2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 7, Knockhill, Fife, May 11th/10th Changes: This weekend there were just as many changes as ever. This time we had no Earl Goddard (his car had been leased to Essencial complete with ...
2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 7, Knockhill, Fife, May 11th/10th
This weekend there were just as many changes as ever. This time we had no Earl Goddard (his car had been leased to Essencial complete with Renault Sodemo engine) and Jesper Carlsen was driving it. His car was in the hands of his new (and so far pretty slow) teammate Reck Junior. Meanwhile Stefan Hodgetts had tipped his piggy bank upside down, shaken it and found there was not enough money in it. Robert Dahlgren (Duma Racing) was finally back despite reported differences of opinion between the Swede and the team. Andrew Thompson (a local boy) had moved up from Formula Ford and was now in at Motaworld Racing in car number 18. In addition, after spending a couple of meetings running with his own team (Scuderia Etruria). Diego Romanini is now running under the aegis of Performance Racing.
Carlin seemed to be running some new wing configurations here too, at least on Courtney and Hosokawa's cars. They did the same thing here last year to great effect. Of course, they might just have been bluffing with the covers they were using to hide them until the last minute just being for effect, but they certainly looked different once they were out there too.
Scholarship Class Qualifying - Round 7:
Weather: Fine, dry, sunny, and very cold.
Clivio Piccione (T-Sport) was in trouble straight away. As he came round on his out lap, the engine failed and he ground to an ignominious halt just the wrong side of the track from the pit lane entrance and too far off to be pushed in. The marshals quickly came and pushed him out of the way and he spent the rest of the session sidelined with a failed cam belt. At the time of course his team didn't know what the cause was so two of the mechanics gamely legged it across the bridge to the centre of the circuit with a battery just in case. Of course they couldn't join their driver and quite what he could have done with the battery anyway is anyone's guess. As it was, he stayed there furiously watching while everyone else went out to play.
Diego Romanini (Performance Racing) went past a whole load of other cars under the resulting stationary yellows but no one seemed to notice, and there were yellows all over Taylors as they tried to get Clivio out of the way. The only consolation Piccione had was that they would at least allow him to start the race though he would obviously be at the back and he wasn't at all happy about it.
His teammate, Karun Chandhok, set an early pole time though he didn't get to keep it long. Billy Asaro was soon up to 2nd after the team had made what Roly Vincini described as "humungous" changes to his and Adam Carroll's cars. And then Stephen Colbert (Meritus Racing) took provisional pole but not because no one else was trying. David Clark (Team Park) could be seen locking up horribly and just scraped round Taylors a couple of times despite looking as if he was about to go off. Harold Primat (Diamond Racing) was a somewhat unexpected 7th. Adam Carroll then went to pole, while the marshals made a futile attempt to push start Piccione by rolling his car down the hill. Karun Chandhok then went back to pole while no one was paying attention. This shoved Colbert back to 3rd while Asaro was looking quick too and promptly went to 4th. Of course the short lap distance at Knockhill tends to give you more laps for your Avons so there were more chances than usual to set a quick time. This became clear when Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing) set a provisional pole while most drivers were still running in the 48 second lap band (in testing the day before, most of them had set 47 second lap times).
It was definitely still all change though, as Chandhok bounced back to pole and Colbert went to 2nd, before Fairuz bounced Chandhok back down a place. Chandhok then improved again but it made no difference to his grid position. At the same time Piccione seemed to realise there was no way he would be allowed back out to play even if he could get the thing going again. He finally abandoned ship and slouched off disconsolately.
So now the order was Fairuz, Chandhok and Colbert. Meanwhile, Jesper Carlsen was discovering that he is still not a favourite in Scotland. He was black flagged for driving standards because he had knocked down one of the floppy markers that supposedly delineate the edge of the track. Other people did the same but all they got were black/white flags, which didn't mean they had to stop and have a lecture from the Clerk of the Course. Of course Jesper's been in trouble here before - he was once disqualified for overtaking under yellows. This would have been fine, but the person he overtook was the one who had caused the yellow flags in the first place... Jesper thinks it has to do with the activities of his Viking ancestors in these parts centuries ago!
Carroll was now really flying again, and although it didn't get him to pole he was quite clearly trying very hard. Meanwhile Carlsen finally came in to explain himself, after his black flag. Clark was rapid early on but had now dropped to 9th only to get in the way of Carlsen who was now charging hard and obviously furious. To make him feel he wasn't alone, Fairuz got flagged too but it was now getting too late for anyone to come in and explain themselves. This didn't help Jesper but at least he was no longer the only one they were picking on and he was at least halfway up the order in 6th.
Championship Class Qualifying - Round 7:
Weather: Fine, dry, sunny, and very cold.
First out of the pits was Shinya Hosokawa (Formula Dream Team Carlin). Michael Keohane (Carlin Motorsport) was next to join in ahead of Mark Mayall (Alan Docking Racing), Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport), Tor Graves (Alan Docking Racing) and then pretty well all of the field except James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport). Robert Dahlgren (Duma Racing) was early out too, having obviously settled his differences with Duma. Ronnie Bremer (Manor Motorsport) meanwhile seemed to be all alone and grumpy both on the track and off it. Maybe it's just his way; maybe he wants to be Hamlet.
Anyway they went on to their first flying lap and everyone hoped they might be a bit better behaved than they had been in testing. They weren't. Hosokawa came round stirring the gears around a bit as if he was trying to make sure he had them all. Andrew Thompson (Motaworld Racing) was just there because he was a Scot and was fresh out of Formula Ford. This was not easy for him - Knockhill is a very tricky place to make your debut and there was a suggestion that his sponsors must be crazy getting him to do this. The running order was now Keohane, Mayall and Graves, which proved there was a lot more to come from most of the drivers. All due respect to Tor as a human being, but he's not the best driver out there by a very long stretch of the imagination.
