Qualifying Report: Weather: Windy. Warm. Just as he had been in the first session, so Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) was again out first for the second session of the day, this one counting towards Round 18 of the series. Clivio Piccione ...
Weather: Windy. Warm.
Just as he had been in the first session, so Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) was again out first for the second session of the day, this one counting towards Round 18 of the series. Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport) was another one who was out there early taking a good look at track conditions. He wasn't looking a lot faster at this stage but it's hard to tell as they all explore the track to see what difference the presence of the LMES cars between the two F3 sessions would make. It seemed to have improved things somewhat, the rubber laid down by the Porsches and Audis leaving the track in better condition than it had been in the morning.
Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) wasn't wasting any time, and was soon at the top of the times, but Power took it right back, and was joined on the provisional front row by Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport), the pair of then in the 1.47s very quickly. Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) on the other hand, was in the pits, initially just for tyres, but then he hung around getting all sorts of adjustments made to the car. Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) always seems to reach his peak early in the session, and with him in 7th this looked like it would be the same thing all over again. Piccione, meanwhile, was on the pace and took a temporary run to 3rd place. It was just a question of whether he could keep it. What was rather odd was the presence of Marcus Marshall (Fortec Motorsport), the likeable Australian a lot further up the order than usual in 6th. He probably wouldn't get to stay there, but his parents were over and there were rumours that this would be his last race, so let him enjoy it while he could.
In the Scholarship Class it was all down to the battling duo of Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing), and Ryan Lewis (T-Sport), Lewis again getting the better of Jelley in the early stages and looking set to stay ahead.
There was an early rush to the pits for new tyres going on, and it looked as if we'd have another session where all the interest would be crammed into the early part of the session, and then we could all go off and watch paint dry. Power led the general rush to the pits, and was followed by most of the rest of the field. Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport) was now 3rd, while Piccione was clinging on to 4th with grim determination. He too wandered into the pits early though, having got off line on both of his fastest laps. He wasn't too happy with the situation, unsurprisingly perhaps. Austin, meanwhile, was still 2nd and looking very strong.
And while all this was going on, Carroll was still in the pits, biding his time perhaps, stewing in frustration more like. Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) was now out on the track and looking ready to go for a time. If that was what you thought, you weren't mistaken. He's been nowhere, but now he was on pole, by six tenths of a second. It was impressive as hell, and most people were probably shaking their heads and wondering what they could do about the Brazilian teenager. The answer turned out to be not very much, no matter how hard they tried to convince themselves that it was simply that he'd gone out on new tyres straight away. As it turned out, he hadn't. It did nothing for the confidence of the rest of them to know that.
Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) came back out on his new tyres, but they didn't seem to do him any good at all. James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) was again struggling to start with and was now 10th, just behind Piccione who has slipped back to 9th. Meanwhile, the top four was Piquet, from Austin, Power and Watts. Elsewhere, Jelley had gone agricultural and was hacking across the grass, which wasn't doing his chances of seeing off Lewis any good at all.
At the front, Piquet was piling on the pressure by going even faster. Both Austin and Carroll attempted to respond, as did Power. Carroll clawed his way up to 3rd, while Austin did his best to hang on to 2nd, only to lose it to Power after a wild but fast lap from the Australian. While Piquet put in an even faster lap, Austin came straight back at Power to reclaim a front row slot. Oddly, Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) was also in the top ten, and was now 8th, while his teammate Lucas di Grassi was 5th. But there was still half the session left to run. Things could still change drastically. Power clearly hadn't given up yet, that was for sure. The next thing anyone knew, the Australian had edged back ahead of Austin, while a little further down Chandhok was now 8th. The weird thing was that the wind had shifted round as the session got underway, and now there was a cross wind on the main straight that was affecting handling and seemed to be spooking some drivers worse than others. It was odd, because afterwards some people complained about it and others claimed not to have even noticed it.
Watts was now in the pits and had consequently slipped to 12th, while Rossiter leap-frogged up to 5th. The top four were still swapping around (well, Piquet was staying right where, he was while Carroll, Austin and Power fought for 2nd). It was beginning to slow again though. While Lewis claimed the Scholarship Class pole by half a second, and then pitted, the main of the improvements seemed to be over.
With ten minutes left, Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) wasn't exactly happy. He was only 11th, the only positive thing to be said for it was that his team-mate Dirani was slower than him - only just but you look for encouragement where you cam find it in those sort of circumstances. Watts, meanwhile, was on the way back up the order having recently emerged from the pits. Di Grassi was another one improving, and was now 5th. While all this was going on, Piquet had pitted, a stone embedded in the front right tyre. He didn't really need to go back out there, anyway, so he clambered out of the car and watched the rest of the session from the pit wall. He can't have found it very interesting, though Rossiter was still on the move, gaining a place to go 5th. Asmer, meanwhile, was skittering around on the marbles at Woodcote, but he wasn't likely to go any faster now. There were slight improvements, but no one was changing places. Di Grassi gave up with a little under five minutes left, and he wasn't the only one.
Watts hadn't given up though. A late dash saw him grab 4th place alongside Austin. Lars Sexton (Planet Racing), on the other hand, was last of all again, and had now ground to a halt out on the track. And really, that was about it, apart from a last lap improvement from Rossiter to go back to 5th, ahead of Power.
And so Piquet claimed another fine pole position, from Carroll, Austin, Watts, Rossiter, Power, di Grassi, Piccione, Asmer and Fairuz Fauzy (P1 Motorsport), who must be regretting leaving Menu. 11th was Parente, from Dirani, Thompson, Marshall, Chandhok and James Walker (Hitech Racing), the latter so scathing about his own performance that the quote is unusable in public! To no one's surprise, Lewis again claimed the Scholarship Class pole, from Jelley, James Winslow (Reon Racing), Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3), Ronayne O'Mahony (Performance Racing) and Sexton.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite