As the session got underway for the final round of the 2006 British F3 International Series, the weather was taking a turn for the nasty. This led to a general rush for the track, and would undoubtedly cause complaints about traffic later on.
As the session got underway for the final round of the 2006 British F3 International Series, the weather was taking a turn for the nasty. This led to a general rush for the track, and would undoubtedly cause complaints about traffic later on. For the time being, however, no one wanted to be left behind. Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport) and Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) were up there straight away, as was Stuart Hall (T-Sport) too, while Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) was immediately in pursuit of the National Class pole position. Just for good measure, in the Championship Class, Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) was quickly on the pace too, claiming 4th from Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). His team-mates were out there too, trying hard to ensure that Senna would get his shot at the runner-up slot in the series. However, it was Stephen Jelley who was fastest of the team to start with, going 3rd. In the Invitation Class, Danny Watts in the fourth Raikkonen Robertson Racing car was also pressing on, but was only 9th at this point. He was pushed down a place when Gonzalez went 7th overall, leaving Juho Annala (Performance Racing) trailing in 2nd in class but 8 places further down the grid.
The Invitation Class contest was hotting up this time too, with Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) moving ahead of Watts to go 8th in the general order. His brother, Leo (Fortec Motorsport) was proving quite a lot slower. And they were all slower than Gonzalez, who was not at all troubled by Annala, who had slipped to 3rd, or by Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport), who was now 2nd in class, but still a long way adrift of the 2006 champion.
Back at the sharp end, Bakkerud was on the move, though he was still 4th, while Jelley was 3rd and hanging on there if he possibly could. However, more notable yet was the presence of Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3) on the front row, at least provisionally. This session was proving about as fraught as the first one had, and possibly even weirder. Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) shot to 5th, while Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport) was revelling in the slippery conditions to claim 3rd. While Watts edged back ahead of Greg Mansell, Buurman went to pole only to lose out to Valerio. Engel was now 3rd, ahead of Jelley, Kennard, Bakkerud, Senna, Watts and Hall.
The order was still a long way from stable though, and almost immediately afterwards Valerio snatched pole. It didn't take long for Buurman to reclaim it, while Jarvis and Engel fought over the second row. Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), meanwhile, was down in 14th, which was not at all what you would expect. While he worked out what to do about that, Valerio came back at Buurman, getting ahead by over half a second. The trickle of pit stops began with people changing to new rubber, and then Jarvis was on pole by half a second. And finally the weather started to play a part, rain starting to fall, though not too heavily. It was not enough to make everyone bolt for cover, but it did render the track interestingly slippery. The improvements were still coming through, and James Jakes (Hitech Racing) was now 4th, which was a huge improvement on the morning session, and suggested the Mercedes power unit was now working properly, at least in his car. His team-mate, James Walker, was still struggling at the bottom of the order. Conway was now beginning to show his hand too, and had improved to 5th, which was altogether more normal for the 2006 Champion. Senna, on the other hand, was only 11th, which didn't bode well for his chances of finishing 2nd in the title fight tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Annala was enjoying himself for once, the car working to his liking in the slippery conditions. He was suddenly on National Class pole and 7th overall, a lot further up than usual. The struggle at the front of the order was still not over yet, and Engel grabbed 3rd, while Jelley improved to 2nd behind Jarvis. Valerio had slipped to 4th, but was still looking as if he and the team have now got the hang of the British series after coming over from Brazil together for this season. He was edged out a place by Jakes, while Jarvis managed to find some more speed to increase his grip on provisional pole. However, Engel had other ideas. A lap later he went ahead of Jarvis, just as Jarvis headed for the pits. With the track getting increasingly sodden, Watts claimed the Invitation Class lead back from Greg Mansell, but was only 11th this time, one place behind Senna, who didn't seem able to get the tow that had been planned this time round.
Annala, meanwhile, managed to find some more speed from somewhere, which was just as well as Gonzalez was now looking very focussed again and was only two places back from the Finn. In the Championship Class, Bakkerud was improving too, and was now 7th, though he would probably have been further up the order if he hadn't had to lift to avoid a Mansell meandering through Church. He wasn't overly impressed, especially as that was the last improvement of the session. With the track now very wet, Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing) managed to spin just before Noble, ending up stranded in the middle of the track, unable to restart the car. The session was red- flagged while the Macanese driver was recovered. There were 11 minutes of the session left at this point, and the sky was getting steadily darker and darker.
The order now was Engel, from Jarvis, Jelley, Jakes, Valerio, Conway, Bakkerud, Buurman, Hall and Senna. Watts was 11th, ahead of Annala, Greg Mansell, Gonzalez, Kennard, Walker, Morgado, Avila, Alex Waters (Promatecme F3) and Leo Mansell. Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport) was 21st, while Oliver Turvey (Team Loctite) was last, suffering from a lack of testing and a kill switch that kept trying to shut down the engine every time he went over a bump.
When the session finally restarted it was too wet for anyone to improve, and while that didn't stop Senna from trying, it was something of a waste of effort. A number of drivers did go back out, presumably hoping to establish a true wet weather set up, but there were no improvements.