If the weather had been unsettled in the morning, it was a lot worse in the afternoon. It was raining as the cars went out, again with Ryan Lewis and Barton Mawer leading the field round in their T-Sport cars. With the weather looking set to ...
If the weather had been unsettled in the morning, it was a lot worse in the afternoon. It was raining as the cars went out, again with Ryan Lewis and Barton Mawer leading the field round in their T-Sport cars. With the weather looking set to worsen dramatically, it was a good idea to get a time as soon as you could. Even so, the pole man for round seven, Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get out there, waiting till the pitlane was empty of almost everyone before nosing out as Lewis reappeared to start his first flying lap. Only Daniel Clark (Double R Racing) and Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) were later out, in Kane’s case because oil was leaking onto the Lola’s clutch, and it needed to be stopped before he could get going.
Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) was an early pole man, with Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) just shy of the Brazilian’s time. Meanwhile, the first break in the session was coming up. Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) was off into the gravel again, this time at the Hairpin. While Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing) went fastest from Lewis, only to lose out to Lewis last time round, the marshals were struggling to move Cheong’s car. Bruno Senna (Double R Racing) grabbed 3rd, from Stephen
Jelley (Menu Motorsport), Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) and Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport). And then we got the red flags again. Kane still hadn’t got out yet, and Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) hadn’t set a time. The way the rain was increasing in intensity, it looked like that might turn out to be very bad news for both of them. It was annoying for Parente too, because he’d set the fastest time in the first sector just as the red flags went out. When they finally restarted, Ronayne O’Mahony (Fortec Motorsport) was first out of the pitlane, with a very frustrated Lewis bottled up behind him. Everyone else held up in the pitlane when Jelley couldn’t get started and needed a quick push. It didn’t take long, and it took Lewis even less time to get past O’Mahony. And then, despite all reason, the times started to come down again, although given the rain you wouldn’t have thought it possible. This session was about to make you disbelieve everything you ever thought you knew about driving in the rain. The order changes started to come thick and fast, with Conway dropping to 7th, and Dirani to 11th, shortly before he decided the pits were a better place to be. Teixeira, meanwhile, took one look at conditions and headed straight back to the pits.
Lewis, on the other hand, was pressing on regardless, getting the times down into the 55 second range, but it still wasn’t quite enough to get him pole. Kane was still struggling with the Lola, and quickly headed back to the pits for more adjustments. The rains were getting heavier, but it didn’t stop Parente, who put in a brilliant effort to claim provisional pole position. James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) was up to 5th, but unlikely to stay there, while Senna was 8th, ahead of Conway and Josh Fisher (Team SWR). Someone else pushing on hard was Lewis, who promptly had a wild moment at the Hairpin. Maybe he needs to understand that attacking isn’t always best way to go in F3. Certainly the smoother style of Parente was far more effective, as he proved by almost immediately setting another fastest lap, in a time of 54.1; and this, despite the fact that the rain was getting worse and worse. Lewis looked like he would have to settle for second, while Asmer was third. And now most people’s tyres were beginning to go off, which was a pity as the clouds looked much lighter in the distance. Although the rain was showing no sign of easing off yet, the latter part of the session looked like it might very well be dry (or at least drying). Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport) wasn’t especially daunted however, and managed to grab the National Class pole, slotting into the overall top ten rather neatly.
With the top three now occupied by Parente, Lewis and Bridgman, the battle wasn’t over yet. Senna was the next to improve, going 5th. Further back, Dirani was now an unhappy 12th while Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) was 13th and not living up to his Croft performance, or what he’d shown himself capable of in the morning for that matter. Kane was still in trouble too, in 19th. He was able to improve his time, but not his position. Teixeira decided to go out again, and was unable to restart, which delayed him badly; he was finally able to get going again, but it took some doing. Kane, meanwhile dropped another place, and was 20th. The battle for National Class wasn’t over yet, and Fisher was now 8th overall, having grabbed the class pole from Duran. Lewis, meanwhile, had headed back to the pits again, having wrestled his way back up to 9th. He seemed to be trying very hard to break his qualifying jinx, and get a decent starting position. By his own admission, he doesn’t always qualify as well as he should, and if he could only get a decent starting position, he was pretty sure he would be able to finish on the podium.
Elsewhere, another potential front runner, Marko Asmer (Alan Docking Racing) was also pressing on hard. He’d just done a fastest first sector time and was now 3rd overall when the heavens re-opened with a vengeance and the rain started to really tip down. Strangely, it didn’t seem to stop people from speeding up. One theory was that the water on the track was reducing tyre wear, and thus the tyres weren’t going off quite as much as you might expect. Fine, right… Draw your own conclusions, is all we can say. Conway certainly believed it was worth diving in to the pits for a few more adjustments before trying again. Dirani meanwhile was setting better times than he had earlier, though he was still only 15th in the order, not what you might expect from the double winner of Donington, but things really haven’t seemed to go right since then. With 13 minutes of the session remaining, Kane unexpectedly improved his time, proving there was more to come from the Lola. Nick Jones, on the other hand, headed for the pits at speed, with Dirani and Bakkerud also deciding the pits were a better place to be, especially as it was now raining even harder. Lewis was another driver who was showing no inclination to stay out there and get any wetter than he already was.
There were one or two changes to come yet, but in the main they’d dried up (which was more than the track was doing). Kimball put in a late effort to grab 5th, while his Carlin Motorsport team-mate, Keiko Ihara threw herself into the gravel at Clark for the first (but not the last) time in the session. Bakkerud, meanwhile, had staggered as far as 16th, and wasn’t having the best of times.
After several more very wobbly moments Cheong seemed to feel discretion was the better part of valour, or possibly Pete Briggs ordered him back into the pit, where he would spend the rest of the session. Jelley was another who might have been happier if he could have retreated to the pits and stayed there, but at least he’d progressed as far as 14th. And that was the last change of any real significance. There were seven minutes of the session left, but the tyres were now officially finished as far as anyone could tell. Certainly Bakkerud seemed to have left it too late when he went back out onto the sodden track. The rain had eased off but everyone seemed to be about a second slower now. Even with most of the cars back out on the track, and the sun out now, it wasn’t getting any quicker. And the way people were behaving it was unlikely to. The next thing we knew, there were yellow flags at Clark again, because Bridgman was sitting in the gravel, pointing the wrong way. He managed to get going again, but it didn’t bode well for the closing part of the session.
Certainly the provisional pole sitter, Parente, didn’t see any point in staying out there any longer. He coasted gently into the pits and sat around waiting to see if anyone could beat his time. They couldn’t. Kane was giving it a try though, and was fastest into the first sector, but what might have been a flying lap was spoiled when Ihara again went off at Clark and the yellow flags were waved yet again. This time she was stuck in a dangerous position, and the officials hauled out the red and chequered flags, bringing the session to a premature end with 3 minutes still remaining. No one seemed too unhappy at being called in a little early, though Lewis managed to embarrass himself by spinning on his slowing down lap.
And so Parente claimed his second pole position of the day, from Lewis, Asmer, Bridgman, Kimball, Conway, Kane, Walker, Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport) who grabbed National Class pole and Bruno Senna (Double R Racing). 11th was Josh Fisher (Team SWR), Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3), Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing), Jelley, Dirani, Bakkerud, Barton Mawer (T-Sport), Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport) and Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing). 20th was Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing), Ihara, Jones, Cheong and Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport).