Watts wins thriller at Thruxton

The weather was vile in the run up to the race, but the rain stopped just as the pit lane opened. However, the heavens promptly opened again as the cars went out to line up. James Walker (Hitech Racing) pulled straight back into the pits, possibly...

The weather was vile in the run up to the race, but the rain stopped just as the pit lane opened. However, the heavens promptly opened again as the cars went out to line up. James Walker (Hitech Racing) pulled straight back into the pits, possibly opting for a sensible start, possibly still suffering with the misfire that plagued him and James Jakes yesterday and caused them to have dreadful qualifying sessions. The pit lane is closed which means Walker is now trapped in there. Meanwhile, Danny Watts (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), who is anything but faint-hearted, was busy telling people that it was too dangerous to race, given the amount of water on the track. The officials then decided to delay the start, and that the cars would have to start behind the Safety Car. While all this was going on, Walker was still sitting in the pit lane, his Mercedes engine misfiring horribly.

A fresh five minute board was shown, and the Safety Car settled in just ahead of the start/finish line. It was anyone's guess how long it would need to stay out there. It was, however, the only sensible thing to do, or, as Danny Watts put it, "there'd have been 22 F3 cars in a hedge somewhere!"

Needless to say, the order at the end of the first lap was exactly the same as the grid order, apart from the unfortunate Walker who was bringing up the rear. Watts led, from Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport), Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport), Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3), Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) and Stuart Hall (T-Sport). 11th was Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), National Class leader Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), James Jakes (Hitech Racing), Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), Juho Annala (Performance Racing), Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport), Oliver Turvey (Team Loctite) and Alex Waters (Promatecme F3). Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing) was bringing up the rear, because Walker had dragged his constantly misfiring car back to the pits where it was being tweaked again in an attempt to get more than three cylinders working at any given time.

Just to enhance the sense of unreality, Avila came up as having set the fastest lap (presumably while he tried to catch up with the pack), while Annala kept edging alongside Leo Mansell. They went round like that for three laps, before the lights went out and Watts took off into the distance, Jarvis letting the Invitation Class runner go. His fight was with Senna, the only man who could stop him claiming the runner up slot in the 2007 title chase.

While the fight for 2nd sorted itself out, Annala set the first proper fastest lap of the race as he tried to find a way past "the other superstar", Mansell, the newcomer delaying the Finn enough that by the time he got through Gonzalez was so far ahead as to be uncatchable for the National Class lead and he had to settle for a quiet morning's drive in the rain. In the Championship Class, Jelley's race was going pear-shaped round about now, the Englishman losing two places after Buurman, a man who revels in wet or slippery conditions, took advantage of everyone else's confusion to sneak up two places.

Having let Watts go, Jarvis promptly set about trying to make a break and shake off Senna, setting a new fastest lap, while at the back end, Avila almost inevitably pitched himself into spin, though he was able to get going at the tail-end of the field.

The National Class seemed pretty stable, which was a lot more than you could say for the Championship Class runners. Conway had a go at Engel into the Chicane, but was rebuffed, even though the German was sandwiched between Senna and the new champion. They were each waiting for the other to make a mistake, while Buurman was now setting the race pace and Watts was attempting to disappear up the road. Conway took another look at Engel, and Senna was now on Jarvis' tail again. Jarvis responded by pulling away again, which meant he was starting to catch Watts. The entire cluster of cars battling for second was becoming ever denser, because Buurman was now with Conway, which was not what Conway wanted at this point. The other thing he didn't need was Engel to get off track and spin in front of him, the unfortunate rookie suffering in the appalling visibility and simply driving off the track because he couldn't see where it was. By the time he'd sorted himself out he was 13th.

Meanwhile, in the National and Invitation Classes, Morgado had found his way past Leo Mansell, while Turvey, still suffering from a lack of mileage in the car, was holding off Waters, even as they all pulled away from Ihara.

The real interest was at the front though. Buurman was pressing on at an unabated pace and was now lapping at around a second faster than the leader as he tried to find a way past Conway. Senna, meanwhile, tried again to go round the outside of Jarvis, which simply let Conway catch up again rather than having the intended effect. In addition, all four of them were now starting to catch Watts at an alarming rate, so much so that his safety cushion of four seconds was now almost all gone. He was holding them all up. That allowed Jelley, who was sitting just a safe distance back from the squabbling pack at the front, to get fastest lap. The next lunge came from Buurman, who this time tried to get Conway at Cobb, but yet again couldn't make it stick. Engel was busy trying to recover as the leaders came up behind Avila, having now caught the backmarkers. Avila behaved impeccably, pulling right over and almost stopping as he attempted to avoid getting in the way. The next obstacle was Ihara, and they caught her just as they all exited the Chicane. She looked in her mirrors at the top 5 and promptly dived up the pitlane to get out of the way. It was a bit extreme, but it worked.

That let the top 5 tear down to the Complex together, with Jarvis now close enough to attempt a pass on Watts. Watts wasn't having it, and shut the door. He knew Jarvis couldn't afford to take too many chances, and that if it came to it, he would probably back off rather than risk a fight with a man who wasn't scoring points in this race. All the excitement proved too much for Avila, who now made a complete nonsense of the Chicane and pulled into the pits, just as Jelley tacked on to the tail-end of the battle for the lead. Conway finally saw his opportunity, and dived alongside Senna at the Chicane, towing Buurman with him as the Brazilian lost ground.

Further back, Kennard went off and took to the grass as his brakes started disappearing. He pitted soon afterwards, though again this was something of an irrelevance in comparison to what was going on at the front, as Watts, Jarvis, Conway, Buurman, Senna and Jelley continued to slug it out. The trouble was they were now set to lap Ihara a second time and this time she didn't have anywhere off track to go. That held up Conway and let Buurman get right up there with him. Despite having an apparently somewhat unstable car, Buurman made his move at the Complex, getting right alongside Conway, and then making contact with him. The two of them spun off, Conway just managing to stagger a little further before he went straight off into the scenery, his first retirement of the year. Senna lifted to avoid it all and Jelley saw his chance, sneaking through into 3rd overall (2nd in class) before the Brazilian had a chance to recover. The next change came when Valerio and Hall, battling away for 5th, tripped over Ihara and Bakkerud, who'd just set the latest fastest race lap said thank you very much, and shot up to 5th, a much better result than he could have hoped for at the start of the race.

The order as they crossed the line was a fine win for Watts, in his first F3 outing since Macau last year, and a convincing victory in the Invitation Class. Jarvis was 2nd overall (and led Senna in the chase for 2nd in the series by 15 points) but the winner in the Championship Class, ahead of Jelley, Senna, Bakkerud, Valerio and Hall. Greg Mansell was 2nd in the Invitation Class, ahead of the recovering Engel, and National Class winner Gonzalez. Annala was 2nd in the National Class and 11th overall, beating Jakes, Morgado (3rd in the National Class), Leo Mansell (3rd in the Invitation Class), Turvey (4th in the Invitation Class), Waters, Ihara and Avila.

The extra points for fastest lap went to Bakkerud (Championship Class) and Gonzalez (National Class).

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About this article
Series BF3
Drivers Alan Docking , Keiko Ihara , Oliver Jarvis , James Walker , Stuart Hall , James Jakes , Rodolfo Gonzalez , Bruno Senna , Christian Bakkerud , Juho Annala , Yelmer Buurman , Rodolfo Avila , Maro Engel , Cristiano Morgado , Alberto Valerio , Leo Mansell , Greg Mansell , Oliver Turvey , Alex Waters , Danny Watts , John Kennard , Stephen Jelley
Teams Carlin