With the weather as close as ever, we expected that a large part of the second qualifying session here in Belgium would be fairly free of action, at least when it came to people moving around the order. Christian Bakkerud (Carlin ...
With the weather as close as ever, we expected that a large part of the second qualifying session here in Belgium would be fairly free of action, at least when it came to people moving around the order. Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) was first out, hoping to make up for what he considered to be dismal performance in yesterday's session. You really needed to get out as soon a possible, because the way the circuit is organised this weekend, the mileage covered ahead of the start is considerable. The F3s are parked somewhere towards Germany (not quite the Nurburgring, but it feels like it). The trouble is the cars were lining up at Eau Rouge, having taken a somewhat circuitous route through the paddock, and they would then have to complete almost an entire lap before they can even start a timed lap. In a 30-minute session, you can waste an awful lot of time that way.
Anyway, the first of the runners to get out were the aforementioned Bakkerud, Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), and his team-mate Karl Reindler. This meant they were the first to show up at the top of the timing screens, but they didn't stay there for very long, because both Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) soon supplanted them. Bruno Senna was also looking keen, in between using his mobile phone to show people footage of his Snetterton crash, and he soon rocketed up the order to take an early provisional pole, followed round by Conway and by Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing), Jelley was now 4th ahead of Bakkerud.
In the National Class, by way of a change, Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) was leading, from Juho Annala (Performance Racing), his team- mate Rodolfo Avila, and the usually all-conquering Rodolfo Gonzalez (T- Sport). This was a bit unusual to say the least. Annala was able to go one better than the South African and a lap later he had claimed the provisional class pole. The only question was could he hang on to it?
Back in the Championship Class, Bakkerud was pressing on old tyres, which didn't stop him being 3rd. He got shoved back down when the Double R lads annexed the front three places, at least temporarily, with Senna heading up Conway from Jelley.
With a good half of the session still to go, Duran was 6th, ahead of Reindler, James Walker (Hitech Racing), Kennard and Alberto Valerio. Reindler was suffering from the annoying behaviour of Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport). Karl moved over to let the Swede through, only for the 16-year old to ram him up the rear.
Even more dramatically down the order was Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), the German back in 18th, (mind you, if you believed the timing screen he was also 26th, which you have to admit is quite a smart trick). There were also two Alex Khateebs (Promatecme F3), but at least they were 24th and 25th. And at least the team seemed to be getting the better of the various oil leaks the Mugen-Honda was suffering from.. It didn't help that not only was the oil pressure pretty near non-existent, but as the pressure gauge wasn't working, it took them a while to figure out just how much trouble they were actually in. It was worse than they thought, as it turned out.
Another man a long way down the order at this point was Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport), who was two places down on Engel, in 20th (though at least there was only one of him).
A further push by Senna saw him increase his advantage by over 1 second, but the Carlin threat suddenly became very real. From a long way back, and now running on new tyres, Engel .was suddenly there in 2nd place, and an eye-blink later, the German was 3rd and Jarvis was 2nd. You wondered what sort of sandbagging game they'd been playing, really. Trevor Carlin isn't known as "Clever Trevor" for nothing.
Two other drivers seemingly hiding their lights under some fairly large bushels were Yelmer Buurman, in the only Fortec Motorsport car, and James Jakes (Hitech Racing), who were both still a very long way off the pace. Still, Engel and Jarvis had seemed very distant not that long ago. At this stage of the game Buurman was 14th and Jakes was slower than Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport). This really didn't seem normal; nor did the fact that Annala was still leading the National Class from Morgado and Avila. One wondered what 4th-placed Gonzalez made of the fact; he's not used to being that far back, after all. And while Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing) managed to spin and rejoin the session, Gonzalez prepared his answer. A vey short time later and there he was at the top of the times for the class.
At the very front, Engel was back ahead of Jarvis and was edging closer to Senna, being now only 0.014 seconds behind the Brazilian. He wanted his second pole position of the weekend, and he was determined to get it. Jakes was also now on song, and was 4th, perhaps having found a gap in the traffic that everyone was complaining about (on a 7 kilometre circuit, with only 24 cars out there in total, you'd think a driver could find space, but no, they all went round in a clump, tripping each other up and complaining about it afterwards). Anyway, Jakes wasn't alone in the late improvement stakes, because Buurman too put in a better time towards the end of the session, jumping numerous places to go 7th.
There were ten minutes left and the order was now Senna from Engel, Jarvis, Jakes, Jelley, Conway, Buurman, Bakkerud, Duran and Michael Herck (Bas Leinders Racing). The order was shaken up when Kennard went to 7th, and further shaken up when Engel snatched pole from Senna by 0.153 seconds. And then there was a bit of a dive for the pits, with many people concluding that they'd done their best and would be better off keeping something back for the race. Unlike in Thursday's session we at least got some improvements in the closing minutes. The first of them was from Walker, who edged up to 8th, and then from Duran who grabbed 4th. In the National Class Morgado moved up to 2nd, dropping Annala a place, but he still couldn't get the better of that man Gonzalez. The real surprise was when Bakkerud shot up to 5th, then a lap later went to 4th alongside Jarvis, and in the closing seconds he was right on it, claiming 3rd place. The conclusion to be drawn was that he was feeling a lot better and the tonsillitis drugs were working!
The final change came when Walker managed a two place improvement to go 6th, and the Morgado spun out somewhere in the countryside around Rivage and the session ended in a flurry of waved yellow flags.
The session closed with Engel a truly delighted pole winner, from Senna, Bakkerud, Jarvis, Duran, Walker, Jakes, Jelley, Conway, Kennard and Buurman. Herck was 11th overall and fastest of the Invitation Class runners, ahead of Reindler, Valerio, Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), Gonzalez on National Class pole, Morgado, Ihara, Annala and Avila. Basil Shaaban (Comtec F3) was 21st, from Kudzak, Teixeira and Khateeb.