60th Grand Prix de Pau, June 10th/11th/12th, 2000. Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite Warm Up: On Monday morning the warm up should have been quite a gentle affair but it wasn't. There were some very nasty marks on the sidewalls...
60th Grand Prix de Pau, June 10th/11th/12th, 2000.
Report by Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
On Monday morning the warm up should have been quite a gentle affair but it wasn't. There were some very nasty marks on the sidewalls of Takuma Sato's tyres for someone who claimed he hadn't touched the wall. Perhaps there was something a little Zen about all this; maybe the wall had touched him. Whatever, he certainly wasn't as blameless as he was trying to make himself out to be. Someone who definitely did touch the wall, though, was Milos Pavlovic. The RC Benetton car was a mess, and Milos's knee wasn't much better. He was hustled into the ambulance and promptly taken to the medical centre. There he was passed fit to race though his knee was very swollen. Perhaps they should have had a quick look at his brain too, as he managed to leave his helmet and gloves in the ambulance and didn't realise until just before the race start, five hours later, at which point panic ensued before the missing items were located in the Clerk of the Course's office. Maybe he didn't expect that the team would be able to fix the car; or maybe he just hit his head as well as his knee.
<pre> Warm Up Times: 1st - No 12 - Nicolas Kiesa, RC, F300 Opel, 1:12.806 2nd - No 31 - Patrick Friesacher, BSR, F300 Opel, 1:12.907 3rd - No 8 - Tristan Gommendy, ASM, F399 Renault, 1:13.067 4th - No 25 - Ryo Fukuda, LD, F399 Renault, 1:13.178 5th - No 21 - Antonio Pizzonia, Manor, F300 Honda, 1:13.225 6th - No 4 - Mathieu Zangarelli, Signature, F399 Renault, 1:13.304 7th - No 5 - Jonathan Cochet, Signature, F399 Renault, 1:13.351 8th - No 29 - Takuma Sato, Carlin, F300 Honda, 1:13.398 9th - No 30 - Ben Collins, Carlin, F300 Honda, 1:13.516 10th - No 7 - Tiago Monteiro, ASM, F399 Renault, 1:13.709 11th - No 17 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, F300 Honda, 1:13.808 12th - No 26 - Davide Uboldi, Uboldi, F399 Fiat, 1:13.854 13th - No 1 - James Andanson, La Filière, MK 79 Opel, 1:14.068 14th - No 27 - Paulo Montin, Target, F399 Opel, 1:14.134 15th - No 2 - Ying-Kin Lee Marchy, La Filière, MK 79 Opel, 1:14.386 16th - No 14 - Adam Jones, La Filière, MK 73 Opel, 1:14.418 17th - No 6 - Yannick Schroeder, Promatecme, F399 Renault, 1:14.549 18th - No 3 - Romain Dumas, La Filière, MK 79 Opel, 1:14.565 19th - No 15 - Philip Giebler, La Filière, MK 73 Opel, 1:14.899 20th - No 9 - Julien Beltoise, ASM, F399 Renault, 1:15.005 21st - No 16 - Julien Piguet, EMC2, F396 Opel, 1:15.719 22nd - No 64 - Lucas Lasserre, LD, F399 Renault, 1:16.001 23rd - No 22 - Juan Manuel Lopez, Manor, F300 Honda, 1:16.896 24th - No 32 - Andre Lotterer, BSR, F399 Opel, 1:17.827 25th - No 11 - Milos Pavlovic, RC, F300 Opel, 1:18.793 26th - No 20 - Warren Carway, Rowan, F300 Honda, 1:18.879 27th - No 19 - Frederic Makowiecki, Griffiths, F396 Fiat, 1:19.321 28th - No 37 - Pierre Gilbert, Griffiths, F396 Fiat, 1:31.048 29th - No 10 - Marcos Ambrose, EMC2, MK 79 Renault, 1:31.053
Weather: Clearing, hot and sunny by the end of the race.
Things got off to a bit of a bizarre start with a demonstration by various medical staff. They were protesting at being replaced in the French system by less skilled workers and the whole thing had a very staged look about it. They gathered on the track at Gare and all sat down until the forces of law and order in the shape of a contingent of the CRS appeared and started removing them. They all seemed to pose for the press for a few moments and then they dispersed peaceably enough and, with only a slight delay, the race start was once again a realistic possibility.
And so, a little late, the 60th Pau Grand Prix got underway. And very nearly came to an abrupt halt again about ten seconds later, when Julien Beltoise (ASM) made a major hash of the exit from Gare and collected most of the rest of the field. It wasn't quite as catastrophic as it could have been but it certainly inconvenienced a few of them more than a little. And for Takuma Sato (Carlin Motorsport), it ended his race immediately as his Dallara made terminal contact with the barriers. Ironically, everyone else got away intact. And of course it allowed the top 10 to get away, although not without the odd shift in the order. While Jonathan Cochet (Signature) capitalised on his pole position and shot into the lead, his team mate Mathieu Zangarelli was caught out by the fast starting
Tiago Monteiro (ASM). Monteiro slotted into 2nd and would never let it go. Zangarelli was holding off Antonio Pizzonia (Manor Motorsport) for 3rd, with Ryo Fukuda (LD) just behind. For the RC Benetton boys, life was a little too exciting at the start. As Nicolas Kiesa explained: "It came to the race and I fell behind the competition because I was slipping too much on the clutch and my team mate" (Milos Pavlovic) "got ahead of me. From then on I sat behind him for two or three laps because I just wanted to actually get some laps done and get a bit of distance between the drivers because it was very hot. After the three laps Milos started to go a bit slow in the back section in the slow corners and the people in front of me were able to go away from us so I thought I need to get past Milos very quick!"
Meanwhile, Ben Collins (Carlin) took advantage of a good start and promptly mugged the hapless Beltoise for a place. From where Ben was on the grid, he probably felt he had nothing to lose and thereafter he was on fine form, scything his way through the field. Another victim of the Beltoise shunt was Adam Jones (la Filière). The Class B driver was now stuck with a seriously mangled wing end plate but it didn't seem to slow him down much. His initially pessimistic reaction proved ill founded. "First corner, there was an accident. It was Julien Beltoise; he blocked the road and everybody had to stop. By this point my team mate" (Philip Giebler) "was leading the promotion class and I thought the race was over for me. Beltoise managed to move his car out the way and I continued." Just for good measure, Martin O'Connell (Rowan Racing) had to pit for new bodywork. All in all, Mr. Beltoise had done a pretty impressive job of messing up the order. Meanwhile, further back, Collins despatched Warren Carway by the dramatic but effective method of simply driving up the inside of him at Gare, a move only to be considered by the truly committed (or those who maybe ought to be).
Things finally settled down for a while, and pretty well everyone held station, except Collins of course, until Kiesa suddenly found the opening he had been looking for. He made it sound easy: "Milos suddenly seemed to slow so I passed him at the end of the straight and pulled away from him." The Dane was now up to 7th and looking to improve. Of course, the driver in front, Fukuda, was having none of it though he was also painfully aware of the fact that he could totally screw up his lead in the French championship if he wasn't very careful. As it turned out, he wasn't the only one to opt for caution in the long run.
And then on lap 5 justice was finally seen to be done, when Beltoise, having caused so much havoc, went straight up the escape road, and out of the race. He finished the afternoon by playing chicken with the oncoming traffic when he decided that he would go straight back to the pits by crossing the track. The two main areas of interest for the rest of the afternoon would be the fierce scrap at the front, where the top 5 of Cochet, Monteiro, Zangarelli, Pizzonia and Friesacher had broken away and within 8 laps they were starting to pass the back markers. Everyone was waiting for one of the others to make a mistake. The first one to get it wrong was Zangarelli and Pizzonia had to wait until lap 23 for that to happen. By the time the Frenchman recovered, the others had gone, leaving him floundering back down in 7th, stuck between Kiesa and Pavlovic. In the meantime, the top group stuck together as if glued to each other, until Cochet was able to stage a breakaway, leaving Monteiro to defend himself from the attentions first of Zangarelli, then of Pizzonia. As if that wasn't enough, after Zangarelli dropped himself out of contention, and Pizzonia seemed to have calmed down a little, he suddenly found he had a new threat to deal with.
Patrick Friesacher had been looking for a way through, and he finally found it. "My start was quite good but after that Pizzonia closed me the door and I have to lift off and then I got stuck behind him. Then I had to wait, does he make a mistake or something and at the first gear corner he make a mistake and I passed him then. At the first gear corner he braked too late and then after the first corner to the Casino I was on the outside. Then I was improving and my laps was quite fast and I was catching Tiago but ..." But basically Monteiro was having none of it. Thereafter he drove a faultless race, determined to keep the Austrian behind him. For Pizzonia, life was nowhere near as simple. After accidentally letting Friesacher through, the diminutive Brazilian was attracting the attention of Ryo Fukuda. Probably the only thing preventing the Japanese from trying to force a way through was an attack of common sense on his part. He could try and pass but it wouldn't improve his points score in the French series so there was not much point in forcing the issue. "I was thinking about how to finish the race and then, you know, I finished 4th and I can be third of the French championship runners which means I can still be first, leading the championship in France. So I didn't want to throw away the race I just wanted to finish the race. It was very hard for me towards the end of the race; the car was not very comfortable at the end but I finished the race."
