Changes: Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport) and Basil Shaaban (Comtec F3) are still here in the Invitation Class, and Stuart Hall is back, but no longer with Fortec Motorsport. Having missed a meeting, he has now signed to drive for T-Sport,...
Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport) and Basil Shaaban (Comtec F3) are still here in the Invitation Class, and Stuart Hall is back, but no longer with Fortec Motorsport. Having missed a meeting, he has now signed to drive for T-Sport, taking the car formerly driven by Dennis Retera.
We're all up at the crack of dawn because we're here at Silverstone supporting the Grand Prix Masters, and presumably they're all too old to get up this early. The F3 boys are tucked away at the far end of the pit lane and made to show passes if they want to move away from their garages. Have you ever felt like a second-class citizen?
Anyway, promptly at 9am the cars went out to play, and the almost immediate effect was a Raikkonen Robertson Racing provisional pole position, this time for Stephen Jelley. He was being challenged strongly by Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport) and the returned Hall. Needless to say that changed quite quickly, with Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) now taking the top slot. He was rapidly joined on the front row by James Walker (Hitech Racing, the team suffering an attack of being a bit F1 with some daft topiary outside their truck), and now it was Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) who was putting in a good run, untroubled by the sky falling on his head for once.
The times were rapidly changing at this stage, as the track cleaned up a little, but the weather conditions were very strange, with gusting winds round the back and temperatures reminiscent of March not August. As a result, it looked likely that the tyres wouldn't last long, so you'd better get your laps in quickly. Conway was still hanging on at the top, with Jelley now settling in beside him on the front row. Conway's time was now 1.42.093, and he looked as if he was likely to be in the 1.41s before long. Sure enough, the series leader went rocketing round and promptly did just that. The normal order of things seemed to be back in place again. The less than normal order of events came about when Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) went up to 3rd, the apparent improvements he's been showing recently seemingly continuing. He was pushed down a place when Bruno Senna decide he wanted to be 2nd. Quite apart from having a four page spread in BusinessF1 (to the disgruntlement of Trevor Carlin), Double R Racing were everywhere on the track too, and had now taken over the top three positions.
In the National Class, Juho Annala (Performance Racing) was leading for once, while Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) was struggling with the weather, and tyres that were less than pristine after a grassy moment. Maybe someone else could have National Class pole for once.
Anyway, at the sharp end things seemed to be slowing down a little, though Walker and Bakkerud both managed to improve their times, though not their positions. Meanwhile, Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport) was trying to take the fight to Double R, and did so quite effectively, splitting Conway and Senna, at least for a while. They were reunited when Senna shot up the order, snatching pole from under Conway's nose.
The National Class had temporarily snapped back to normal, with Gonzalez leading, from Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) who had slotted in just ahead of Annala. Moraes was being regarded as pole man by all of them, but was actually on Invitation Class pole, well ahead of Shaaban.
The session still had over 15 minutes to run, but the times were not coming through as the Avon tyres simply lost their optimum grip in the cold. Conway and Jarvis both managed to go quicker, but remained 2nd and 3rd. There followed a general rush for the pits, led by Kennard, and Annala. Jelley came in, the team adjusted the front wing, but he got out anyway, as did Senna, despite only being ahead by 0.220 seconds. Jarvis stayed out and again managed to squeeze a slight improvement out of his car, but still didn't go up the order any.
With half the session gone, the order was Senna, from Conway, Jarvis, Kennard, Jelley, Bakkerud, Walker, James Jakes (Hitech Racing), Engel and Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing). 11th was Buurman, Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing), Hall, Moraes, Alberto Valerio (Cesario Formula UK), Morgado who was now on National Class pole, Gonzalez, Annala, Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing) and Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport). Shaaban was 21st, from Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport), Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing) and Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3).
Conway was next to abandon the effort, and clambered out of his car. There seemed to be no intention of going back out to play as far as Raikkonen Robertson Racing were concerned. There was a lot of tyre swapping going on, left to right and vice versa, but no one seemed keen to actually use them if they could avoid it. By this point, there was only one of the top ten still out there, and for good measure Reindler seemed to be missing in action somewhere out in the boonies. He'd done his fastest time on his third lap out and hadn't been seen again. Just to maintain team solidarity, Kennard had had to have grass cleared out of his radiators early on, so life was busy at ADR.
Perhaps in a spirit of optimism (or desperation) Engel headed back out for a brief look at the situation. It did no good and he was soon back in again, convinced there was no improvement to be had. Kennard tried too, and he too was soon back and out of the car. Just to prove that it really wasn't working, Buurman had a go as well, and meat with just as little success. It really wasn't happening for anyone, and as Conway was interviewed over the circuit sound system and complained about traffic, pretty much everyone abandoned the effort.
With three minutes to go it was still Senna, from Conway, Jarvis, Kennard, Jelley, Bakkerud, Walker, Jakes, Engel and Duran. Buurman remained 11th, from Reindler, Hall, Moraes, Valerio (who was still out there), Morgado, Gonzalez, Annala, Avila and Ihara (who was also still out - you could argue she needs the practice more than most). Shaaban was 21st from Khateeb, Kudzak, and Teixeira (the latter three also till circulating at the flag). And that was it. On a miserably grey day, Senna was back on form.