Narrow lead The still young 2009 ATS Formula 3 Cup season already has celebrated its first highlight: the third and fourths rounds held at the Nurburgring as part of the ADAC Zurich 24-Hour Race's support programme - in front of a record crowd...
The still young 2009 ATS Formula 3 Cup season already has celebrated its first highlight: the third and fourths rounds held at the Nurburgring as part of the ADAC Zurich 24-Hour Race's support programme - in front of a record crowd of 235,000 spectators. And the numerous Formula 3 fans witnessed German Formula 3 history in the making. Swiss Rahel Frey was the first woman ever to win a Formula 3 race on German soil. "I haven't quite realised what has happened," the petite driver with the outstanding fighting spirit beamed on Saturday afternoon.
She laid the foundation stone for her triumph as early as in the qualifying session on Friday by securing the pole position. Nonetheless - or possibly even just because of that - she was extremely nervous, prior to the race. "The last time I had secured a pole position do date was in the Formula Masters," the 23-year old revealed, "And in that race, everything went wrong." On Saturday afternoon, however, she experienced a perfect race. A very good start was followed by 18 nearly flawless and consistent laps. Even her competitors paid her respect: "She drove a very good race," confirmed the 2009 ATS Formula 3 Cup top favourite, Laurens Vanthoor. The Belgian had to settle for finishing second, some six seconds behind the winner. And at no point in time he had had a realistic chance of pressurising and passing her.
At the same time, the great environment at the Nurburgring also resulted in some restrictions for the ATS Formula 3 Cup. So, the 21 drivers had to go out for the qualifying session just 15 minutes after the end of the practice session. Consequently, the teams hadn't enough time for executing major changes on their single-seaters. "We even lacked the time for analysing the most important data," explained HS Technik Team Principal Michael Hascic. "Therefore, we had to postpone this task to the time after the qualifying session." The usual starting procedure also was modified. There was no time for a warm-up lap and therefore, the young-guns followed the safety-car from the paddock right onto the final starting grid.
The 24-hour race itself that was started on Saturday at 16hrs and ended on Sunday at the same time was won by the Manthey-Racing Porsche Team for the fourth consecutive time. The field of the endurance-racing classic also featured a former ATS Formula 3 Cup driver: Carlo van Dam, the 2007 Cup Champion, contested the race in the SP3T category with a VW Scirocco and finished third in the class.
In a fortnight, the ATS Formula 3 Cup will make its next stop at the Hockenheimring and the battle for the championship lead couldn't be much closer. Vanthoor has got 31 points on his tally, just one more than Frey. While Step Dusseldorp has lost some ground and dropped back to third. At the Nurburgring, the rookie had to pay the price for his lack of experience: in the qualifying session he lost it on cold tyres, went off, stranded - and had to cope with a position at the end of the grid. In the race, however, the Dutchman demonstrated his skills by delivering in stunning style and working his way up to finish fifth, from his 20th grid position.
Meanwhile, the ATS Formula 3 Trophy currently is dominated by Sergey Chukanov who races an Arttech F24 OPC-Challenge. The Ukrainian has won all the races contested so far and holds a 12-point lead over Francesco Lopez and Mika Vahamaki. Lopez finished third in both rounds of the Nurburgring weekend and the Finn secured two second places.