By Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas, BF3 correspondents
- Foresti Wins Tyre Gamble at Brands
- Tyre changes create excitement.
- Sakurai wins Rookie Class
At Brands Hatch this afternoon Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) put in a fine effort to get all the way from lights to flag in the lead, despite running on wet weather tyres on a track that was dry by about lap three. He was hunted down by Felipe Nasr (Carlin), who did stop for slicks, and by Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) who had led for the early laps before he too opted to stop for slicks. In fact, by the end of the race, only three drivers had not been in for tyres.
At the start, pole man Svendsen-Cook made a good get away to hold the lead while behind him Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) started out of position and then compounded his sin by running through the Druids gravel and dropping himself a long way out of contention – he was 15th by the time the pack reappeared to complete the first lap and that surely hadn’t been part of his plan! Also in trouble at the start was William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) who was very tardy getting the power down and lost a lot of ground as a result.
In the Rookie Class Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) was ahead of Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing), the pair of them having already got ahead of both Max Snegirev (also Hitech) and Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport). Meanwhile Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) was up to 6th, although all of this was very, very provisional on what the weather did next. With the whole field out on wet weather tyres, and the skies clearing, the track started to dry out rapidly. It was only a matter of time before the wets would cease to be a viable option. For some that moment would come sooner than for others. There was a whole lot of sideways sliding from Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport), while Nasr was all over Carlos Huertas (Carlin) and Foresti was biding his time just behind the pair of them, just waiting to attack. At the front Svendsen-Cook continued to press on while his tyres lasted, setting an early fastest lap as he tried to put as much space between himself and the chasing pack as possible. The pack, in contrast, appeared to be much too busy with each other, Foresti trying to hack past Nasr, but he quickly thought better of it and backed off, settling in to the train that was rapidly building behind Huertas. Further back Buller was now 11th and just outside the points, while Hylkema was off at Druids, handing the Rookie Class to Sakurai.
With Svendsen-Cook well ahead and Huertas having broken the tow to Nasr, who had his hands full holding off Foresti, attention was on the tyres now, especially when it became apparent that Fortec were getting ready for a pit stop. The question was who. Logic suggested it would be Buller as he had nothing to lose, and so it proved. He was joined in the quest for slicks by Pipo Derani (Double R), another with little to lose by pitting early. Meanwhile Magnussen was under investigation for his start infringement. As he was only 12th at this point, it probably wasn’t going to make an awful lot of difference. While the first of the pitstops were completed, Huertas set a new fastest lap on wets; it would be interesting to see what sort of lap times could be set on slicks.
Magnussen was next to pit for tyres, it being once again a case of “might as well”. However, the next pit stop was far more significant. After Foresti barged past Nasr on the way to Paddock, and went on to set a new fastest lap, Nasr dived for the pits. A sterling effort by the Carlin boys was enough to get him back out ahead of Buller, and he quickly settled down to play catch up once again. At the front, Foresti was now all over Huertas and was soon 2nd, which was the signal for a general rush for the pits, with Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing), Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) and Jack Harvey (Carlin) all exchanging wets for slicks. Others seemed inclined to stick it out a while yet, as Scott Pye (Double R Racing) made a move on Fong at Paddock Hill Bend to claim 3rd. As Foresti set about Svendsen-Cook for the lead, Buller set a new fastest lap and Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing) found himself promoted to 4th as a result of all the pit stops. Foresti was not inclined to risk his position with a pit stop and went on the attack once more to see if he could dislodge Svendsen-Cook from the lead. Svendsen-Cook, however, was another to pit, handing the top slot to the Brazilian. Also pitting this time round were Fong and Snegirev, which promoted Nasr to 8th. He gained two more places when Lloyd and Tincknell also dived in, and that meant that there were now only 3 drivers still out on wet weather tyres, the leader Foresti, Pye and Yann Cunha (T-Sport). Behind them, now on slicks, Buller was setting a blinding pace, as his tyres came in and he began to climb up the order. He wasn’t the only one on the move. Nasr was flying too and it didn’t take him long to come up behind Svendsen-Cook and fight his way past, setting a new fastest race lap as he did so. At the same time as Magnussen was awarded a 10 second penalty, the Brazilian was through into 4th and on the tail of Cunha. As the slicks started to come in, the faster drivers were lapping at least 4 seconds faster than Foresti, It was now a question of whether the leader could nurse the wet weather rubber to the end and stay ahead of the slick-shod challengers.
Cunha didn’t delay Nasr for long, and promptly lost another place to Svendsen-Cook, who was hanging onto the rear of his team-mate’s Dallara for all he was worth. In the end, though, he couldn’t quite match the pace Nasr was capable of. His next target was Pye and he was soon catching the Australian at 6 seconds a lap. The Aussie’s demise was imminent. Further back Buller was still flying and it was Cunha who lost out to him, while Magnussen also got involved, battling with the Irishman for 8th behind Huertas and Jaafar (in 5th and 6th). Just to add to the fun, Buller and Magnussen became part of a trio when Idafar caught up with them as well.
However, the main interest was nearer the front. With less than five minutes to go, Nasr was 2.5 seconds behind Pye as they crossed the line, and shortly after that made his move, blasting past on the run to Hawthorns. Svendsen-Cook tried to do the same, but Pye wasn’t having that. It was bad enough being demoted to 3rd; he really didn’t want to relinquish a podium place if he could help it. As it turned out he couldn’t help it, and half a lap later he was 4th. To add insult to injury Huertas set about him shortly afterwards, though the Colombian’s attention was diverted when Jaafar saw his chance and snuck up to attack the Double R car for himself. Pye was hanging on by his fingernails now, desperate to hold his position but at a serious disadvantage on tyres that were no longer doing their job.
At the front Nasr was closing on Foresti, but had lost fastest lap to Magnussen who was also pushing hard to try and compensate for his penalty. He had fought his way back to 8th and the barged past Buller too. It was all change again in the middle order though when Pye ran wide and that was enough for both Jaafar and Huertas to go through, and seconds later Magnussen and Buller joined them, dropping the Australian to 8th (though Magnussen would end up classified 8th after his penalty was applied).
As Foresti cruised to an impressive victory on wets, Nasr was only 4 seconds behind, just ahead of Svendsen-Cook, Jaafar, Huertas, Buller, Pye, Magnussen, Idafar and Harry Tincknell (Fortec Racing), the latter ending up on pole for Race 2 tomorrow when Foresti pulled the number 10 from the hat on the podium.
11th was Fong, from Fantin, Harvey, Cunha, Derani, Snegirev and Sakurai.
Lloyd went off into the gravel four laps from the end, while Ilyas came round to retire dragging large quantities of gravel with him at three quarters distance.
Fastest laps went to Buller and Sakurai.
Weather: Very changeable.