The titles are decided, the Mugen-Honda boys seem to have made at least one step towards the challenge of Mercedes next year, and there's a big silver truck been delivered to the circuit between races. It belongs to Fortec Motorsport,...
The titles are decided, the Mugen-Honda boys seem to have made at least one step towards the challenge of Mercedes next year, and there's a big silver truck been delivered to the circuit between races. It belongs to Fortec Motorsport, which shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with Richard Dutton and his team, and it says "powered by Mercedes" in big letters down the side of it. Except, irony of ironies, the unit used to deliver it is a Renault. However, at present this is of no great significance in the scheme of things on a sunny afternoon at Silverstone.
With the new and seemingly significantly faster Mugen-Honda in the back of his Dallara, Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) made his second good start of the day, and set about trying to outdrag Bruno Senna (Double R Racing) into Copse. It didn't quite work, and for a brief second or two Senna got in front, while Kimball had a grassy moment. It didn't take the American long to recover though, and he took his place back from the Brazilian before beginning to pull inexorably away from the dark blue car. Meanwhile, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) had got the drop on Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing), when Clarke made a truly awful start, hitting the brakes after a minor fit of creeping just as the lights went out to signal the start of the race. As a result he found Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) trying to squeeze up the inside as they all headed for Copse, and Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport) managed to get tangled up in it all, losing a lot of ground as a result.
The combined effect of everyone being demob happy, and the general bumping and barging was the almost immediate exit from the race of James Jakes (Performance Racing) at Abbey, though Barton Mawer (T-Sport), who also spun, was able to limp to the pits for emergency repairs. Several yards later Bakkerud also went off backwards into the gravel at Brooklands, putting an end to his race as well.
At the front Kimball was troubled by Senna for the first lap, but then put in a series of fastest laps, just as he had in the first race, setting a new F3 lap record as he did so. Behind him, Senna was also pulling away from the pack, though he knew he wasn't going to be able to match the American's pace. Third was the subject of some dispute, however, with Asmer ahead of Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) and very keen to stay there. Conway seemed to have other ideas, and he was sticking like glue to the Estonian. That allowed Clarke to catch up too, and the three of them ran a close battle almost all the way to the flag.
In the National Class, Ben Clucas (Fluid Motorsport) was leading, at least to start with, while newly-crowned category champion Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport) was fighting for track space with Josh Fisher (Team SWR). The main loser in all of that was Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3), the winner of Round 21 ending up behind Fisher in 4th. Their lives were all being complicated by Buurman, who was trying to stage a recovery drive through the field. There was something of a fight for 10th place going on too, involving Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing) and Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport). After what Bridgman had done to Jelley in the morning race, this was more than a little worrying. However, nothing went wrong this time, and on lap 7, Bridgman was through and into the points.
The real excitement was now in the National Class; Duran had got the better of Fisher and was now on Clucas's rear wing. To his embarrassment, Clucas, who was racing with a broken collarbone after falling off a horse a couple of weeks ago, then made a mistake, though even if he hadn't he would probably have only delayed the inevitable for another lap or so: "Salvador got past at Abbey; he caught me napping. I tried to defend, and thought he'd gone wide, but he tucked back up the inside and got me. I think he would have got me anyway, because he had better pace." That left Duran free and clear. All Clucas could do was follow. Elsewhere Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing) came limping into the pits with the left-hand side nose wing missing altogether, rejoining later once the team replaced it for him. Fisher and Hollings weren't through yet though. Their battle was being complicated by the presence of Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing) and the fast-recovering Buurman. While Buurman found a way past Reindler, Fisher and Hollings had a coming together at Becketts.
It was described by the commentary team at the time as "one of those accidents that take a long time to happen." Whatever its duration, it left Hollings in wall, while Fisher recovered enough to hang on to his place in the National Class, though both Buurman and Reindler got ahead of him on the track. As Fisher explained later: "I had a pretty eventful race. I spun at Becketts, and hit Charlie Hollings; that knocked me straight, but unfortunately he went into the wall." Hollings didn't seem to be taking it too personally, despite the fact that that's twice in two meetings someone else has accidentally punted him into the scenery (Duran got him at Mondello).
Almost unnoticed in all the chaos of the National Class, Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) had steadily made his way through the field, and was now harassing Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) for 7th place, both of them having started a long way down the order. Presumably Kane was keen to end the day as the fastest Lola driver, but Dirani wasn't playing. And anyway all eyes were now on Kimball, who was almost 7 seconds ahead of Senna, and beginning to lap the backmarkers. No one could stay with him today, and if he returns for a second season of F3, he's going to be a very hard man to beat, regardless of which team he joins. As he himself admitted afterwards: "This was the perfect weekend, from the pace we showed in testing, through qualifying to the races. It all came together for us at the end of the year, making the most of all the experience we've got over the year. The new Mugen-Honda is a step forward, although it's not like bolting on half a second. It gave us scope to improve the car, so once we'd worked on tyre life, we could carry our qualifying pace through to the race."
Senna was a lonely second: "Charlie was lapping very fast. My car was fast, but I had a little bit of understeer, so it used up the tyres. Charlie had his own race and I had mine; given the circumstances I'm happy with second place."
Asmer held off Conway and Clarke all the way to the flag, and never looked as if he would be able to challenge the top two. "I had a good car; I took third at the start, and then just concentrated on holding the position. I knew that trying to catch Bruno would be a big risk, so I had to settle for third. But I'm happy to be back on the podium."
4th was Clarke, from Lewis, James Walker (Fortec Motorsport), Dirani, Kane and Bridgman. 11th went to Jelley, with National Class winner Duran, behind him. Buurman, Clucas, Reindler, Fisher, Ihara, Kennard, Jones, Cheong and Annala filled out the remaining places.
With the advent of the Mercedes engine, and negotiations underway to allow the series to run on the fabulous street circuit of Pau in south western France next year, we have a lot to look forward to. The series will also run at Spa-Francorchamps and Imola, and will support the A1GP series at Brands Hatch. It's going to be interesting in 2006. Watch this space.