News and Changes: The RACMSA heard the appeal against the disqualification from Round 1 of Carlin Motorsport drivers' Richard Antinucci and Jamie Green. The result of the appeal was that both drivers were reinstated and thus Alan van der Merwe's...
News and Changes:
The RACMSA heard the appeal against the disqualification from Round 1 of Carlin Motorsport drivers' Richard Antinucci and Jamie Green. The result of the appeal was that both drivers were reinstated and thus Alan van der Merwe's points lead was reduced from 50 to 25.
It's apparently official - Sweeney no longer exists, at least as a team, and the trucks, equipment and cars now all simply say "F3" where they used to have the words "Sweeney F3". In effect, this means that Ernesto Viso is racing for P1 Motorsport. Adam Carroll is not back, apparently due to lack of money on the part of John Sweeney, which also means there's no sign of the Lola-Dome either. With Diamond Racing and Will Power not turning up either, there is no Ralt and therefore we have an all-Dallara field for the first time this season. It is to be hoped that this situation doesn't continue too long.
Also missing from this meeting were Justin Sherwood and Jesse Mason, the Performance Racing team opting not to make the long trip north. And just to reduce the Scholarship Class even further, Alex Pozzobon was present but would not be racing, the Toyota engine in his Essencial Racing Dallara having terminally given up the ghost. Once again, "is broken. Is finish race forever!" A new engine was ready for collection in Germany but obviously that wasn't going to help until someone could go and get it, and that was not going to happen until after the weekend.
Originally, the Scholarship Class boys were supposed to have separate races, but as there were only five of them left, it was sensibly decided to combine them with the Championship Class as has happened at all the longer circuits visited so far this year. They would still get to practice separately though.
Weather: windy, very cold.
It would be really nice to be able to change the weather descriptions at the top of these reports, but a third of the way into the 2003 series, and there is still no chance of that. Knockhill is not a nice place to be when the weather turns nasty, as we all found out the hard way two years ago. That was when it turned out that August in Scotland was more like February in Siberia! At least in May the weather is not supposed to be too bad.
As the first practice session started, people could be forgiven for wondering what was going on. With only five cars on the circuit, it was very quiet. It soon became clear that the T-Sport 1-2 that had nearly happened at Croft (sabotaged by Steven Kane running into Karun Chandhok about 100 yards from the chequered flag and putting them both out of the race) was a good indicator of how things would go. Certainly Kane looked good from the opening laps, which was just as well as he needed to make amends for what he'd done in Yorkshire. Chandhok was busy telling anyone who'd listen that he hates Knockhill and that all he really wanted to do was go home and pull the duvet over his head. He didn't look as if hated the place, and it looked like he had the edge on Kane, at least to start with.
Christian England (Promatecme F3) was unable to get on terms with the T- Sport duo, while Viso seemed to be having some difficulty getting to grips with the circuit, especially the exit from Duffus Dip. His arrival there on most occasions was heralded by clouds of tyre smoke, as he locked up the left-hand side wheels. The way he was going, he would be left with square tyres.Still, he was better off than Ivor McCullough (Meritus Racing) who seemed out of sorts in the extreme.
It wasn't long before Kane was able to edge ahead of Chandhok for provisional pole, while Viso came skittering through on the edge of control again. Kane was really pushing on now, getting a huge twitch on as he went tearing through McIntyres on his way to another fastest lap. Although there was still half the session left to run, that was it as far as the pole time was concerned. It was now left to Chandhok and England to fight for second place, while Viso and McCullough continued to struggle for pace and consistency. Eventually, Viso stopped locking his wheels and started to show pace too, to England's disadvantage as it turned out. By the time the flag fell to end the session, England had fallen back to 4th, and Chandhok had just beaten Viso to 2nd. That left McCullough looking uncomfortable and half a second off the pace.
The weather was getting steadily worse as the morning wore on. The odd spot of rain threatened to turn into something worse and it would be a brave driver who would chance waiting until later to try and set a time. The result was 21 Championship Class cars spilling out of the pits in what amounted to a mobile traffic jam. It might have made more sense to split the field in half and send out the odd-numbered runners and then the even- numbered ones, regardless of whether they were Scholarship or Championship Class runners. Space was hard to come by and the wind was unpredictable too, which tends to make drivers unpredictable (most cat owners will know how strangely cats react to strong winds - drivers are the same only more so!)
The most obvious result of the traffic was that it was a long time before any of the Championship Class drivers could get near Kane's time, let alone better it. Different drivers reacted in different ways, but they were all trying to get some space of their own. Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport) was busy bundling Scott Speed (Alan Docking Racing) out of the way, while Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) kept dropping back until he could find a slot that would allow him enough room to make a convincing run at pole. What happened instead was that he dropped a wheel over the kerb at Duffus Dip and went bouncing across the grass on the other side of the track while he tried to get the situation under control.
Asaro's tactic seemed to work, as he went to an early pole, but predictably enough he didn't get to keep it. It was taken off him by Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports), who in turn was displaced by Ernani Judice (Promatecme F3). Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport) was another one showing very strongly, but it was Piquet who seemed to have made the greatest improvement from Friday's testing.
Dahlgren snatched pole back, from Michael Keohane (Promatecme F3), but they both had Jamie Green (Carlin) breathing down their necks now. Someone who looked like he wouldn't have signed up if he'd known what he was getting into was Eric Salignon (Hitech Racing); as it was, he was a long way off the pace, but at least he wasn't the only one. His teammates Danny Watts and Andrew Thompson were not as far up the order as they would have liked either and they've both got the advantage of having seen Knockhill before.
Another driver who could have expected to do well was Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport), but despite an early showing at the front he seemed unable to reproduce his recent form. Piquet, on the other hand, was still looking good, as was Ronnie Bremer (Carlin) Salignon was still in trouble though, managing to get in the way of one of the Malaysians, in this instance Rizal Ramli (Team SYR). In a way it made a change, as he and Farriz Fauzy are usually the ones getting in the way of other people (and on this occasion, each others). The third of the SYR drivers, Fairuz Fauzy, also seemed to be having problems, including taking some very novel lines at McIntyres, one of which saw him going round the wrong side of one of the floppy markers before diving back onto the black stuff. This startled Austin, who was taking the more conventional line at the time.
Van der Merwe was now starting to push hard but was still way back, while Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) surprised everyone by setting the fastest lap of the session. The highest placed Carlin driver was now Richard Antinucci, the American appearing very focused. He needed to be, because Green was now on the move as well, though he couldn't better Piccione's time. Davison was another to get close to Piccione, but not close enough. Both Piquet and Bremer improved again, while van der Merwe slipped down the order to an unaccustomed 17th. Piccione's performance suggested that maybe Manor are back on track, and this was further backed up by the presence of his teammate Stefano Fabi in 6th place, albeit temporarily. Certainly this was quite an improvement for Fabi, even though Bremer took the place off him straight away.
Green was looking for improvements still, while van der Merwe was again trying to avoid tripping over the Malaysians. And then the session came to a grinding halt. Judice had gone off at McIntyres, with about 6 minutes left of the session. The red flags came out and everyone retreated to the pits (just like at Croft). At least the decision that followed was not the same as the one taken there, and they got a restart, despite the fact that the timetable was VERY tight and there was an awful lot left to get through. While waiting for Judice to be retrieved from the gravel, everyone lined up in the pit lane ready to go straight back out again, just in case anyone had any ideas about curtailing the session at this point...
The top 10 was now Piccione, Piquet, Green, Kane, Bremer, Austin, van der Merwe, Davison, Fairuz Fauzy and Fabi. Whether it would be that way at the end of the session remained to be seen. Anyway, the Promatecme car was rapidly retrieved, and the session restarted. In a session where most people hadn't bothered to pit and probably didn't have the time to, the break allowed some tweaking to be carried out. It didn't work for everyone. Michael Keohane (Promatecme) was another driver who was clearly in trouble, with his car going slower than it had in testing. Neither he nor Judice were able to get close to their testing times, and whatever changes the team had made, they had gone the wrong way. Unfortunately for them, when you only have 20 minutes to set a time, a complete about face is simply not possible.
With the restart, the weather again changed and got colder, which was not conducive to the sort of improvements that would normally occur in the latter stages of practice. The only real shifts in position came about when van der Merwe managed to get ahead of Austin for 6th, while a last-ditch, last-gasp, last-lap effort from Antinucci pulled him up from the lower reaches of the grid to grab 3rd just behind Piccione and Piquet. It was a brave effort and typically gutsy, though even he thought he'd left it a little late! The most delighted man was probably Scholarship Class pole position man Kane. He was on the 3rd row of the grid alongside Bremer and behind Green and Antinucci, and his teammate Chandhok, who was 2nd in class, was four rows further back. At least it lessened the likelihood of any unfortunate accidents happening between them this time.
As the flag came out, Thompson fell off at Taylors, while the final improvement of the session came from Asaro, though his efforts only moved him up as far as 16th.
-Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers