.
Meanwhile Sato had been forced to hand the lead to Kirkaldy when he came in to serve his stop/go penalty. Returning to the track just ahead of Warren Carway (Rowan Racing), the Irishman nearly took the Japanese out of commission. Maybe Warren just didn't see the Carlin car until it was too late; maybe the pit-lane marshals let Sato out a little too soon. Whatever, Carway seemed to panic and was suddenly fighting to keep the car on the track. And so, while the Irishman tried to sort himself out, Sato set about trying to recover lost ground.
At the front, Nick Kiesa was beginning to close on Kirkaldy, with the Scot having a tough time holding him off, as his car began to handle strangely. "It's just we were struggling with understeer and it got worse as the race went on. It just got worse. It was a good start though - we've struggled with starts but now we've made it better. It's reasonably satisfying." With Kiesa all over him, this was not a good time to try and hold off the Dane who could almost reach out and touch first place. Kiesa finally forced his way past Kirkaldy by driving around the outside of him at Redgate on lap 13, round about the halfway mark. He knew he had to make it stick and there would only be one chance. "It was all or nothing. He was very slow in that corner and I wanted to save it to the end because if I tried to overtake and it wouldn't have stuck he would have blocked me every single lap and so that's why I was a bit drastic but - hey - it's a Formula Three car. He wasn't very quick but this section was where I was much quicker than him and the rest of the section you can't get near because you lose downforce."
Milos Pavlovic wasn't too happy with the way his Dallara was handling either, and this really helped Pizzonia. Finally the opportunity the Brazilian had been waiting for arrived, and on lap 14, heading into Goddard, Milos made a mistake. Pizzonia didn't need to be asked twice. "I could have tried before but I didn't want to take any risk. But he was making mistakes so I thought I would wait." The opportunity was clearly there and the Brazilian took it, starting the move at Goddards and making it stick by Redgate. This would add to Kirkaldy's problems as the Brazilian started to put him under pressure too. He would manage to withstand this pressure for the rest of the race, though not for want of Pizzonia's efforts. "I tried a little bit because I started to catch Kirkaldy but I couldn't quite do it. It's been a brilliant weekend for the Championship."
From then on Kiesa just went away from everyone, while Pizzonia did the same to Pavlovic. The Yugoslav looked safe for 4th place though, until Bruni appeared in his mirrors. He managed to force a mistake at Redgate and was through to 4th, leaving Milos very disappointed with 5th place. Bruni was pretty pleased. "Yeah, it's very good. 4th place is not bad and it puts me third in the championship." (Actually it moves him to 4th but you get the point). "But it's very good for the team and for everybody. I have the changed car, this is a new car, new paint in the car, new, all is new. New car because I broken the car in the chassis in Brands Hatch." All Pavlovic would say was, "It's not good, not at all."
His teammate came home a delighted winner though, so all was not gloom at RC Benetton, though as the two of them don't get on, this did not console Milos at all. "It's quite good to get a lot of points in my bag. And the engine's working very well but it's the new electronic thing that makes it much quicker. I think they've done a lot, Opel, on the electronic side and the power comes from that." Kirkaldy was content with 2nd. Certainly they had made progress since the team debut at the previous Donington meeting. "It's reasonably satisfying," he said.
In 6th place was Tomas Scheckter (Stewart Racing), who had spent most of the race holding off Michael Bentwood (Fortec Racing). Bentwood was another disappointed man. "I would have liked to get further up. Every time I got close he just did an awesome lap. He seemed to react under pressure all the time. I got 8 points this weekend, my team-mate got 26 which isn't good." Even the Raymond Mays Trophy was no consolation to him at this point. However, he was taking some comfort from the way he despatched Scheckter's teammate Narain Karthikeyan. "I did a great out-braking on Narain into Goddards. It was awesome. You should have seen it. I caught him by surprise."
The Promatecme drivers were still struggling with the Renault engine though. Andy Priaulx was 8th, while Matt Davies came home a miserable 19th, after a spin and filling the radiator air-intakes with grass. In 9th place was Sato, who ended his recovery by passing Karthikeyan too. It wasn't a bad result for someone who had been made to come in to the pits like that.
As usual, Gary Paffett (Fred Goddard Racing) won the Scholarship Class and set the fastest lap in class. He is now two points off the title so it seems that whatever happens at Croft he will be champion. He's had a fairly eventful afternoon, and had now decided that whatever happened he would be finishing the series to try and get a clean sweep. "The start was quite exciting, there were quite a few people around. And then on the first lap Lopez got caught up with O'Connell and got them two out of the way really. We had to get in another win to win the championship. We would have won the championship today if Colombo hadn't finished second, which he nearly didn't. It's one point - so near but so far away. Why should we try and let someone else win? He was getting close and Warren started to get close but then he and Sato fell off together. It should have been over today."
O'Connell finished just ahead of Carway, and as usual Tor Sriachavanon (Alan Docking Racing) was there with Carway. The third Rowan car, that of Colombo, was next up with Craig Fleming just behind. Ryan Walker (Diamond Racing), who improves as the year goes on, was 17th, ahead of Phillip Hopkins (Phillip Hopkins Motorsport). Last was the other Diamond driver, Mark Mayall, just behind the long-suffering Matt Davies.
And just as the race ended, we all realised just how lucky we had been. The first rain drops of a flash flood and thunderstorm fell just as the cars reached the scrutineering bay. And it rained and it rained and it rained. Within 30 minutes the water was over the tops of people's Wellington boots and things were drifting out of awnings. Having lost a carpet at Pau, Manor lost another one at Donington. Antonio being from a rain-forest region some of us suggested it was his fault. He denied it. "No, no, Brazilian rain is hot!"
<pre> Results: 1st - No 12 - Nicolas Kiesa, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 30:14.449, 21 laps 2nd - No 22 - Andrew Kirkaldy, Avanti, Dallara F300 -Spiess-Opel, Gap: 4.842 3rd - No 1 - Antonio Pizzonia, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 5.911 4th - No 8 - Gianmaria Bruni, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 10.779 5th - No 11 - Milos Pavlovic, RC, Dallara F300 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 13.119 6th - No 4 - Tomas Scheckter, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 14.353 7th - No 7 - Michael Bentwood, Fortec, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 16.514 8th - No 6 - Andy Priaulx, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, Gap: 18.562 9th - No 9 - Takuma Sato, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 23.685 10th - No 3 - Narain Karthikeyan, Stewart, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 25.295 11th - No 61 - Gary Paffett, FGR, Dallara F398 Renault, 30:42.819, (Scholarship Class Winner) 12th - No 17 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 30.157 13th - No 18 - Warren Carway, Rowan, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 45.318 14th - No 16 - Tor Sriachavanon, ADR, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 55.832 15th - No 51 - Christian Colombo, Rowan, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 56.816 16th - No 54 - Craig Fleming, ME, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 57.964 17th - No 66 - Ryan Walker, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 59.316 18th - No 52 - Phillip Hopkins, PHM, Dallara F398 Spiess-Opel, Gap: 1:09.464 19th - No 5 - Matthew Davies, Promatecme, Dallara F300 Renault, Gap: 1:11.703 20th - No 77 - Mark Mayall, Diamond, Dallara F398 Mugen-Honda, Gap: 1:30.725
Not Classified: No 10 - Ben Collins, Carlin, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Lap 15, Overheating, engine cooking. No 55 - Atsushi Katsumata, Meritus, Dallara F398 Toyota, Lap 2, Crashed No 2 - Juan Manuel Lopez, Manor, Dallara F300 Mugen-Honda, Lap 1, Pushed out by Carway
Fastest laps: Championship Class: No 12, Nicolas Kiesa, 1:29.945, 161.03 kph/100.06 mph, Lap 15 National Class: No 61, Gary Paffett, 1:31.212, 158.79 kph/98.67 mph, Lap 18
Standings: Championship Class: 1st - Antonio Pizzonia - 143 points 2nd - Tomas Scheckter - 98 points 3rd - Narain Karthikeyan - 67 points 4th - Gianmaria Bruni - 63 points 5th - Takuma Sato - 59 points 6th - Nicolas Kiesa - 56 points 7th - Michael Bentwood - 52 points 8th - Andy Priaulx - 42 points 9th - Milos Pavlovic - 37 points 10th - Matthew Davies - 32 points 11th - Ben Collins - 29 points 12th - Martin O'Connell - 24 points 13th - Andrew Kirkaldy - 19 points 14th - Westley Barber - 9 points 15th - Juan Manuel Lopez - 6 points 16th - Tor Sriachavanon - 2 points
Scholarship Class: 1st - Gary Paffett - 189 points 2nd - Christian Colombo - 86 points 3rd - Ryan Walker - 80 points 4th - Craig Fleming - 73 points 5th - Phillip Hopkins - 64 points 6th - Marcel Romanio - 58 points 7th - Atsushi Katsumata - 51 points 8th - Mark Mayall - 44 points
Next Round: Round 8, Croft, July 22nd/23rd.