Courtney, meanwhile, was looking for space, which was really not easy to find out there. He had the sense to know he needed to get it early on if he could and while he was doing that Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport) claimed pole, only to get punted back to second by Bremer, who then got displaced by Alan van der Merwe, the fourth Carlin driver. However, as with the Scholarship runners, they were all still a lot slower than they had been in testing so it was clear that there was a fair amount still to come from most of them (except maybe Graves and Team Avanti's Stefano Fabi). What was becoming obvious was that van der Merwe was far happier in Scotland than he had been on the other circuits visited so far. The order changed every time you looked at the screen with Bremer now occupying pole, from van der Merwe, Tom Sisley (Motaworld), Dahlgren, Antinucci, Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport), Fabi, Keohane, Matt Gilmore (Team Avanti) and Graves. It was all still looking a long way from normal when Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing) hauled himself up to pole. Again this situation didn't last long because Kovalainen took it off him, the Finn seeming to be enjoying himself hugely here.
It was beginning now to look more like the M25 motorway than a racetrack out there, with most people staying out to try and set a time. The trouble was they were mostly getting in each other's way instead. Possibly as a result of all the chaos, Stefano Fabi (Team Avanti) was in 13th, which is a lot further up the order than one would normally expect to find him, while Tor Graves had a few nightmare minutes as he managed to get in the way of almost everyone despite his efforts not to.
Anyway, Bremer was still near the top of the times, and then Kovalainen went fastest, while Courtney moved up to 2nd. Everyone appeared to be trying very hard including the newly returned Dahlgren who was now 4th. With a superb effort van der Merwe hauled himself up to 3rd and then was dropped down a place by Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) who promptly went 2nd. It was all changing so fast it was hard to keep track at all. One minute Mark Taylor was 2nd then he was back in 4th behind Keohane, Bremer and Carbone. The drivers struggled to find enough clear track to set a decent lap and Bruce Jouanny could now be found going very slowly while trying to do just that. Meanwhile Rob Austin was way back in 18th place, not looking at all like the driver he appeared to be at Brands and Donington this year and Thompson was clearly struggling to get the hang of this F3 business. Matthew Gilmore was looking pretty wild too as he struggled to get his Dallara round Taylors. And early season winner Robbie Kerr was now back in 12th place. Only Ronnie Bremer seemed at all happy (in the car, out of it he was doing his Hamlet impression as a seriously gloomy Dane) and was still on pole, a good two tenths of a second ahead. He couldn't relax however, as he had Courtney right beside him on the grid with around half the session still to run.
With the order now Bremer, Courtney, Taylor, Carbone, Keohane, Dahlgren and Kerr, it was interesting to see how some of the other drivers reacted. Ernani Judice was not a happy bunny and could be seen nudging Rob Austin out of his way as the two of them exited Taylors together. Kovalainen was looking as if he was on a charge as well and then Courtney woke up and set the fastest time of the session, so then it was Courtney, Bremer, Kovalainen, Taylor, Jouanny, Kerr, Keohane, van der Merwe, Carbone and Hosokawa.
And as they reached the halfway stage things started to get silly. Keohane seemed to have more than the usual number of arms as he wrestled the car around! Kerr, meanwhile, moved up a place to 5th despite locking up wildly on that particular lap. Courtney responded to it all by going faster yet while Carbone could be seen slithering through Taylors just as Sisley managed to fall off there. Red flags resulted though the drivers didn't all seem to notice as quickly as one would have hoped. Judice nearly missed the pitlane entrance, which was fortunate as it turned out. Hosokawa had come round and seemed to realise that the session had been stopped only at the last minute. He didn't miss the pitlane, but he also didn't miss Mark Mayall who was already there. The resulting shunt blocked the pitlane entrance completely and took out MST's timing beam equipment... it took a long time to clear up the chaos that ensued. Neither driver was injured badly (Mayall had a bruised elbow) but afterwards Hosokawa claimed that Mayall had jinked across in front of him and then stopped. The nature of the Knockhill pitlane is such that this is likely to happen when everyone has to come in and Hosokawa really should have been paying more attention. Both drivers would take no further part in the session, which was particularly galling for Mayall as he was up to 10th, his best performance of the season so far.
After the pitlane was cleared, and Sisley was removed from the gravel trap (Keohane had also gone off and was brought home on the back of a truck), the session was restarted with a little over 7 minutes left. Despite all the idiocy earlier, the officials only now began to react and black-flagged Jouanny for corner cutting. They claim it was corner cutting, but if the markers show the edge of the circuit, then several of the drivers wanted to know what was wrong with going right up to them. It seemed a fair question really... Anyway the session was pretty slow now as most people didn't have much life left in their tyres after all the scrabbling about that had gone on earlier. The last improvement had been Keohane just before he fell off. However, if anyone thought it was all over, they had failed to take the Scandinavians into account as Kovalainen put in an effort that took him to 2nd. While Courtney went even faster (although timing beam confusion had him down in the 46-second bracket, which was unlikely and was later corrected), Bremer was also on a charge, harassing Giandomenico Brusatin (Menu Motorsport) to the point where the Italian almost lost it big time. His only consolation was that he managed to improve his own time just as Bremer rudely bundled him out of the way to snatch 2nd from Kovalainen, the Finn having pitted just as the chequered flag came out to end a very messy session.