Qualifying Report: At the start of the session there were a number of dramas being enacted. The first to come to light was when Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing) discovered he'd got a driveshaft that wasn't working.
At the start of the session there were a number of dramas being enacted. The first to come to light was when Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing) discovered he'd got a driveshaft that wasn't working. Some desperate work on the part of the team saw him eventually wheeled out to join the fray. Meanwhile Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) came straight into the pits instead of starting a timed lap. The engine cover was removed and a collection of Mugen-Honda men swarmed over the engine, tweaking and twiddling and tugging on cables. It wasn't looking good for Charlie. In wasn't looking entirely normal at Carlin either; Parente also screeched into the pits, and was pounced on by the team. The front wing and nose were removed so they could get at a broken throttle stop. It too some time, and while he was in they took the opportunity to stick new tyres on as well. His teammate, Charlie Kimball, wasn't wasting any time meanwhile. Setting a first flying lap time that was as fast as most of the testing times (1:48.854), he gave the others something to aim at. A lap later he was still at the top of the heap although there'd been a micro-second or so when Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was up there. If you'd blinked, you would have missed it though.
The row behind was in a state of flux, with James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) grabbing 3rd, only to be demoted when Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing) crossed the line. They also had to contend with Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), the Danish driver making up for his indiscretions of the day before by slotting into a provisional 2nd place. Meanwhile, Kimball was cranking up the pace, and had hit the 1.47s. Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) was also looking fast and was fighting it out with Lewis, Clarke and Walker for rights to the second row. It was looking pretty much like the Carlin drivers were about to lock out the front row. Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing) was another to join the scrap, claiming 5th early on. Then it was his teammate's turn. Marko Asmer went 3rd, only to lose it to Clarke. And all the while, Parente was still in the pits having his car worked on.
Danilo Dirani seems to have finally got P1 Motorsport's Lola working to his satisfaction, and was able to post a time that would have put him 5th if the session had ended there and then. Lewis briefly hauled himself onto the front row again, but Parente, on his first flying lap, grabbed 2nd place back from the Englishman. He wanted that pole position. Asmer came back to go 4th, while Dirani was hanging on to 5th place as if his life depended on it.
The National Class was hotting up as well, with Hollings eventually being released from the pits, while Ben Clucas (Fluid Motorsport) was busy setting a provisional pole time. By the halfway mark it was still the usual suspects at the front, with Bridgman in 4th, and Asmer and Parente squabbling over 2nd. Kimball, meanwhile, was in the pits getting new tyres fitted, ready to go out and defend pole if he had to. 4th was Lewis, from Bridgman, Dirani, Clarke, Bakkerud, Walker and Bruno Senna (Double R Racing). Conway had fallen back to 11th, just ahead of Clucas, while Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport), having been back on the pace at Combe, seemed to have lost his was again, and was 13th. 14th (and 2nd in the National Class) was Barton Mawer (T-Sport), with Josh Fisher (Team SWR) and Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport) running him close. Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport) was a somewhat distant 17th, ahead of Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) and Alejandro Nunez (HBR Motorsport). 21st was Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing), the rookie having a tough time out there, but enjoying himself nonetheless. Behind him were Adam Khan (Performance Racing), Hollings, Christopher Wassermann (HBR Motorsport), Annala (out on the track at last), Nick Jones (Team SWR), Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) and Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing).
Kimball wandered out onto the track again, just as Parente came in to get new tyres fitted, and also to get the new throttle stop replaced as it had broken. He also needed disentangling from the safety harness, so it was quite a long stop. In fact Kimball was now one of the few drivers on the track, as just about everyone else had dived in for various changes and tweaks. It was very quiet indeed out there for about five minutes before there was a general rush back out to play in the Monza Park.
In the National Class Mawer and Hollings were now fighting for 2nd place, with Kennard also joining in. Other than that, not a great deal was happening. The Avons were behaving more normally now that the weather was back to being dry and sunny again. The improvements were now rarer than hen's teeth, though Conway was among those who did manage to squeeze an improvement out, edging back up the order to go 9th. Senna also managed to move up the order towards the end of the session, going 6th, to the disadvantage of Dirani. Dirani fought back with a 4th place in the closing minutes. And that was about it. Mawer fell into the gravel at the second of the Variantes and had to be craned away, which was a little embarrassing, but he was moved away quickly and the yellow flags were soon removed. Conway took advantage of the incident being cleared, and rocketed into 4th, while Parente made one last ditch effort and stole pole position from Kimball, who had already decided there was nothing left that he could do and had pitted.
And so Parente would start from pole, with Kimball alongside him. Asmer was 3rd, from Conway, Dirani, Lewis, Bridgman, Clarke, Bakkerud and Kane. 11th was Walker, ahead of Jelley, National Class poleman Clucas, Mawer, Hollings, O'Mahony, Reindler, Kennard, Fisher and Duran. 21st was Nunez from Ihara, Khan, Annala, Wassermann, Teixeira, Jones and Cheong. Judging by the amount of slipstreaming that had gone on in the practice sessions, we were going to be in for some exciting racing on Saturday afternoon, although the timetable was so tight there would only be a couple of hours between races. It was to be hoped that they all behaved because repair work would take time we didn't have.