Today at Croft, Sergio Perez (T-Sport) proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that you can win in British F3 without needing a Mercedes engine. The Mugen-Honda powered Mexican led pretty much from lights to flag after pole man Marcus Ericsson (Fortec...
Today at Croft, Sergio Perez (T-Sport) proved beyond any shadow of a doubt that you can win in British F3 without needing a Mercedes engine. The Mugen-Honda powered Mexican led pretty much from lights to flag after pole man Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) made a hash of the start, handing T- Sport their first ever victory in the International Class, holding off Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) while Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) looked certain to claim 3rd until a last minute engine failure handed the last place on the podium to team-mate Esteban Guerrieri. The National Class went to that man Andrew Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport) yet again, with Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) and Steven Guerrero (T-Sport) taking the other two podium places.
The weather was proving unkind as the field lined up to start the third race of the series, with persistent drizzle and lots of puddles lining the tricky Yorkshire track. Perhaps inevitably trouble wasn't long in coming. It started before the race for Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport), who pulled into the pits at the end of the green flag lap and would start the race from there. Then Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport) stalled on the grid, and the National Class guys started tripping over each other, with Guerrero and Hywel Lloyd (CF Racing) tangling, the Colombian continuing with a damaged nose and the Welshman pulling off. What happened next was probably down to Ericsson's dreadful start, as Hohenthal pulled out from behind him and dragged down to the first corner on the inside of Perez. Perez held his line and the Swede backed off. However, in the ensuing confusion Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport) - starting in an unusually high grid spot - spun off at Clervaux, taking out Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) and Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport) in the process.
That left Perez in the lead and the Mexican seemed keen to hang onto it, despite missing a gear and coming under pressure from Hohenthal, who sensed an opportunity and wanted to capitalise on it. Devaney was ahead of Ericsson and the poleman was struggling to hold off Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport) and Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing), the Finn being the main beneficiary of everyone else's misfortunes, much as he had in Race 1 at Oulton Park. Guerrieri was next up, from Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing), Meyrick in the National Class lead, and Alistair Jackson (Double R Racing), the latter forming the first part of a major queue of International Class runners bottled up behind Meyrick. Things settled into a pattern for a while, but on lap 4 Tandy went missing, and meanwhile Meyrick was considering whether he ought to wave Jackson and the rest through, especially as two of his team-mates were among the International Class jam, as neither Oliver Turvey nor Sam Abay had made particularly good starts.
A lap later and things were starting to get more entertaining, when Al Khalifa emerged from the pits just in front of the leaders, while there was a battle at the back between Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport), Niall Quinn (Team Loctite) and Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport) that saw the three of them at each others' throats lap after lap - Einar had the upper hand at this point, but it didn't necessarily mean that was how it would stay, no matter what his two-man fan club under a large umbrella on the banking thought. There was also some entertainment to be got from watching Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing), though not to being him, his Dallara having developed an alarming twitch into Clervaux that saw him missing the floppy markers simply by virtue of luck (and being on the wrong side of them). To say it was a handful was putting it mildly. Fortunately he was running pretty much on his own.
At the front, Perez was now starting to push as his tyres came on song, and the youngster was beginning to open a gap to Hohenthal, while behind them, Devaney was finding his mirrors full of Alguersuari, but the Spaniard was being hampered by the fact that Guerrieri was coming up fast behind him and looked as if he might be quicker. Ericsson was recovering too, although he was being harassed by Mustonen, the Finn determined to make as much progress as possible, despite the car not being especially to his liking. That determination was probably what saw him pass Ericsson early on, before going on to deal with Alguersuari who started to lose ground towards the end of the race. It was enough to let Ericsson to get the run on him in the closing stages, and he ended up a disappointed 6th behind the masses Scandinavians and South Americans who pretty much dominated the race. Guerrieri was the man to watch though, and with one lap to go he was right with Devaney, the Irishman's dreadful luck striking again when the Mygale's Mercedes engine developed a misfire that would eventually prove terminal and handing 3rd to Guerrieri on the very last lap.
The Irish driver wasn't the only one to hit trouble towards the end, while Perez powered on his untroubled way to victory. At the back, running true to last year's form, Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) was involved in a pointless battle with Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) and Al Khalifa, and managed to spin off on the grass at Tower. With three laps to go, Ericsson finally had the momentum to tackle Alguersuari, and he was through for 6th. Mustonen was too far ahead for an attack on him to possible, and the unhappy Swede could only ponder what might have been if he'd actually got off the line when the lights went out. Perez, meanwhile, crossed the line for the final time, punching the air in delight. It put a smile back on Russell Eacott's face too, the T-Sport boss having been positively morose prior to the race ("I've decided I hate motorsport, and this weather," had been his reaction to when questioned on the grid).
Hohenthal's 2nd place was enough to secure him the lead in the championship (by 1 point from Ericsson), while Guerrieri was 3rd ahead of Mustonen, Ericsson, Alguersuari, Jackson, Turvey, John Martin (Double R Racing) and Abay. Henry Arundel (Double R Racing) was 11th, despite starting from the back of the grid, ahead of newcomer Oliver Oakes (Eurotek Motorsport), Meyrick who won the National Class, while Grubmuller was 14th, from Bridger, Devaney, Jensen, Guerrero, Wilson (who got the better of Einar in the end), and Einar. Quinn finally came home 21st, from Chilton, Craig Reiff (Nexa Racing) and Al Khalifa, who was 3 laps down at the flag.
Fastest laps went to Chilton (who pitted and put on slick tyres then went back out looking to salvage something from a dismal weekend so far) and Meyrick.
Weather: Cool drizzly, damp.