Changes: The Lola-Dome is missing this weekend, as Lola had elected not to travel the distance to Scotland for a race that probably wouldn't suit the car anyway. That, of course, means no Danny Watts. Qualifying Report: Weather: fine, ...
The Lola-Dome is missing this weekend, as Lola had elected not to travel the distance to Scotland for a race that probably wouldn't suit the car anyway. That, of course, means no Danny Watts.
Weather: fine, sunny.
Although the timetable at Knockhill appeared to be subject to unadvertised changes at no notice whatsoever, the first practice session started on time, partly because scrutineering couldn't be completed ahead of schedule. However, it seemed no one had told the time-keepers. Someone started the clock going, which led to a gaggle of cars congregating in the pit lane exit, the drivers keen to get out, but unable to go because the red lights were still on and the marshal at the end of the lane was resolutely holding the red flag out until told to do otherwise.
After several minutes of this, a number of people seemed to lose interest, among them Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) and Ernesto Viso (P1Motorsport). They were both pulled back into their designated parking areas in the pit lane (there are no garages at Knockhill - possibly on the grounds that garage are for Southern softies). Meanwhile, Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) was very late making it to the pit lane, and Menu Motorsport were still making last minute adjustments to Will Davison's car. Eventually the timing clock was stopped and reset and the session got underway on schedule.
The first driver to hit the track was Karun Chandhok (T-Sport). The Indian driver certainly provided one of the biggest surprises of the day by being upbeat and cheerful prior to practice. He's been to Knockhill twice before and neither time did anything to make him fond of the place. Rather he was wandering around at Croft complaining about the trip to Scotland, and claiming to hate Knockhill "with a passion." After being second fastest in testing on Friday, he seemed to have changed his mind. "You know, I think it's starting to grow on me!" He did warn it might not last. "Of course, I could end up grumpy and cynical again after practice. Ask me what I think at the end of the day."
Certainly to begin with he'd nothing to complain about. He set an early provisional pole time and was looking pretty good out there. Someone who wasn't looking at all good was Piquet, whose mood had not improved from Croft. While he was stuck in traffic, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) was trying to get to grips with the track and looking very determined. He shot to 2nd, only to be displaced by Piquet, but the Brazilian was soon sliding down the order, while Asmer took another run at pole.
Like Piquet, Fairuz Fauzy (Menu Motorsport) was looking pretty unconvincing as well. Before the session was five minutes old he was off in the gravel at Duffus, apparently with brake problems. That started an outbreak of yellows at the start line and elsewhere, and although the yellows were withdrawn shortly afterwards it wasn't the end of the problem.
Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport) was having trouble with Ajit Kumar (Mango Racing). The Indian actor is usually pretty helpful when faster drivers (and that's all of them at present) want to get past, but the track here is very narrow and twisty so it isn't always possible to get out of the way quickly. Dirani was unsympathetic, but he soon found a way past and set about following Chandhok round. It wasn't long before there was a change for pole, with James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) going fastest, but he was soon replaced at the top of the table by Andrew Thompson (Hitech), who was promptly demoted by Chandhok. Dirani slotted into 2nd and things were just beginning to look interesting when the officials clearly changed their minds about Fauzy's car being in a safe place, and the session was red- flagged while the Malaysian could be retrieved. At that point the top six consisted of Chandhok, Dirani, Alvaro Parente (Carlin), Thompson, Rossiter and Asmer. Power had only just joined in as the red flags came out, so he drove straight back in to put himself at the front of the queue for the restart.
The session was restarted very quickly, and now everyone wanted to get out. There was some unseemly jostling at the Hairpin as they all tried to sort themselves out, with different drivers adopting different strategies. Piquet was now only 10th and was hanging back, apparently looking for space; the trouble is with a 40-odd second lap time and 22 cars out there, there is no space! Meanwhile, Power had made the most of his position at the head of the queue and was now on pole, with Viso snapping at his heels. The Venezuelan was pushed down a place when Dirani moved back to 2nd, and then lost another place to Parente.
In the Scholarship Class things were also hotting up, with Ryan Lewis (T- Sport) ahead of Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing). This, of course, is what passes for normal in the category. Viso was now on pole in the Championship Class, which isn't normal. And he'd been joined on the front row by the new improved Chandhok. Power, meanwhile, was in the pits with the ADR boys swarming around the electrical cables; it was beginning to look as if things were not working out as the Australian had hope.
Out on the track all was not sweetness and light either. Lewis and Rossiter were having a bit of a falling out at the Hairpin, the former making some very forceful gestures in the general direction of the latter. Another member of the James Rossiter non-fan club (founder member Will Power)! There'd be several more members before the weekend was out, but that's another story.
When the mid-session pit stops began, it became clear that tyre wear was seriously uneven, most teams opting to swap the left-hand tyres to the right (and the right to left, obviously) as the kerb-hopping needed to achieve a good lap time was leading to some heavy wear down the left-hand side. Anyway, Viso and Parente were both in for tyre-swapping, which saw them back out on the track very quickly indeed. Viso was still on pole, but Power had grabbed 2nd before his own pit stop, and now Rossiter was 3rd ahead of Thompson, the local man having a good run in the early part of qualifying. And then Clivio Piccione (Carlin) decided to join in, ratcheting up to 3rd. Piquet, on the other hand, was in a miserable 13th place, the only consolation he could take being that he had Will Davison (Menu Motorsport) behind him in 14th. Neither of them looked at all happy in their cars, and needless to say they looked pretty unhappy out of them too. Another unhappy individual was Adam Carroll, the P1 driver currently in an unrepresentative 12th place, which is not where a driver of his talent should be.
After stalling on the way out of the pits, and having to be pushed on his way, Power was flying now, and grabbed pole from Viso. He was soon joined on the front row by Lucas di Grassi (Hitech), while Piccione and Rossiter were now 3rd and 4th respectively. While Viso soon put Power back in his place, things were about to grind to a halt again. Power slowed right down at the Hairpin, presumably to try and get another clear lap. What he got instead was Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3) running into him. Power escaped to return to the pits and complain about people backing off in front of him, while Calasan was left stranded at the exit from the Hairpin. He then got out of the car and proceeded to walk along the trackside instead of climbing over the tyre barriers to a place of safety (ignoring the marshal's instructions and thus earning himself a slap on the wrists from the Clerk of the Course). He wasn't the only one who ended up with a visit to the headmaster after the session; Viso came tearing down towards the Hairpin and clearly hadn't seen (or was ignoring) the yellow flags, shooting past Lewis before he finally hauled the anchors on. Asmer was another one guilty of not seeing - or ignoring - the yellows.
The yellows very quickly became reds when it became clear that Calasan's car was not going to be easy to shift, beached on the kerbs as it was. And so the session stopped again, the officials taking the opportunity to bring Fauzy back to the pits at the same time. Again, this was effected rapidly and we were underway again, with five minutes left to run (Knockhill minutes are clearly different to ones elsewhere - that is to say they're obviously shorter - because it seemed they'd shortened the session by about three minutes). Anyway, things were now a little desperate, with Davison barging his way past Power before they'd got out of the pits. None of them were out as fast as Rossiter though, the Englishman keen to get an improvement if he could. It wasn't going to be easy, though he managed to move back into 2nd. Most people's tyres were pretty well shot by this stage, and then di Grassi did his best to prevent any improvements, dropping his wheels in the dirt just after the Hairpin and scattering dust everywhere. Despite this Power grabbed 2nd from Rossiter, while Piccione was winding himself up for a run at the front row. It was to no avail. Di Grassi had only been practicing on the previous lap, and this time around he ended up in the gravel trap at the exit from the Hairpin, pointing the wrong way with his rear wheels well and truly dug in. The result was waved yellows again, which seemed to take Lewis by surprise, the Scholarship Class leader passing Kumar anyway, joining in with the gestures of international friendship as he did so.
In effect that was the end of the session, Viso hanging onto pole from Power (complaining of a misfire), Rossiter, di Grassi, Piccione, Carroll, Thompson, Chandhok, Parente (who had a rather unstable looking rear wing by the end of the session) and Dirani. Somewhat unexpectedly James Walker (Hitech) was 11th, ahead of Asmer, Piquet, Davison and Marcus Marshall (Fortec). Unsurprisingly, the apparently bullet-proof Lewis was on Scholarship Class pole, ahead of Barton Mawer (Performance), Jelley, Adam Khan (Alan Docking Racing) who claims to have dropped the Langley part of his surname because "I've succumbed to peer pressure!". Calasan was next, from Kumar and Fauzy.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite