Weather: windy, very cold. The weather didn't improve any during the lunch break, which meant more cold, blustery winds, making the seagulls fly backwards. It was a two-cup of coffee sort of day (take two cups of coffee, grasp one in...
Weather: windy, very cold.
The weather didn't improve any during the lunch break, which meant more cold, blustery winds, making the seagulls fly backwards. It was a two-cup of coffee sort of day (take two cups of coffee, grasp one in each hand and don't let go until you can feel your fingers again). And again the five Scholarship Class cars that were present and still in working order took to the track. They looked a bit silly, and you could barely hear them, but at least none of them could come in and complain about traffic.
Once again it was T-Sport's Steven Kane was came to the forefront very early on. He might claim he's still getting the hang of racing after an enforced layoff of a year, but to the casual observer he looked pretty well in command of the situation. It's possible that team boss Russell Eacott might even forgive him for taking both T-Sport cars out of the race at Croft (although it's unlikely he'll let Steven forget it). From the minute the tyres were warmed up enough, he was really going for it, to the extent that his teammate, Karun Chandhok, just moved over and let him go. It seemed the wisest course of action given Kane's determination.
In the P1 Motorsport car, Ernesto Viso was looking much smoother than he had in the morning, presumably because he quite likes tyres that are round rather than flat-spotted into polygonal shapes. The only person who still didn't seem to have it all under control was Ivor McCullough (Meritus Racing), who was still stirring the gears round in a desperate attempt to get on the pace. Watching him fight the car through Taylors Hairpin could not be described as a pretty sight. Meanwhile, Kane was just getting faster and faster. Unusually, what we had here was a case of a driver who not only looked quick but also was quick.
Meanwhile, Viso's problems were brought into sharp focus when the officials waved the black and white flag at him to warn him that they were watching his behaviour. As far as they were concerned, the Venezuelan was corner cutting, and if he didn't stop it he could expect to have his times disallowed. At least it wasn't like last year when Jesper Carlsen kept being black-flagged for hitting the floppy markers on the corners. Ernesto calmed down, and that was the last he saw of the flag.
Taking up the mantle of lock-up expert now was Christian England, the Promatecme F3 drivers in serious danger of flat-spotting his tyres beyond use if he kept on like that. Chandhok was another who was pushing very hard, dropping his wheels in the dirt as he looked for a way to answer Kane. Eventually McCullough gave up the unequal struggle when his Dallara got stuck in 3rd gear. A pit stop allowed him to go back out again, but he was still fighting the machine (and he seemed to be losing).
Kane, on the other hand, was now really flying and showed no sign of easing off at all. In his efforts to catch up, Chandhok threw it off, putting an end to his practice run when he broke the right hand side rear suspension and took the rear wing off. This was a godsend for Viso, who didn't need a second invitation. He took a run at the front and though he didn't quite succeed in deposing Kane, he got very close, and ended the session less than a hundredth of a second off the pole time.
While all that was going on, England pitted, his car sounding very nasty, and Kane also pulled into the pits. England re-emerged shortly afterwards, but from the way his Dallara was handling through Taylors, he was obviously not much better off for having stopped. He would end the session 4th, ahead of McCullough who was trying everything he could think of to absolutely no avail. There was a long pause while Chandhok was brought back on the breakdown truck, and then the Championship Class cars were allowed out again.
This time Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) was the first driver out, just ahead of Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport), the South African not wanting to risk not setting a time early on. Eric Salignon (Hitech Motorsport) was getting very sideways, although he was probably just trying to warm up his tyres. Van der Merwe and Michael Keohane (Promatecme F3) were trying to occupy the same bit of tarmac, which wasn't good, especially given their current relationship, with each of them blaming the other for what happened at Croft. All three Team SYR Malaysians (Fairuz Fauzy, Farriz Fauzy and Rizal Ramli) were circulating together, which meant the others could pass them all in one go, although it probably made it much harder to do it.
This time Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports) was determined that he was going to get ahead of the pack, whatever it took. Certainly he was a long way up the order from the outset. Jamie Green (Carlin) was another one showing quite a turn of speed. Once again though, the Championship Class runners took quite a long time before they were able to match the pace of the Scholarship Class front-runners Kane and Viso. Austin was a very long way off the pace, to the bafflement of himself and his team. Keohane, on the other hand, had found a set of tyres with some life left in them, as well as a spurt of speed that he hadn't been able to access in the morning session.
Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) was busy proving that he knows how to drive here, setting an early pole, while his teammate Stefano Fabi was in 2nd. This was pretty odd, but it wouldn't stay that way. They were joined very briefly by Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport), who was 3rd before Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing) got the better of him. It was as well that Davison was looking good, because his teammate, Scott Speed was looking utterly hopeless, causing quite a few people to wonder aloud as to why - apart from political reasons - Red Bull had backed him when they had a raft of talented American drivers to choose from. There were a number of far more obviously deserving cases in the competition, starting with Pat Long.
Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport) was again showing strongly, and was now 3rd while Piquet had slipped way down the order and was having trouble finding space but had at least clawed his way back to 9th. Van der Merwe was now on the move, and was able to demote Dahlgren to go 3rd although he promptly slipped back again to 4th, when Green grabbed pole, the first Championship Class runner to better Kane's time. In response, van der Merwe set off on what would have been a very fast lap based on his first sector time. However, the plan blew up when he reached the Chicane and the front of the car got airborne, possibly because the wind had changed direction, dumping the South African in the wall. The car couldn't be left where it was and so the red flags were shown and the session was stopped again. Although he wasn't sure how the accident had happened, Van der Merwe wasn't too depressed, admitting that he had been taking a chance, and that he wasn't too worried. It was just as well, as he would take no further part in the session, the Dallara being short a corner now. All he could do was hope that not too many of the others would be able to improve.
The top six read Green, Kane, Viso, VDM, Piquet and Davison now. There were 8 minutes left, and it wasn't getting any warmer. As a result, there were very few changes, and they didn't really come until the closing seconds. Piquet finally managed to depose Green to snatch pole, and then, on his very last lap, Antinucci edged him down further to 3rd, the American just missing out on pole. Piccione also improve to go 5th overall, and that was about it for changes. We were in for an interesting race, it seemed.
-Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers