Whatever the F3 boys have done to annoy the weather gods, it really needs to stop now. Shortly after Round 5 ended the entire proceedings at Croft ground to a halt as hailstones bounced off people's heads, and Ginettas (which were racing at the ...
Whatever the F3 boys have done to annoy the weather gods, it really needs to stop now. Shortly after Round 5 ended the entire proceedings at Croft ground to a halt as hailstones bounced off people's heads, and Ginettas (which were racing at the time) bounced off the barriers and into each other. With thunder crashing overhead, and water standing everywhere, there was a long weather-induced break in the timetable.
This meant that the second F3 race of the way was going to be late starting. In fact, with the sky darkening threateningly again as the cars went out to line up on the grid, there was real fear that we might end up losing a third race from the series. It was perhaps with that in mind that the officials showed no sign of postponing this race, though a strong case could have been made against running in these conditions. In fact, it was so damp as the cars emerged from the pit lane that Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) managed to spin going through Hawthorn. He ended up facing the wrong way and it took him a while to sort himself out and set off again. It could have been deeply embarrassing, rather than mildly so.
As the grid formed up, it became increasingly obvious that the rain was far from over. Everyone was on wet weather tyres, though it didn't stop Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing) from falling foul of the same puddles that had attempted to claim Lewis. The unfortunate Formula BMW champion skidded off on the green flag lap, though he did pull himself together enough to get back to the grid and take his place for the race. So that was two offs before the race even started. This was going to get messy. And sure enough, it did. But not immediately.
As the lights on the gantry blinked out, Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) made up for his poor start in the first race of the day, and simply powered off the line, cutting Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) off as they headed into Clervaux. Conway may have won the first one; he wasn't having a second win if Parente had anything to do with it. Behind Conway, the world was very much Carlin-coloured, with Christian Bakkerud and Charlie Kimball scrapping with each other, the Dane getting the better of the American at the off, while Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) who had been between the two of them made an abysmal start and threw away his chances of a win.
Bridgman, meanwhile, was holding off Lewis for 5th, while further back things were getting chaotic. Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) stalled on the grid and was pushed away into the pit lane. Perhaps in sympathy, his fellow back-marker Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) threw himself onto the grass at the Complex. Of course, he could just have been following Stephen Jelley's example, as the Menu Motorsport driver was also having trouble through that section of the track. Shortly before that, however, National Class runner Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) went off at Tower for the second time that day. This time he got going again, but he'd just thrown away the advantage of pole position in class. He really wasn't having a good day.
Someone who was caught up in it all but actually benefited from the mayhem was Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing), the rookie having an interesting first lap. For a one thing his radio wasn't working (which he later admitted might have been just as well), but he was also finding lack of visibility to be a serious problem. And that wasn't all. At the start everything was green, as he was forced onto the grass, and then he reckoned it all went grey and stayed that way. He really had no idea where he was in the order, or how much longer there was to go. Once the dust had settled - or rather the spray - he'd gained a couple of places just because other people fell off rather obligingly. A lap later he would gain two more places when Asmer made an attack on Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) at Tower, accidentally wiping out the Brazilian and losing a lot of ground himself. Dirani limped into the pits, possibly wondering how it could have all gone so wrong after his double victory at Donington. He would eventually limp back out again, but really his day was over.
That helped Bruno Senna (Double R Racing), but on lap three he skittered through the gravel at Clervaux, promptly handing another place to Clarke, who was being blessed with uncanny luck in the dreadful conditions. He was now 8th and one of the few making any progress. With the spray making driving very difficult, Parente was now strolling away, making this look easy. Afterwards, he would claim it wasn't of course, but there was a confidence to his driving that made it seem unlikely he'd be beaten.
However, Conway was now coming under tremendous pressure from Bakkerud, who was busy discovering that actually he's a bit of a wet-weather expert. He soon dispatched Conway, and just to add insult to injury, Kimball went with him. It was now a Carlin 1-2-3, which must have gladdened team manager Dave Lowe's heart no end. It was probably just as well though, because suddenly there were only three Carlin cars left. Ihara went off at Hawthorn, her race ending in a cloud of fire-extinguisher powder. Her team-mate, Kimball, was all over Bakkerud, setting the fastest lap of the race so far, but he then celebrated by running into his team-mate's rear wheel and going straight on at Tower and taking himself out of the running. By the time he was back on the track he was a very long way adrift. Afterwards, he was nowhere to be found. and Conway was back in 3rd.
And now the rain was back, giving the circuit a thorough soaking. It caught Bridgman out, and allowed Lewis to grab 5th place, with James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) taking full advantage of the situation and following the T-Sport car through. At the front, Parente was now having trouble with Bakkerud, while Clarke was savaging Bridgman, who really must have been wondering why he'd bothered coming to Yorkshire at all. Conway must have been wondering that too, at least now that he'd got Conway bothering him for 3rd. He'd had a win, so maybe he figured this was payback for that. And then the car started to let him down too, largely because he'd damaged a wing fighting with Bakkerud.
As Conway slipped down the order, Dirani was using the race as a test session. However, a misfire put him back in the pits for a second time, and then it really was all over for the Brazilian. Afterwards, he wanted to pretend the weekend hadn't happened. It would have been cruel to make him talk about it.
Interestingly, although there were fewer cars off than there had been in Round 5, we again got a Safety Car period, this time with two thirds of the race run. Kimball was in a dangerous position at Tower, and so the snatch vehicle (a fork lift truck affair) was sent out, while the field slotted in for a lap or two behind the Safety Car. The leader was easily picked up this time round, and everyone slowed up. However, the snatch vehicle was very slow and had to drive half a lap to get to the crash. Thus we were treated to the incongruous sight of a whole gaggle of F3 cars lapping a tractor, while following the Safety Car. It looked very odd.
With 7 laps left to run, the order now was Parente, from Bakkerud, Lewis, Walker, Bridgman and Clarke. Cheong was being lapped, and had Conway and Senna behind him, while Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport) was leading the National Class and had just lapped Nick Jones (Team SWR). Asmer was an unhappy 10th, with Barton Mawer (T-Sport), next up, ahead of Steven Kane (Promatecme F3), Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), Josh Fisher (Team SWR), the recovering Hollings, Jelley, Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing), and Fortec Motorsport's Ronayne O'Mahony, who had seemingly not got over his testing crash, at least judging from his serious lack of pace.
Two laps later the Safety Car pulled in, and Parente controlled the restart beautifully, dropping right back into the Complex and hitting the gas at just the right moment. Bakkerud could only follow, and try to make sure that Lewis didn't get him. Behind Lewis, Walker was attacked by Bridgman and ended up being shoved round Hawthorn, which was a bit unexpected. As a result, a lap later Bridgman lost out to Walker somewhere round the back of the circuit and ended his afternoon with nothing to show for all his efforts. A long way down the order, Cheong crashed out on the same lap, banging into the barriers at Clervaux and staying there. At least it meant no one else needed to lap him.
With two laps of the race left, Parente was now comfortably in front of Bakkerud, while Clarke was now 3rd, and praying for the chequered flag. As far as he was concerned, it couldn't come soon enough. Lewis was 4th, with Senna now 5th, and Duran was now 6th overall, despite seeming to be short on grip at the start of the race. He couldn't decide if the problem lay with him or with the conditions. The somewhat baffled Mexican couldn't believe the way the weather kept changing, afterwards spending a lot of time shaking his head in wonderment and muttering that Mexico was nothing like this. Maybe we should all up sticks and go and find out. If the weather continues to plague us, maybe we'll have to.
The original class leader, Hollings, had just set the fastest lap time in the class, only to go off at Hawthorn and rejoin at the back of the field yet again. It was getting to be a habit, and not one he'd want to cultivate. Meanwhile, Mawer was a somewhat distant second in class, while the 3rd place was about to go down to the wire. Annala was all over Kennard, and had been for a while. On the final lap, heading into the Complex, Annala made a dive for it. It went slightly wrong, and he clipped Kennard, but recovered to claim third place. His team-mate was not at all amused, despite Annala's claims that it was an accident.
And so, about an hour late, and in conditions that were frankly horrid, the race ended with a well-deserved victory for Parente, and a delighted Bakkerud came home in 2nd. Clarke was a surprised 3rd, from Lewis (who was voted Driver of the Day) and Senna. Duran was 6th overall, with Asmer and Kane separating him from Mawer. Annala was next up, 3rd in class, with Kennard and Fisher next. Conway was 8th in class, from O'Mahony and Jelley, while Hollings was almost - but not quite - last, ahead of Jones.
Fastest laps went to Clarke and Hollings.
Next Races: Rounds 7 & 8, Knockhill, Scotland, May 21st/22nd, 2005