2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 8, Knockhill, Fife, May 11th/10th Scholarship Class Qualifying - Round 8: Weather: Sunny, high cloud. After the fiasco that was the Championship Class Round 7 qualifying session...
2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 8, Knockhill, Fife, May 11th/10th
Scholarship Class Qualifying - Round 8:
Weather: Sunny, high cloud.
After the fiasco that was the Championship Class Round 7 qualifying session everyone hoped that sanity would be restored this time round. Early impressions suggested it might well be. Clivio Piccione (T-Sport) was finally able to put in an appearance after his earlier session troubles. He was not prepared to wait around, setting a flying lap as soon as possible to take an early pole position. However, the others were not waiting around either. Stephen Colbert (Meritus Racing) set the next fastest time but Piccione then took it back again. The weather was warmer than it had been so it looked as if the times might be a little slower than in the morning although probably not by significant amounts. What had not changed from the morning was the wildness being demonstrated by many of the drivers. Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing) and Jesper Carlsen (Essencial Motorsport) were both beginning to look somewhat over-enthusiastic as they attacked the circuit, before Jesper got black-flagged for corner cutting again. None of this stopped Fairuz from claiming pole briefly, only for Colbert to go faster again. However, Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing) was having none of this and claimed the front row spot to make it clear that missing out for Round 7 had been a minor aberration and would not happen again if he could avoid it. Piccione looked as if he would like to be up there too, and he was trying very hard to make up for his earlier disappointment, but it was not to be right now.
Carroll having set a good time, he and teammate Billy Asaro began circulating together, presumably to try and help Billy learn this circuit. By the time they separated again they were 5th and 6th and Billy was left to get on with it. Harold Primat (Diamond Racing) was down in 10th despite looking much better on the track than he has of late. At the other end, Colbert had gone back to pole, Carroll was now just behind him, Asaro was 3rd and the other Meritus driver, Gavin Smith was 4th. Seemingly galvanised by the arrival of Colbert in the team, Smith decided to join the front row party, moving up to 2nd, to go ahead of Carroll and Asaro. Behind them, Fairuz was now 5th, ahead of Piccione's team-mate, Karun Chandhok (one of his rivals claims he looks like a Teddy Bear but it's fair to say there is very little that is cuddly about the Indian once he is on the track)! And then they reshuffled again as Piccione went to 4th.
And then the improvements stopped for a while. Even so, Diego Romanini (Performance Racing) came through really trying hard but not getting very good times at all. There followed a lot of jostling and shoving to try and make space to go for a time. It really isn't easy on a 1.3 mile track with so many tricky bends, even with only 13 cars out there. Carlsen was still looking very determined at this point, skittering through Taylors. Meanwhile Fairuz and Asaro were both shown the driving standard flag for corner cutting, despite the fact that the observers who were reporting these "offences" were mostly stationed on the opposite side of the track from where they allegedly occurred - it all seemed a bit harsh. And then their favourite victim of the weekend, Jesper Carlsen, managed to spin at McIntyres and ended up stuck facing the wrong way...possibly that's what you get for history! Anyway, the marshals managed to get him out of there and he was brought back to have the nose of the Dallara replaced. Of course, he had also set his best time just before he fell off. For some reason there seemed to be quite a lot of that particular malaise about!
With ten minutes left, Colbert was beginning to run more than a bit wide in his efforts to stay ahead of the pack. Chandhok was skittering wildly into Taylors now as he tried to improve his time. He succeeded but it made not the slightest difference to his actual grid position. At the same time, Carlsen was being black and white flagged again; you began to wonder why they didn't just write his name on the flag and be done with it. He wasn't driving any differently to anyone else so you began to feel that the observers were being a) less than observant and b) not exactly even-handed. Anyway, Harold Primat then got the black and white flag waved at him too; as he wasn't exactly going fast enough, it seems unlikely that he could have been corner-cutting but then, not much about this was logical really.
And then Adam Carroll put it back on pole, as Chandhok came sliding through the gravel. Asaro also tried to put in a late charge but there were too many other cars in his way and he couldn't quite make it stick. Colbert and Smith were going round together, though Smith was far the wilder of the two and also had a brief trip across the gravel before collecting it all back together. Primat was not so lucky and he did end up in the gravel at Clark after making a bit of a nonsense of the corner. Fairuz, meanwhile, moved back up the order to 4th although he wasn't allowed to hang on to it for long. The man he would lose out to, Carlsen, finally managed to improve to 8th prior to really going for it, although first he had to avoid his teammate, Junior Reck, who was busy proving that he's not what you might call a natural! Smith grabbed 2nd from Colbert, when Colbert slowed down for a while. Smith was still hanging in there, and there was a definite air of desperation about Colbert. He then went through all sideways to grab 2nd back from his teammate with two minutes or so of the session remaining. Carlsen, meanwhile, was up to 6th now and really winding himself up to go for it now. So much so that he was black-flagged yet again. However, by this time the session was over and he had grabbed 4th place, after being shown the flag, but before he could come in to be told off by the Clerk of the Course again.
Championship Class Qualifying - Round 8:
Weather: Sunny, cold.
