Kennard claims maiden victory at Spa

After a bizarre 8 lap race, with 5 of those laps run behind the Safety Car, Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) scored his maiden F3 victory, leading home Maro Engel and Sam Bird, both of Carlin Motorsport. Championship leader Marko...

After a bizarre 8 lap race, with 5 of those laps run behind the Safety Car, Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) scored his maiden F3 victory, leading home Maro Engel and Sam Bird, both of Carlin Motorsport. Championship leader Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) finished a somewhat distant 8th. In the National Class, Sergio Perez (T-Sport) took his second victory of the weekend, again beating Frankie Cheng (Performance Racing) to the flag.

Despite the fact that the rain wasn't falling especially heavily, someone somewhere decide that this race would start behind the Safety Car. At least this time it didn't seem to come as a surprise to anyone, unlike in Bucharest earlier this season. Afterwards most of the drivers seemed to think it was unnecessary, but given that one of the Ultimate Motorsport cars skated off onto the grass during the initial lap, and a Hitech Racing car (or possibly a Fortec - it was hard to tell in the spray) was also out of position briefly, it might have been just as well.

Anyway, at the end of Lap 2 the race finally went live. It was all well and good for Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), who was leading from pole position. It wasn't, however, much fun for anyone else. If you had another car in front of you all you could see was spray, which was certainly the experience of both Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) and Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport), who were following Kennard round. As the race went live, Engel started trying to find a way round the leader, while a little further back Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) and Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) were fighting it out too, while Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) was being harassed by Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport). To get some idea of what an odd race it was turning into, at one point Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport) had set the fastest lap of the race, but it was a good two minutes and thirty seconds slower than a normal lap (4:48.455). Needless to say on the second racing lap, they started to go a little faster, although it appeared to be too fast for Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) and Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport), as the pair tangled and spun off. They both got moving again, but at the same time, Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) was knocked out of contention and plummeted down the order.

At the front, Engel was getting close to Kennard, and Bird was considering his options, given that he couldn't see a thing in the spray behind Engel. He wasn't keen to try and sort of move when he had no idea where he was or what was in front of him. All of this left Kennard free to set the fastest lap, while everyone else engaged in a damage limitation exercise, just trying to bring it home in one piece and maybe score a few points. Someone who wasn't going to bring it home was Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), who suddenly found the front cover of the car coming lose. Wisely perhaps, he pitted and abandoned the effort before the engine drowned.

Meanwhile, at the front, Kennard was starting to look rather ragged and when he made a mess of the Bus Stop, Engel saw his chance. He couldn't quite make it stick, but he was alongside the leader as they headed up to Raidillon. Kennard just held onto his place, but Engel hadn't given up on the idea yet. With Engel now setting the fastest race lap, Kennard couldn't afford to relax, especially as the German was right with him still, and Bird was still hanging on to the train too. It meant Kennard had to drive very defensively if he wanted to be certain of his first ever F3 win. On the third racing lap, a determined effort from Kennard saw him again set the fastest lap of the race, so although he looked wild, he was certainly quick. And as if that wasn't enough to try Trevor Carlin's nerves, Asmer was now locked into a fight with Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport), the two of them swapping places for 8th a couple of times, while Guerrieri also joined in.

While Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Leo Mansell were both being told to put their rear lights on, Walter Grubmüller (Hitech Racing) and Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport) were busy having one hell of a fight for what would turn out to be 13th place, neither of them prepared to back down. However, a far more serious problem was occurring at Eau Rouge, where Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing) got the entrance all wrong and shot off into the barriers, destroying the front half of the car. He got out and limped away, but there was a great deal of debris everywhere. The Safety Car was promptly scrambled, and the field settled in behind it, Kennard still leading from Engel and Bird. Jelley was still 4th, ahead of Moraes, Mustonen, Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport), Asmer, Guerrieri and Breen. 11th was Gonzalez, from Hohenthal, Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), Grubmüller, Chilton, Perez, Jackson, Frankie Cheng (Performance Racing), John Martin (Alan Docking Racing) and Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing) was now 21st, leading Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing), Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport), Greg Mansell, Alex Waters (Promatecme F3), Al Khalifa, Garcia and Leo Mansell.

You could wonder why Mustonen, Valerio and Asmer all set their fastest laps of the race while they sat behind the Safety Car, but no one seemed to notice this. Guerrieri, meanwhile, lost fuel pressure and pitted, retiring on the spot, which was a shame for the Mygale outfit. That shuffled the order round to read Kennard, from Engel, Bird, Jelley, Moraes, Mustonen, Valerio, Asmer, Breen and Gonzalez. 11th was Hohenthal, from Devaney, Grubmüller, Chilton, Perez, Jackson, Cheng, Martin, Meadows and Al Fardan. In 21st was Castellacci, from Petterson, Greg Mansell, Waters Al Khalifa, Garcia and Leo Mansell.

On lap 8, the Safety Car lights went out suggesting that the race would go live again on lap 9, except there wasn't going to be a lap 9. The clock had ticked round so that by the time they got to the Bus Stop there were less than 10 seconds left, which meant the next signal anyone would see was the chequered flag. It was a thoroughly frustrating race for most of the runners, and there was some muttering afterwards that they might have got a final lap at racing speeds if only Kennard hadn't dropped back so far behind the Safety Car.

Fastest laps were set by Kennard and Cheng.

Next meeting: Silverstone, Northamptonshire, 11th/12th August 2007

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About this article
Series BF3
Drivers Alan Docking , Marko Asmer , Ricardo Teixeira , Walter Grubmuller , Michael Devaney , Sam Bird , Hamad Al Fardan , Maro Engel , Alberto Valerio , Leo Mansell , Greg Mansell , Sergio Perez , Niall Breen , Esteban Guerrieri , Max Chilton , Sebastian Hohenthal , John Martin , Francesco Castellacci , Sean Petterson , Juan Pablo Garcia , Alistair Jackson , Alex Waters , Michael Meadows , Frankie Cheng , John Kennard
Teams Carlin