Even though the clouds were looking threatening at the start of the race, the weather stayed dry and relatively pleasant, the sun finally emerging before the end, all of which made a very welcome change. After all, we've had fog, ...
Even though the clouds were looking threatening at the start of the race, the weather stayed dry and relatively pleasant, the sun finally emerging before the end, all of which made a very welcome change. After all, we've had fog, hail, thunder and gallons and gallons of rain. However, there was a little bit of Brazil that the sun wasn't shining on. Bruno Senna (Double R Racing) was trapped in the pitlane with a jammed started motor. The team were running up and down the pitlane, pushing and rocking the Dallara in an attempt to get it unjammed, but it just wasn't having it. Eventually, Bruno climbed out, removed hid helmet, and wandered off, a study in dejection.
And so, 23 drivers lined up on the grid for Round 8 of the 2005 British F3 International Series. Once the lone marshal was happy that at least three quarters of the grid had lined up properly, he made a dive for the pitlane, and the gantry lights glowed red. Seconds later they went out and the race got underway. Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) proved he could start even better in the dry than in the wet, and streaked into the lead as the man alongside him, Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) bogged down and lost ground. Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) saw it as the perfect opportunity, and charged up into 2nd place as the field chased round to Scotsman Bend for the first time, and Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) got the drop on Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) to lay claim to 4th, just behind Tim Bridgman in the second Hitech car. Further down, National Class runner Josh Fisher's race ended with a clunk before it could start; the Team SWR driver falling victim to a broken driveshaft and being pushed off the grid by the marshals. In fact, the National Class was being led by Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport), the Mexican looking for another victory. Second in class was Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3), who was making up for the embarrassment that was Croft with a pair of fine drives today. Behind Hollings, having made up three places before the first lap was out was Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), the young Dane trying very hard to compensate for a poor qualifying position. He might well salvage something, it seemed.
However, most eyes were on Parente, who was in a class of his own. By the time the field crossed the line for the first time, he'd already started to break away from Asmer, and was a couple of car's length ahead, and showing no sign of easing off. Asmer was increasingly finding Lewis bulking in his mirrors, while Kimball was getting grief from Walker for 6th place. That would become 5th when Bridgman got slightly off line and speared off into the gravel at Scotsman. Having discovered that if you got off the racing line the track was still very slippery, he came to rest against the barriers. He wouldn't be the only driver to make that discovery before the race was done.
While Parente continued to drive away from the pack, setting a series of fastest laps, the lead changed in the National Class, with Duran losing ground dramatically, thus handing the class lead to a grateful Hollings. He also lost out to Barton Mawer (T-Sport), who promptly set off in single minded pursuit if Hollings. Meanwhile, Lewis was busy trying to catch Asmer, using all the available road in his efforts to overhaul the Estonian. It was a determined and aggressive bit of driving, and it looked as if it might just work. Certainly on lap 5 he was close enough to have a go. However, he couldn't quite make it stick, so he settled back in behind the Fortec car and bided his time.
At the very back of the field there was also a battle, with Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) finally having to give way to Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport), who was then able to get on terms with Nick Jones (Team SWR). While the three of them were apparently having a great time battling together, it was rather worrying because at the rate Parente was motoring on, he was going to have to lap them soon.
Parente led Asmer, who had his hands full with Lewis. Behind Lewis, Conway was maintaining a watching brief, while the threat Walker was posing to Kimball for that 5th place had lessened substantially. This was because Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) was now all over him, largely because Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing) had run wide and fallen back a little, and thus had Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) troubling him for position. This was turning into quite a race, though one battled resolved itself when Kane dived past Walker on lap 7.
There was a moment when the cloud cover suddenly came back, though, and for a moment everyone's attention was on the sky. While that was going on, Asmer went wide at Clarke, and Lewis seized his chance. Asmer immediately fought back, taking his place back, only for Lewis to spin at the Hairpin. With the blue and white car stuck in the middle of the road, it was touch and go whether everyone would survive. More by luck than anything else, they did, though Lewis lost a lot of ground. But if Asmer thought that Lewis falling back would take the pressure off, he was seriously wrong. Instead, he now had Conway all over his rear wing. There was to be no peace for the Estonian. Others who were having an interesting time included Jelley and Bakkerud. Jelley was another to find that the track was a lot slippery than you might expect, when he skated off at Clark and knocked his rear wing off. He limped to the pits and into retirement. Bakkerud, meanwhile, was being shown the black-and-white driving standards flag, a reprimand for taking out one of the infamous Knockhill floppy markers. It seems to be a Danish tendency; a couple of years ago Jesper Carlsen got into trouble for doing exactly the same thing.
