There was a case of collective strange behaviour breaking out at Carlin just before the start of what was to be Alvaro Parente's final F3 run for the team (he is committed to A1GP with the Portuguese team from now on and the dates ...
There was a case of collective strange behaviour breaking out at Carlin just before the start of what was to be Alvaro Parente's final F3 run for the team (he is committed to A1GP with the Portuguese team from now on and the dates clash). In celebration of his championship, and in farewell, most of the team had spray-dyed their hair in the Portuguese colours of red and green. It made a rather odd though colourful sight.
Unfortunately, their driver didn't have much to smile about once the race started. Steven Kane (Promatecme F3), on pole for the second time today, initially looked as if he was going to repeat his morning move and bog down when the lights went out to signal the start of the race. He didn't this time, but as he pulled away both Parente and Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) tried to snatch the lead from him. With Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) behind them also trying to get a run at Kane, it all went badly wrong at Honda Corner.
Parente tried to get round Dirani by going up the inside of the Brazilian. There wasn't enough room, Dirani spun and eventually continued, while Parente went off, eventually getting back onto the track and limping round to the pits. In the complete chaos that reigned, Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport), Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport) and Ronayne O'Mahony were also victims, having tripped over themselves trying to avoid spinning Dallaras. It was especially galling for Duran as he was leading the National Class, and by the time he'd got back on the Tarmac after a grassy moment, he was 10 places further back, and behind both Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) and Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3). Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) also sustained some damage in the fracas, the nose of his car looking rather second hand. As a result of all this, Lewis found himself 2nd behind Kane, while Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) deftly avoided the chaos, though was inclined to ascribe his survival to luck "I just bounced through it all. It was cool!" he said later.
If one Carlin driver was having all the luck, Christian Bakkerud was having none at all. His team-mate, Keiko Ihara chose the melee to try and make up ground, trying a none-too-clever move to get ahead of National Class runner Barton Mawer (T-Sport), but instead ending up with her Dallara mounting his. In all of this, Bakkerud ("If I didn't have bad luck, I wouldn't have any luck at all!"), starting from a long way back after his engine blew in qualifying, was the innocent victim, getting caught up in the accident. That put all three of them out on the spot, Ihara adding insult to injury when she went across and tried to thump the Mawer. She did at least apologise to Bakkerud afterwards, though that didn't help him a lot.
Once the dust settled, Parente was in the pits, Dirani was a long way down the order, and Ihara, Mawer and Bakkerud were in the gravel. The Safety Car was a given really. It was far too dangerous to continue with three cars off at the first corner, and so the race was temporarily neutralised. Just as the Safety Car picked up the leaders, Parente rejoined, despite what seemed to be damaged steering. He still wanted the point for fastest lap in his final F3 race. He would have liked the win to go with it, just to sign off with, but he would settle for what he could get.
The order of the survivors was Kane, from Lewis, Kimball, James Walker (Fortec Motorsport), Conway, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), Dan Clarke (Double R Racing), Bruno Senna (Double R Racing), National Class leader Kennard and Hollings. Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing), Duran, Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), Josh Fisher (Team SWR), Dirani, Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing), Jelley, Nick Jones (Team SWR), Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) and Parente, who was 2 laps down.
It took a couple of laps to clear the carnage away, and when they were released to race again Kane made no mistake. He held Lewis off, while flooring it himself and was nicely in control when they crossed the start/finish line. In fact Lewis was rather busy watching his mirrors because it soon became apparent that Kimball had more speed than him. The one thing holding up the American was the fact that he couldn't find a way past Lewis on this narrow track and with his only rival for the runner up slot in the series, Conway, just two places behind, this was not the moment to take chances. Especially as Conway was flying right then, setting the fastest lap of the race so far in his efforts to find a way round his team- mate Walker, who was not that far behind Kimball.
In the National Class, Kennard now had both Hollings and Duran all over him, the Mexican wanting to win this race if at all possible. He's tied up with A1GP from next week too, and while he has a reasonable series lead, Mawer could still take it back, especially if he's given a clear run at Silverstone next month. Duran doesn't want to make it easy for him if he can avoid it.
Elsewhere, the Championship Class fastest lap was taken from Conway, by Kane, but he only got to hang on to it for as long as it took Parente to cross the line again. Despite the steering not being right anymore, and a developing engine problem, the Portuguese driver put in a couple of blinding laps to at least make sure of one more point to his name. No one was likely to get near the time he set, especially as everyone except Kane was running in close company with at least one other car. Asmer, for example, had Senna all over him, the Brazilian taking some wild and woolly lines through some of the corners. The two of them were bottled up behind Clarke, though the Double R Racing driver would eventually manage to break away when Senna made a mistake and dropped himself and Asmer out of contention in one fell swoop.
Parente, meanwhile, was trying to keep clear track in front of him, in case he needed to make a further effort for that fastest lap. The trouble was he was catching up with Cheong, and despite a couple of attempts to back off and let the Chinese go away, Parente eventually had to give in and pass Cheong. Pretty much the same thing would happen with Jones a little later. And shortly afterwards, Parente pulled into the pits and out of the race, his Mugen-Honda engine losing the will to continue at that sort of speed, thanks very much.
At the front Kane continued untroubled, while Lewis held off Kimball and Walker repeatedly slammed the door on Conway. It didn't seem to deter Conway, the red car taking up some interesting attitudes as they slithered through the corners together. Considering they are supposed to be team- mates, Walker was not about to give an inch. A little behind them Asmer, having been savaged by Senna, pulled into the pits for some rapid repairs and was back out half a lap later, while the Brazilian got embroiled with the National Class runners to the benefit of no one involved. It certainly did nothing for Annala, who lost out to Fisher as a result, and then seemed to lose interest altogether, sliding most of the way back through the field before the chequered flag.
After 30 minutes, Kane came home a delighted winner, ahead of Lewis, Kimball, Walker, Conway, Clarke, National Class winner Kennard, 2nd in class Hollings, 3rd placed Duran, and Fisher. 11th overall and 7th in the Championship Class was O'Mahony, from Reindler, Jelley, Senna, Annala, Jones, Cheong and Asmer.
Fastest laps went to Parente and Kennard.
Rounds 21 & 22, October 8th/9th, Silverstone, Northamptonshire.