This time it was Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) who was first out of the pits, wanting to get a head start and a clear lap as soon as possible. Second out and going very slowly in order to keep as much clear track ahead of himself as possible was Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport). However, their best-laid plans rapidly came to nought just after Alan recorded the first time of the session. All of a sudden the red flags were out after Shinya Hosokawa (Formula Dream Team Carlin) hit fuel feed problems and ground to a halt on his out lap in the middle of the track. Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) was the only driver to really benefit from the situation as he was stranded in the pits having his battery changed and didn't lose out as the session was halted for quite some time.
At the restart, with only one driver having set a time, there were only 17 minutes left. This time Kovalainen again got out first with Ronnie Bremer (Manor Motorsport) breathing down his exhaust pipes. There was a fair amount of unnecessary excitement as the Finn tried to stay ahead of the Dane. They were almost immediately joined by the Alan Docking Racing boys, Robbie Kerr and Mark Mayall, the latter trying to make up ground after his horrible morning, all the while also trying to make sure he avoided Hosokawa. For a man who had just landed sponsorship from a Scottish Tourism organisation (and wore a kilt to prove it on Sunday!), Mayall was having a dreadful time north of the border...
During the early stages the order settled to Bremer, Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport), and Kovalainen, though needless to say it didn't stay that way for long. Mayall promptly moved to a somewhat unprecedented 3rd, while Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport) went up the order to pole, only to be displaced by Michael Keohane (Carlin Motorsport). No sooner had Keohane's name flashed up, than Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) went to pole, with Robert Dahlgren (Duma Racing) in 2nd. However, there was a sudden outbreak of yellow flags at Duffus Dip and then Tor Graves (Alan Docking Racing) went off at McIntyres. Having gone in sideways, he then managed to beach it on the kerbs and was left stranded. In the immortal words of Terry Pratchett, "Oh dearie, dearie me!" This meant red flags again; by now it was all getting very silly and it certainly made you wonder about the future of Formula 1 if these are the current batch of hopefuls. Graves made his own way back after the marshals managed to get him off the kerbs and the session restarted again with 12 minutes remaining and no real times having been set. Carlin had fixed Hosokawa's car in the intervening period and he was able to get back out. Meanwhile, the timing screen read Bremer, Dahlgren, and Courtney as the top three. Things were really not at all normal at this stage and you began to wonder if the blustery wind was making them skittish (rather like cats)!
Keohane immediately started hurling the car sideways again, while elsewhere Dahlgren was able to improve his time, and Kerr improved too, to go 7th. Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International) was now in 3rd place and Taylor had provisional pole from his teammates Bremer and Antinucci. This was the best Manor have looked for some time, and team owner John Booth was probably praying for another red flag, but he didn't get one - they all seemed to have settled down at last. Kerr was still on the move too, and he was now in 4th place, where he was able to hang on just long enough for Kovalainen to take it back off him. Elsewhere James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport) was now 8th and looking to improve. His lot was better than that of Stefano Fabi (Fortec Motorsport) who had been 20th for some time and finally improved to 18th. Courtney's times began to improve but Carbone was getting in his way, which let Keohane through to pole ahead of Bremer, Taylor, Kovalainen, Antinucci, and Courtney.
In an effort to get back up the order Jouanny was now looking very wild. It didn't seem to helping him very much though, as Bremer moved to pole again, with Kovalainen gaining places too, to set 3rd fastest time of the day. Alan van der Merwe was now dropping back again, as he seems unable to set the times he needs later in the session, and is still learning how to get the best out of his Avons. Yet again it was all change on the timing screens, as Keohane hauled himself back to pole, dropping Taylor down to 4th and Antinucci to 7th. Elsewhere Kovalainen was looking for another flyer if he could only get the space. His efforts saw him move back into the top three and the order now read Keohane, Bremer, Kovalainen, Taylor, Courtney and Kerr. Courtney had other ideas about this but could do nothing about it for the moment as he was trapped behind Graves. Once he finally got free of the ADR driver he set about claiming the pole position that he seems to consider his due. His teammate Keohane, on the other hand, was looking wild and desperate as he came through Taylors for another crack at pole. He didn't pull it off but he was close and was briefly second. It lasted longer than you would have expected, as there was yet another outbreak of yellow flags into Duffus Dip, which meant no one should have been able to improve (though no one seemed to have told Ronnie Bremer). Whatever it was, it was soon dealt with however, and everyone speeded up again. As we were now running out of time, Taylor put in another last ditch effort in order to claw his way back to 6th. However, the most fun came from watching Keohane and van der Merwe, both of whom appeared to have extra arms in the cockpit this time round (is Trevor Carlin carrying out some sort of ghastly genetic engineering project?) though they didn't seem to be able to go any faster as a result.
In the closing stages Robert Dahlgren was able to claim 9th while Kerr also went faster though he was still stuck in 4th. With the seconds ticking away, Jouanny grabbed 2nd only to have Bremer put in a late effort to snatch it back. Even then it wasn't over as Keohane slowed down to find some space for a last lap effort which saw him net 4th place, despite nearly being taken out of commission by his own team mate, Hosokawa.