Changes: We have one additional car in the National Class with the addition of Aaron Steele, who has joined Litespeed F3. In the International Class Philip Major has joined Carlin Motorsport, stepping into the place recently abandoned by Oliver ...
Changes: We have one additional car in the National Class with the addition of Aaron Steele, who has joined Litespeed F3. In the International Class Philip Major has joined Carlin Motorsport, stepping into the place recently abandoned by Oliver Oakes. Whether the Canadian will look any more impressive than he did last year remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Nick Tandy (JTR) is not present as he's been offered a semi-paid drive in the EuroSeries and couldn't really afford to turn it down.
At Snetterton this morning Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) snatched pole position by the narrowest of margins, beating out Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) - or more properly Henry Miles Fitzalan-Howard, Earl of Arundel and Surrey - by 0.003 seconds. Just behind the two of them was Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport) after what was a very quiet but close session. The National Class pole went to Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) who finished 10th overall.
When the pit-lane opened, no one seemed very keen to go out, and in fact the commentary team was busy reassuring people that the session had actually started. The better part of five minutes had elapsed before anyone ventured out onto the track, and even then there wasn't exactly a rush. New boy Steele was the first to crack, dragging Max Snegirev (Team West-Tec) and Hywel Lloyd (CF Racing). The three of them trundled around for a while, and then with 23 minutes left on the clock it started to get a little busier. Needless to say Lloyd went to pole initially, but that was simply because no one else was out there. The times were also significantly slower than might be expected, with the fastest time in the 1:04s. Things would undoubtedly speed up as the session wore on so we all waited for more cars to emerge.
Next out were Chilton and Arundel who nosed their way out just as Snegirev went 2nd, which proved it was all a bit silly. A further change saw Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport) go 2nd, while Lloyd edged into the 1:03s. A third of the session was now over and there were still only 10 cars out there. It's all very well waiting for someone to go out and clean the track for you, but what happens if no one is willing to go? We were starting to find out!
Further changes came when Wayne Boyd (T-Sport) joined Lloyd on the front row, but he was pushed out of 2nd almost immediately afterwards by Bridger. However, the serious front runners were still in the garages and weren't showing much inclination to change that any time soon. That left the likes of Boyd and Bridger to play at the front for a while. The National Class competitors were also near the front too, with Victor Correa (Litespeed F3) occupying provisional class pole, and 4th overall for a while. He had van der Zande just behind him, so nothing was normal at this point.
With the times finally in the 1:02s Daniel Riccardo (Carlin Motorsport) finally joined in, the series leader being the last man out. Chilton snatched 3rd while the Australian set off on his out lap, and then Grubmuller leapfrogged up to pole. Gabriel Dias (T-Sport) then started to show, moving to 5th overall and Class pole.
At the front things were now really hotting up, with van der Zande going fastest and Henry Arundel slotting in to 4th. Meanwhile, McKenzie had staked his claim to the National Class and wouldn't be dislodged; which was more than could be said at the top. Grubmuller grabbed pole back from his Dutch team-mate, while behind them Riki Christodoulou edged into 4th, just behind Bridger. They all got demoted a place by Chilton, who then lost out in turn to Arundel. Then Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport) joined in too, stealing 2nd from under everyone's noses. Christodoulou was still in contention too, and settled in to provisional pole for a few seconds, and then Chilton upped the pace further with a 1:02.079. It was beginning to look as if a 1:01 was likely. Certainly van der Zande's pace suggested it might be as he got ahead again. Further changes were still on the cards though.
The next improvement came from Arundel (amid suggestions that as the son of the Duke of Norfolk he has to do well on Norfolk's only race circuit!) who moved back up to 3rd again and the to 2nd. Of his team mate Ricciardo there was little sign, the Aussie diving back into the pits almost immediately he'd finished his warm up lap. On his re-emergence he promptly grabbed 6th, and began to push. However, he'd left it a little late. Most of the others were now finding that track conditions, often strange here, had changed drastically and they were wasting their efforts.
Someone who was definitely wasting his efforts was Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon) who was shown the black and white driving standards flag for not respecting the track limits. It was unkindly but accurately pointed out that he was unlikely to be going fast enough to go off, but clearly he had offended. He wasn't quite last, but only because Correa, Snegirev and Steele were slower, and they're in National Class cars. With 10 minutes remaining, the top ten was van der Zande from Arundel, Chilton, Grubmuller, Christodoulou, Ricciardo, Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Buzaid, Bridger and McKenzie on National Class pole.
While a lot of the front runners pitted rather than waste rubber on the changed track, the occasional improvement was seen. Lloyd went faster but stayed down in 16th. Snegirev also went faster and managed to improve from 20th to 19th, so no one was getting too excited about that. Ricciardo, on the other hand, improved two places for 4th in a top 15 covered by less than a second. Carlos Huertas was also able to improve his time, but it didn't actually do him any good and he stayed 12th. Snegirev found a few more tenths but again wasn't able to move up the order and Steele also went faster but stayed last.
With time still on the clock the track again emptied and stayed that way until the chequered flag was hung out. Van der Zande had pole by a tiny margin, ahead of Arundel, Chilton, Ricciardo, Grubmuller, Christodoulou, Nakajima, Buzaid, Bridger and McKenzie. 11th was Boyd, from Huertas, Dias, Major, Garcia, Lloyd, Richelmi, Correa, Snegirev and Steele.
Weather: Hot, sunny.