By lap 10, Parente had caught up with Cheong, who got out of the way pretty smartly this time. It was as well he was paying attention, because the battling duo of Asmer and Conway were slugging it out, even as they began lapping the backmarkers. It would all go pear-shaped. Jones managed to spin, and was busy trying to sort himself out, when the second place battle arrived. They found the American Welshman across the track. And while Asmer had to slow, Conway went through, only to lose out again almost immediately. While the Championship Class lead was never in doubt, the National Class was now in question. Mawer was all over Hollings, and launched his attack as the two of them headed across the Start/Finish line for the 14th time. Mawer tried to squeeze up the inside, but Hollings held his line, and the Australian had to back off. It was close though.
A lap later there were more changes. The root cause was a little bizarre. Teixeira ran wide at the Hairpin, trying to get out of the way of the front runners as they came up to lap him. He quickly discovered that there was standing water in the gravel trap, and as he extracted himself, the water slopped out onto the track, creating a treacherously slippery patch. The first person to come to grief on it was Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), who ended up having to do a three point turn to get going again. With waved yellows warning of the Japanese's predicament, Conway and Asmer arrived almost together. Asmer went round the long way, while Conway took the inside line, coming out of the Hairpin ahead of Asmer. As Conway had made the place under waved yellows, Asmer was pretty confident he'd get the position back, but there was still a team managers' dash to the Clerk of the Courses' office almost before the dust had settled. Asmer made a couple of attempts to get the place back, but afterwards he claimed he hadn't bothered to try too hard. However, the way the Estonian was driving, Conway probably wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of him trying really hard.
At the front, Parente was still circulating alone and ahead of the pack. Conway was trying to play catch up, and Asmer was waiting for the flag, knowing that even if Conway wasn't there, his car still isn't fast enough to take on the leader. Kimball was 4th, and probably a little surprised that no one had tried to wipe him out yet, while Kane was now 5th. Clarke was 6th but a long way back and Walker was even further back in 7th, with Bakkerud, Dirani and Lewis rounding out the top ten. Dirani was coming under a lot of pressure from Lewis, though the two of them nearly came to grief when Dirani got something of a twitch on coming out of the Hairpin. Lewis made unimpressed gestures, but no harm was done. However, it was only a short time later that the Brazilian lost the place to Lewis. With seven laps to go, Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport) was the next to find that things weren't as benign as they looked, when he joined the ranks of those who had slithered off unexpectedly. He ended up facing the wrong way in the gravel at Butchers, thus putting an end to an unhappy weekend. It made little difference to anyone else, but the young Irishman really is struggling so far this season.
Hollings was struggling too, but in his case it was to hang on to his class lead. Every time he thought he could relax, Mawer came back again. The Australian was nothing if not persistent. Again he made the attempt going down towards Scotsman, but this time he tried to get round the outside. Hollings didn't need to lean too hard to prevent Mawer coming through, but even though the threat had been repelled again, the attack was still not over. Again a lap later Mawer was obviously sizing the leader up again, but this time he was too far back. He composed himself and closed the distance again. There were now five laps left; he could have another go.
Elsewhere, Lewis was attempting to fight his way back, setting the fastest lap of the race on the way, but then he got trapped behind Ihara, who seemed to be ignoring the frantically waved blue flags, and was apparently oblivious to the fact that a faster driver and car combination was trying to lap her. She certainly wasn't making it easy for him. It took the best part of a lap before he could get by and he wasn't too happy about it, though as he said afterwards everyone else was having the same problems so he couldn't really complain.
There were three laps left, and the excitement still wasn't over. For one thing, Mawer had one last shot at Hollings, but again Charlie simply kept his foot in, and Barton went slithering onto the grass. He gathered it all together again quite quickly, not losing a lot of ground, but he seemed to have finally got the message that no, he couldn't have the class lead, at least not if Hollings had any say in the matter. It was something of a surprise that no one else fell off at the end either, as Asmer suddenly got his place back when Conway's engine blew up big time, leaving a lot of oil behind as the car came to a smoky halt at Scotsman, a lap from the finish. It saved a lot of argument about the yellow flag incident, but it also cost Conway his championship lead. Parente, who'd never looked at all flustered, was a cool and collected victor, with his third series win in a row. Asmer was 2nd, which semi-pleased him, though he's frustrated because the car just isn't fast enough to win yet. In 3rd place, and pleased as punch to get his first finish of the season, was Kimball who was straight on the phone to him Mom back in the States as soon as he got off the podium. He couldn't stop smiling afterwards. In 4th place was Kane, followed by Clarke, Walker, Bakkerud, Lewis, Dirani, and in 10th, National Class winner, Hollings. 11th was "Mauler" Mawer, after a fine fight with Hollings, while Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) and his teammate Juho Annala were 3rd and 4th in class. Next up was Duran, from Ihara, Jones, Teixeira and Cheong. No one else was actually classified.
The extra points for fastest laps went to Lewis (Championship Class) and Mawer (National Class).
Next Races: Rounds 9 & 10, Thruxton, Hampshire, May 28th/29th, 2005
Weather: Fine, sunny.