Kimball on the trot in sunny Thruxton qualifying

As in the morning, Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) was out first again, and setting the pace in the early stages of the session. He was joined by most of the other drivers, who were taking no chances and trying to get a time in quickly here at ...

As in the morning, Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) was out first again, and setting the pace in the early stages of the session. He was joined by most of the other drivers, who were taking no chances and trying to get a time in quickly here at Thruxton. Thruxton is another tight and relatively short circuit and it isn’t easy to get the optimum conditions from your tyres while also finding space to go for a time. Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was keen to get on the pace as soon as he could, and seen started trading times with Conway. However, it wasn’t long before Conway had claimed positional pole, with Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing) sitting just behind him. There was a lot of progress still to be made though, a fact reinforced by Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) setting an early National Class pole while also being 3rd overall. It was highly unlikely that the time sheets would stay like that.

Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport) was also a long way up the order at this point, in an unaccustomed 6th place. He still doesn’t look happy out there, but at least he wasn’t desperately off the pace, at least at this point. Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing) wasn’t testing the water yet, and was lurking in the pits, waiting for a more suitable moment to head on out. His team-mate Marco Asmer was already out, and was as ever usefully fast, despite his belief that his car simply isn’t fast enough to take the fight to Carlin. With Conway just ahead of him, and Bruno Senna (Double R Racing) just behind, it looked like the Estonian was again likely to be a front runner come the race. Meanwhile, the man who wiped the floor with the opposition at Knockhill a week ago, Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) was in a little trouble at the moment, and was only 20th. Still, it was early days yet. He could certainly expect to improve, as was proved when Charlie Kimball showed signs of dominating this session just as he had in the morning. The American Carlin driver was now fastest, and would only get faster as the session wore on, but it wasn’t long before he and Parente were sharing the front row, from Conway and Asmer, while yet another Carlin driver, Christian Bakkerud, was now 5th.

While all this activity was going on, P1 Motorsport’s Danilo Dirani was only just going out to see what he could do. Interestingly, the pit stops started at around six minutes, so just as the Brazilian wandered out to play, a number of other people, including Clarke, were heading in for new tyres and a whole slew of set-up changes. He was joined by Lewis and James Walker (Fortec Motorsport), while others stayed out. Among those who seemed to want to stay out, Parente was circulating and pushing hard, as evidenced by the terrible wobble he got on coming out of the Chicane. Kimball was still fastest, and showing signs of being pretty well uncatchable, although his team-mates were trying hard to get on terms with the American.

Meanwhile, T-Sport’s National Class runner, Barton Mawer, was another joining the rush to the pits. He was only 5th in class, and he knew he needed better than 5th to get a good result and persuade someone, somewhere, to sponsor him for the remainder of the season. It seems crazy that the leader of the National series is in danger of not being able to finish the job because the money can’t be raised. Someone out there needs to give the man a bag of money soon! Hollings, one of Mawer’s chief rivals, was another into the pits, as was Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing), and before long the place was full of people changing tyres, and getting wings tweaked. It was very busy in there, the situation not much relieved by Bridgman finally deciding to go out and get on with the job. Conway was another early pit-stopper, coming in when he was 3rd overall, just as Bakkerud found an extra turn of speed somewhere, making a provisional Carlin 1-2-3 behind Kimball and Parente.

In the pits, Clarke was sitting patiently waiting for the team to finish working on his car, but they still had the engine cover off, and he was going nowhere in a hurry at this point. He was, however, a lot further up than he usually is, so things might actually be improving for the Double R boys.

The order, as we got close to the halfway mark, was Kimball, Parente, Bakkerud, Conway, Asmer, Lewis, Senna, Clarke, Hollings and Steven Kane (Promatecme F3). Just to reinforce his point, Kimball managed to squeeze a further improvement out of his Avons, setting a time that was faster than his nearest rival, Parente, by a tenth of a second. A lap later – and who knew where it came from – he went even faster, ending up a quarter of a second faster than anyone else, with a stunning 1:06.848. Saturday was certainly his day. It remained to be seen whether Sunday would also go the American’s way, but he had nothing to complain about this afternoon. The American was so confident he would pit shortly after the session mid-point, and simply sit in his Dallara in the pits, apparently completely calm, while no one could get close to his time.

Interestingly, the National Class battle wasn’t over yet. Mawer finally went back out after a fairly extended pit stop, and promptly set off in pursuit of pole. It didn’t take him long to get up there, though he was unbelievably ragged through the Chicane on more than one occasion. Maybe it’s something they’re putting in the tea at T-Sport these days; maybe he’s just a fashion victim! Whatever the reason, the results were spectacularly entertaining to watch.

Meanwhile, the Championship Class hopefuls were still out on the track, still trying hard. Bridgman had slipped down the order to 9th, but a flying lap soon shifted him to 6th. Conway was 7th, and had also come back out to play, while Senna was now 8th, as with Clarke he was having a far better session than he’d had in the morning. The battle for second was still not over, however, and Parente slipped down to 3rd, and was then pushed back another place by Lewis. Conway improved to 6th, while Bakkerud wasn’t done yet either, the likable Dane grabbing 2nd. When Lewis had an off at the Chicane, Parente took advantage of the situation and pushed his was between Kimball and Bakkerud.

That was enough for Conway to decide that he needed more tweaks to the car, and the next thing anyone knew he was back in the pits again. Once there not much seemed to be being done, although tyres were checked and temperatures were taken. Oddly, though, that appeared to be it, at least to begin with, but then the team started to change all sorts of things in an effort to get some more speed from somewhere. Finally they got him back out. In the meantime, Kimball was having changes made in case he needed to go back out, but there was no real sense of urgency in the Carlin pit. The margin was so large that it was unlikely Kimball would lose his pole now. The improvements were starting to dry up as usual, and although Dirani was able to improve on his time, most people were just attacking to no real effect.

Senna was wobbling alarmingly at the Chicane, and appeared to be struggling alarmingly getting round there. It wouldn’t get a lot better on Sunday either, which seemed a little strange. That, however, was still to come. Joining the “Who Put That Chicane There?” club was also Jelley, the Englishman running very, very wide indeed and ending up in the scenery and out of the session.

While Mawer headed into the pits once he’d decided he was unlikely to get any faster either, the rest of the National Class were apparently also feeling the urge to investigate the Hampshire countryside more closely too. Teixeira was another to get a huge wobble on at the Chicane, while Kennard had to return to the pits to have large quantities of grass pulled out of the various air intakes after a countryside excursion. It was getting silly now. Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing) took advantage of the situation and improved his time, but others were evidently struggling as their tyres went off.

With ten minutes still to go, Mawer, sitting in the pits, was 10th overall as well as having a healthy looking class pole. At the pointy end of the grid the order now was much as it had been with Kimball still heading Parente, Bakkerud, Asmer and Lewis. It would pretty much stay that way now too. Again the average spectator must have wondered why we bother with the last third of the session. Dirani managed to improve his grid position to 11th, but there was little else going on until the very last minute or so. Conway was in the pits seemingly forever as the Fortec guys looked for the answer to Carlin and failed to find it, but they did at least managed to get him out again for the last five minutes. It was suddenly getting windier, and was also significantly cooler; if anyone had had any life left in their tyres, now would have been the best time to get out. It seemed no one did, though Clarke was trying very hard. Kennard also came back out onto the track, but he couldn’t do much about the situation either, despite doing a lot of laps. Kimball had only done 10 laps, while most people had done somewhere between 15 and 20 laps. It was a remarkable performance, and even Kane getting a blinding speed through the speed trap wasn’t enough to dislodge the rookie from his second pole of the weekend. Back in the National Class, Mawer had it all sewn up, with Hollings and Kennard scrapping for 2nd place. It would resolve in favour of Hollings, but the battle between them wasn’t over.

And so, with a late improvement to 21st for Teixeira, the flag fell on the second of the Thruxton qualifying sessions. Carlin had their second ever one-two-three, with Kimball, Parente and Bakkerud locking out the front row and a half. Asmer was 4th from Lewis, Conway, Bridgman, Walker, Dirani and Clarke. 11th was Senna, from Kane, Mawer, Jelley, O'Mahony, Hollings, Kennard, Duran, Annala and Josh Fisher (Team SWR). Teixeira had a good result and was 21st, ahead of Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) and Nick Jones (Team SWR).

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Series BF3
Drivers Alan Docking , Charles Hollings , Charlie Kimball , Steven Kane , Mike Conway , Keiko Ihara , James Walker , Barton Mawer , Danilo Dirani , Ryan Lewis , Bruno Senna , Cheong Lou Meng , Christian Bakkerud , Daniel Clarke , Josh Fisher , Juho Annala , Nick Jones , Stephen Jelley
Teams Carlin