Race Report: Weather: Cloudy, strong winds, dry. Round 19 of the British Formula Three series was always likely to be an interesting event, with an awful lot of people seemingly feeling they had a point to prove. For example, there was Rob...
Weather: Cloudy, strong winds, dry.
Round 19 of the British Formula Three series was always likely to be an interesting event, with an awful lot of people seemingly feeling they had a point to prove. For example, there was Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport), who probably wanted to prove he's as fast as he ever was, even though he no longer really has a single-seater career in front of him, while his team want to prove that the reason they haven't won any races recently isn't a lack of ability on their part. Lucas di Grassi (Hitech Racing) was out show that the two pole positions he took at Croft were not flukes, and he is capable of winning an F3 race in the UK. Hitech, of course, simply want to prove that they can win races, and that running four cars this year was not a mistake. Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) was out to prove he should be this year's champion, but then James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) and Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) also think they should be.
Anyway, with all the psychological pressures brought to bear, it was indeed an interesting race, just not always in the ways you might have expected. On the formation lap, Austin certainly didn't look likely to win, bogging down rather badly as the field of 19 cars set off for a final lap of Thruxton before the lights signalled the start of the race. At the front, di Grassi made a determined start, warding off Rossiter and forcing the youngster to back off, which dropped him into the clutches of Carroll and Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport). Carroll immediately went on the offensive, and Piccione had to drop back when Carroll got the benefit of a tow from Rossiter that Clivio thought might have been his.
In the Scholarship Class, Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing) got a good start, but then tripped over James Walker (Hitech Racing), who was going backwards, quite possibly because Marcus Marshall (Fortec Motorsport) had bogged down just in front of him. Into the bargain, Fairuz Fauzy (P1 Motorsport) managed to make a mess of things and ended up last, behind Walker. From Jelley's point of view, it meant Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was able to get on terms with him rather faster than he'd hoped for, but at least he was still in the lead once Walker and Fauzy were out of the way.
By the time they'd sorted themselves out at the end of the first lap, di Grassi was in the lead with Rossiter unable to challenge him, because he was still holding off Piccione and Carroll for 2nd. Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) was next up, ahead of Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport), and a desperately scrabbling Piquet who was trying all sorts to make up ground. Austin was 8th, which wasn't in his original plan. It didn't take long for Carroll to get the better of Piccione, the Monegasque wisely deciding that a certain 4th place was of more benefit to him than an unnecessary entanglement with two drivers fighting for the title. The third member of the title fight, Piquet, lasted two laps before he came a cropper at Village, the latest twist of fate in a weekend he really wasn't enjoying (being taken to hospital, having his car towed away, no luck at all). Afterwards, all he could do was blame himself. "I did a mistake," he said, wandering off to contemplate the fact that he had scored no points at all in Round 19.
Further down the order, and seemingly unnoticed by anyone, Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) was busy doing what he does best; racing. He'd started a long way back, but he wasn't planning on finishing the day out of the top ten if he could help it. He clawed his was past Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) and was on the tail of Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) for 7th place before anyone had even realised what was going on back there. Power soon noticed he'd got the Lola-Dome on his rear wing, though it did him no good. There wasn't a thing he could do about it. While the Australian tried to get on terms with Dirani, Watts waited for the opportune moment, which wasn't long in arriving. All this meant that Dirani found himself free to pursue Austin, who was struggling to hang onto his position in the race. And just behind them, Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) was holding off Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing), having passed him a lap earlier, and Marshall, who was trying to recover after his bad start. And at the front, di Grassi simply went on his way as if he'd been leading races all season. The real mid-field reshuffle came when Austin, pushing hard, lost it at the Chicane. When the resulting cloud of tyre smoke cleared, it was Watts who had benefited the most, slotting into 6th place behind Asmer, while Parente was now 8th behind Dirani. Austin, meanwhile, was 14th by the time he'd sorted himself out, though he was at least still in front of Fauzy, which was all that Menu cared about.
In the Scholarship Class things took a turn for the dramatic too. Jelley had been happily in the lead and was hanging onto the position regardless of anything Lewis tried, but then Marshall suffered from a major mechanical breakdown and started to go backwards through the pack. Jelley had to lift to avoid the stricken Australian and that was all the invitation Lewis needed to snatch the lead. Jelley would pursue him for the rest of the race but to absolutely no avail. While Lewis only needed four points to claim the Scholarship Championship he was more than happy to clinch the title with a win. Jelley, on the other hand, was disappointed in himself, claiming he'd lacked the balls needed to hold off Lewis - this seemed a little harsh to say the least. Especially as he'd also had to deal with Austin, who was busy trying to salvage something from the mess his race had become. He was on such a charge that he claimed the fastest lap of the race, so he was at least one point better off at the end of the race. Sadly that was all he got, because his charge back up the order fell apart in the closing stages and he dropped back to fall victim to Fauzy before the end. That was definitely not in the plan.
Back at the front, di Grassi was still unchallenged as Rossiter came under increasing pressure from Carroll, while Piccione was having a very quiet morning, running in a lonely 4th. Behind him Asmer was also pretty much running in clear air, as was Watts. Dirani, on the other hand, was having to fight Parente, and was losing the battle, having to give way to his teammate and let him through into 7th place with a third of the race left. It can't have pleased the Brazilian too much, but there was nothing he could do about it. And with five laps left, it was pretty much all over with. The only real interest was watching Carroll lunging at Rossiter, but as he was failing to get past even that didn't provide any changes.
And so di Grassi came home to his first F3 win of the season, making 10 different winners out of 19 races this season. Piquet still leads the title chase, by 33 points, which coincidentally is also his race number. This championship is beginning to seem a little unreal, as if no one actually wants it, or at least as if they're all too polite to take it. Rossiter hung on to 2nd place, despite all Carroll's efforts, and Piccione finished a quiet 4th. Asmer was 5th, from Watts, Parente, Dirani, Thompson and Power. Fauzy finished just outside the points in 11th, ahead of Scholarship Class winner Lewis, with runner up Jelley just ahead of Austin and Walker. Ronayne O'Mahony (Performance Racing) was 3rd in the Scholarship Class, still fighting to stay awake after his sister's wedding on Saturday, just ahead of Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3).
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite