Despite the race being initially scheduled to run for 12 laps, it was announced that it would be extended to 14 laps, because the regulations say that all F3 races must be a certain minimum length, and 12 laps of Oulton Park just wasn't enough....
Despite the race being initially scheduled to run for 12 laps, it was announced that it would be extended to 14 laps, because the regulations say that all F3 races must be a certain minimum length, and 12 laps of Oulton Park just wasn't enough. This wouldn't have been too much of an issue were it not for that fact that the programme was already behind schedule due to our old friends the Seat Cupras.Once again they were simply everywhere and would take quite a bit of clearing up. Quite what they needed a JCB digger for was anyone's guess though.
It might have been useful at the start of Round 13. Pole sitter Nelson Piquet (Piquet Sports) isn't known for the quality of his starts, but this time he really got it spectacularly wrong. As Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) took advantage of Nelsinho's lack of forward motion and stormed into the lead, everyone else went past him too, leaving the stricken youngster to hope nothing would hit him. He survived, but his race was run. Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) wasn't so lucky, clipping a tyre barrier as he tried to avoid the Brazilian and crashing out, damaging the front right suspension.
In the ensuing mayhem Scholarship Class pole man Steven Kane (T-Sport) and Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) clashed, handing the class lead to a very surprised Karun Chandhok (T-Sport). Kane went off sideways into the tyres on the inside at Lodge, taking a piece out of his Dallara's nose. He managed to restart the car three times before he was able to get going again, the marshals pushing his car out of the way after he had got the engine running. Although it wasn't a push-start, P1 tried to get him disqualified later, but the Clerk of the Course was having none of it. Viso managed to get a little further round the lap before he went out for good. Kane, meanwhile, staggered round to the pits to get a new nose fitted on his Dallara. With cars scattered around the track, there was now no option but to call out the Safety Car. This meant that van der Merwe would have it all to do again, but he's becoming the expert at restarts now, and although he had Danny Watts (Hitech Racing) and Adam Carroll (Menu Motorsport) right behind him, he didn't seem at all worried at the prospect.
Some people had even benefited from the start line chaos, among them Ronnie Bremer (Carlin Motorsport), who had gone from 14th to 8th on the first lap, Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport) who had gained 8 places to slot into 11th, and Jesper Carlsen (Team SYR), who had started 23rd and was now 14th. It was probably best not to ask how they did it!
Behind the Safety Car, the top ten was now van der Merwe, Watts, Carroll, Jamie Green (Carlin Motorsport), Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing), Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport) and Richard Antinucci (Carlin Motorsport), Bremer, Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) and Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport). In 11th was Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport), Asaro, Will Power (Fortec Motorsport), Carlsen, Fairuz Fauzy (Promatecme F3), Chandhok, Tor Graves (Manor Motorsport), Eric Salignon (Hitech Racing), Rizal Ramli (Team SYR) and Katherine Legge (Team SYR), the latter having started from the back of the grid after a mechanical failure left her unable to take part in Saturday's practice session. The remaining survivors were Can Artam (Promatecme F3), Scott Speed (Alan Docking Racing) and Kane.
After three laps the wreckage was finally cleared away, and the race could restart. As has been his habit this season, van der Merwe controlled things beautifully, aided by the fact that Watts was fully occupied holding off Carroll, who ran most of the way from Lodge with his car's nose right in the gearbox of Watt's Dallara. It's a mark of their talent that they both came back from a move like that, Carroll having to settle for 3rd despite his strenuous endeavours.
The next thing anyone knew, there were yellows at Island, though the commentary team couldn't see who it was (because their shiny new commentary box points across the start/finish line, and therefore they can't see any of the rest of the circuit!). It transpired that Fabi had gone missing, his weekend going steadily downhill now despite his best ever qualifying result on Saturday afternoon. At the rear of the field, Legge set about trying to get past her teammate, Ramli. This time, she came off worst, getting her wheels in the dirt and losing places rather than gaining them. Ramli, it should be said, had probably picked the wrong woman to start a fight with though. The last driver to upset Katherine was Steven Kane, when he was racing in Formula Renault and the upshot of that was that she left him upside down in a gravel trap at Thruxton!
Antinucci was another driver on the attack, the American making the first of a number of attempts to get past Dahlgren, while Salignon's efforts to progress all came to nothing when he fell off and lost a whole lot of ground. Meanwhile, Carlsen was 12th, but had his hands more than full trying to fend off Fauzy, who seemed to be maddened by the fact that the car in front of him had been his a week earlier, and Power, who was all over both of them and was just waiting for a mistake from either of them.
The order seemed to have settled, despite the fact that there were a number of small-scale scuffles going on throughout the field. One of the battles came to an abrupt end, when Carlsen's clutch failed, letting Fauzy and Power through while the Dane limped round to the pits and into premature retirement. It had been quite a comeback though, and hopefully it will mean he can at least see out this season in a relatively competitive car.
With Watts and Carroll still slugging it out for second, and Watts grabbing the point for fastest lap in the process, van der Merwe coasted towards the flag, untroubled by anything much. Green was 4th, having held of Davison for most of the race, with Dahlgren in 6th. Antinucci and Bremer came home in 7th and 8th, making 4 Carlin driver all in the top 8.
Near the back, Speed meanwhile had finally succeeded in passing Graves, who isn't exactly that hard to get by. If he was trying to impress the RedBull people, he wasn't exactly going the right way about it and he seemed more interested in a rather flashy Ducati parked in the paddock, than it trying to work out how to go faster.
While all this was going on, the mid-field scrap between Bremer, Piccione, Austin and Asaro had gone pear-shaped. Piccione went off and clipped the tyre wall, while Austin damaged his front wing on the Monegasque's Dallara. Piccione was out, while Austin was weaving aggressively in front of Asaro. The Canadian was not impressed, though he managed to hold his ground before he was able to pass the Englishman. It all seemed rather unnecessary, and they were lucky to survive the move, Austin claiming the final point at the end of the race.
By Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers