2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship Round 5, Silverstone, Northamptonshire, May 3rd/4th/5th Changes: Matthew Gilmore's Ralt had been replaced with a Dallara F302, this despite the speed it showed in the hands of Andy Priaulx in...
2002 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship Round 5, Silverstone, Northamptonshire, May 3rd/4th/5th
Matthew Gilmore's Ralt had been replaced with a Dallara F302, this despite the speed it showed in the hands of Andy Priaulx in testing the other day. Unfortunately, it really needs an experienced F3 hand to coax the best out of it, and as Matt is just learning about Championship Class cars, he's really not the man for the job right now.
At Fred Goddard Racing, Earl Goddard replaced Jason Tahinci, who was described by Fred as being "out of his depth" at Donington. He wasn't wrong. At least Earl would not get into trouble out there, though the reduced power levels after the EuroBOSS cars he normally drives must have come as a bit of a shock to Fred's son and heir.
Stephen Colbert had moved from Team Park to Meritus Racing and so was driving a Mugen-Honda-engined Dallara... He was replaced by Stefan Hodgetts, who is there on a race-by-race basis (for which read "he doesn't have a full budget, and the team will run him as and when he can afford to race").
In addition we had Reck Junior or possibly Junior Reck from Brazil in the second Essencial Motorsport car, here with a crew of Brazilian engineers/mechanics, none of whom seemed too sure what was going on. As matters transpired, they weren't alone in not knowing what they were doing...
Qualifying - Round 5:
Weather: Cloudy, clearing.
This time out, the Scholarship and Championship cars were all out together for the more traditional 30-minute session as in theory there is enough space on the Silverstone GP circuit. Despite this, Jesper Carlsen (Essencial) was into the gravel quite early on his way through Stowe, and it was beginning to look as if he was trying to hang on to the 100% record he was so impressed by at Donington. However, he managed to scrabble back on and get going again. It was hardly an auspicious start though.
The first driver to set a flying lap was Michael Keohane (Carlin Motorsport), though he wouldn't top the times for long. He was quickly joined by his teammate, James Courtney, though it might have been difficult to be certain of this. Instead of the usual MST timing screens, because this meeting was one of the Eurosport Super Racing Weekends, the timing was being done by another company altogether, who had probably better remain nameless. Suffice it to say that for most of the session, it was almost impossible to tell at a glance where anyone was in the order. For Round 6 qualifying it got worse when they took it into their heads to assume that the two sessions were supposed to be combined... Anyway, enough of that, eventually we sorted out what was going on - but it wasn't at all easy. And to begin with many of the times that appeared were quite obviously incorrect - Mark Mayall being briefly listed as having done a 1.35 on a circuit where 1.41 would be pretty remarkable in an F3 car...
Next to top the times was Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing), who was followed by Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport). However, it was too early to tell how things would pan out. Courtney then raised the stakes again, only to get displaced by Bruce Jouanny. Then Courtney went faster again, so the order read Courtney, Kerr and van der Merwe. In fourth was David Clark (Team Park) in the first of the Scholarship Class cars, then came Tom Sisley (Motaworld), Gavin Smith (Team Meritus), Stefan Hodgetts (Team Park) and Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport). After his miserable weekend at Donington, Taylor was looking much better and hauled himself up the order from 19th to 4th all of a sudden. Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport) then began to get into his stride, taking a provisional 4th place, the Renault-powered Fortec cars looking very quick round the Grand Prix circuit. Another driver looking quick (and a lot calmer than he was in the first few rounds) was Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport), who then moved up the order to 6th.
All this movement at the top seemed to be at the expense of the man currently running away with the Scholarship title, Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing). He was down in what was for him a rather distant 15th overall but would soon wake up and begin to show his customary pace. Mark Taylor then snatched pole from Kovalainen and Jouanny, while Carroll moved into 4th place. What will happen if he ever gets overall pole, we can't imagine, but it looks increasingly possible. He was faster at this point than Courtney, the championship leader. Behind him, Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) had just edged out Antinucci, Keohane, Kerr and van der Merwe. They were followed by Clark, Sisley, Smith and Shinya Hosokawa (Formula Dream Team Carlin) who seemed to be more under control than he has been of late. Maybe it was the presence of Andrew Gilbert-Scott, who also looks after Takuma Sato. An unhappy Ernani Judice (Promatecme International) was next up, then Hodgetts, Gilmore and Clivio Piccione (T-Sport).
And then there was a bit of a surprise as Carbone took his first pole position. He would keep it despite everyone's best efforts to get back at him. This shows the advantages of a little local knowledge. After all, this was the first circuit of the season that he had actually seen before, as he raced here in 2001 in the European Formula Renault series. Other people who has also seen the circuit before were not in any way helped by this - Harold Primat (Diamond Racing) managed to have a bit of a spin and came in with the car full of grass. Meanwhile, Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing) was also in trouble, but in his case it was mechanical as he sat in the pits waiting for a sticking throttle to be cured. At least this time out, everyone would get into the race, despite the fact that the entry list stood at 34 cars. However, that would not be much consolation to those who were at the back. Another unhappy driver was James Courtney. He was still in 5th and he was furious about it afterwards, leaving the Carlin awning with a face like a thundercloud! It was a long way from his performances in the earlier rounds and he knew it. Another driver not showing as well as he did in the first rounds was Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport). After a series of top six finishes, you had to look a long way back to find him down in 19th. He would finally manage to improve to 16th, but team boss Mike Baker was less than happy later, admitting that they had gone completely the wrong way with the set up and were now paying the price for trying to be clever.
Just to prove that Carbone's effort was no fluke, Kovalainen was now 3rd, split from his teammate by Taylor. And with an awful lot of the session still to run, that was pretty well it for changes and improvements. There were soon more drivers in the pits than on the circuit. Gilmore was in having an electrical problem attended to. Courtney was also in, pondering what he had to do to get pole for the next race. Mark Mayall was perched on the pit wall watching proceedings, while Carbone and Kovalainen were watching the timing screens in case they had to go out again. Basically they had both got the best from their Avons and there was little point in continuing. It was really only the desperate who were still out there. Austin was among them, as was Kerr who was looking very quick but was unable to improve on 7th. Meanwhile Reck Junior was all over the place as he tried to get the hang of this F3 business, and was generally just in the way of everyone else. Needless to say it wasn't much of a surprise when he qualified dead last and then elected not to race, instead wandering about all day in his race suit and boots, pretending to be a racing driver.