And then, with less than five laps of the race left, Pizzonia drove past the start/finish line with a car that sounded like someone throwing a bag of spanners down a spiral staircase. The gearbox had failed. He pulled over to the side of the track just up towards Pont Oscar. His race was over. Manor cars fail very rarely and no doubt Antonio, once he's had time to think about it, would probably realise that it was better to have it happen in a non-championship race. That boosted Fukuda up a place though it didn't solve his problems. In his mirrors he could see the blue RC Benetton car of Nicolas Kiesa beginning to close on him. Of course, he couldn't have known that the Dane was in trouble too, or at least suspected he might be. "I pushed very hard to catch up with Fukuda in front but I couldn't see myself passing him because he would be quite quick in some places and I wasn't - he was quick in one part of the track and I was quick in the other so it could be a case of we just passed each other and we would lose some time and the people in the back could catch up. So I chose to wait cause I also saw Fukuda catching the leading drivers so I thought I'm just going to sit here and get a cushion and see if we can catch up. And then suddenly we came in reach of Pizzonia and there was a very hard, long battle with Friesacher and Pizzonia and I thought they were going to crash at one point so I just made a bit of distance and they didn't crash but then he got past and apparently Pizzonia suddenly went slow and I think his gearbox broke and I passed him and I thought this was near the end of the race, ten laps or so so I need to push very hard to try and catch Fukuda. So I start to push very hard but I couldn't push as hard as in the beginning of the race because my tyres had gone off and the car was starting to oversteer a bit. Then suddenly I heard some knocking noise from my gearbox or the engine, at this point in time I don't know, and I backed off a bit as there was such a big gap to 6th place so I just wanted to drive safely and get the car home and finish the race."
And so, the top three came home, with Cochet decidedly untroubled by anything much. He was tired after the 45-minute race but very pleased with the result: "I made a super start at the beginning of the race and the car was very good, very easy to drive. Last year we had problems, but this year they were very good. I am very happy to win this International race against all the English, German and Italian series quick drivers, like Pizzonia, Lotterer, Friesacher and so on. It was a very physical race with the heat but the car was easy to drive and that helped a lot. I am very, very happy!"
Monteiro wasn't what you might call disappointed with second place either. His performance was particularly impressive when you consider he only started racing after he turned 20, and that was in Porsches. "I knew that the start was going to be very important and I tried to take places at the beginning. When I was behind Jonathan in second place I attack hard to stay behind him, but he didn't do any mistakes, so I think it was really difficult to pass him. I wait until the end of the race, but he did not make a mistake. He did a good job. The car stayed very constant all the race. The tyres were very good - I was surprised that the tyres were so good at the end of the race even with this hot weather. I think it's very important to be in front of first of all all the foreign drivers to prove that the French championship is still very fast; the Renault engine is still very fast also because in the qualification we were in front of the Hondas and the Opels. I think we have done a good job and of course I am very happy to be second in this race."
Patrick Friesacher was full of praise for his team and everyone else involved with his third place, probably because he had not really been that optimistic after the morning warm-up: "I am also very happy to be third at the international race. I'm really happy with third place. I want to say thank you to my mechanics and to the team and to Michelin, to Opel. Thank you." And 4th placed Ryo Fukuda was just relieved to get it over with and to still have his French series lead intact: "I am very happy with this result right now. In the French championship I am very happy with my position. We have worked very hard in the last few weeks practicing at Val de Vienne and the car is very good. I would like to say thank you..."
For Kiesa, he was also just as happy to finish in one piece: "I'm also quite pleased to have finished the race. It was quite a good experience for me because it's my first year in Formula Three but it's also the first time I ever drove a road circuit in a race car so I found it was really physically demanding but it's also good experience and it keeps you and your driving very precise because you've got in the back of your mind if you crash, I mean, you can't just go on the grass here, you just hit the Armco and you've had it. Apparently my team mate found that out this morning and that scared me a bit for the race and also a bit at the end of this mornings warm up."
Although the front of the race has been a little on the processional side, there was plenty of excitement further back, particularly in the scrap for 9th place, which had started when Lucas Lasserre, the local hero, found himself stuck behind Juan Manuel Lopez (Manor). Lopez was 6th here the year before and he was determined that Lasserre wasn't coming through. Of course Lasserre was equally determined that he was. The two of them were slowing each other down to such an extent that F3 returnee Paolo Montin (Target Racing) was able to join in, eventually scything past both of them when Lopez was tripped up by a back-marker. At least Lasserre didn't get to go through too. And behind them the recovery drive staged by Adam Jones finally paid off when he came home to win the Promotion Class category and strengthen his lead in this part of the French series. His run wasn't without its worrying moments. "I was very pleased to finish first in the Class B Promotion championship. I was very happy from Friday onwards. We were fastest in the promotion class and we just improved the car in the last two days. I was very confident for the race. After that" the accident at the start "I pushed very, very hard to catch Philip Giebler and Marcus Ambrose. Then Yannick Schroeder caught me and passed me and we both started to catch Philip Giebler. We came across Philip and Schroeder tried to overtake Giebler, but he touched him. Schroeder went off and just made Giebler go sideways which caused him to lose momentum which enabled me to get a good run on Giebler and pass him. Then I just kept pushing really hard from then on till the end of the race. I could see Ben Collins in my mirrors and I thought, bloody hell, what am I going to do. Martin told me about him and I wasn't going to argue with him."
As it turned out, "Big Bad Ben" was highly amused at the idea of anyone being scared of him. However, Collins, who had charged through from the back of the field, was now losing momentum, and considered himself lucky to get to the finish at all: "I really didn't think it would be that physical. I didn't take enough water and I felt a bit odd by the end. I was finding it difficult to even just heel and toe. My feet were getting tangled in the pedals."
Apart from Warren Carway, who finished 4 laps down having managed to get in the way of a number of his fellow drivers, Ben was the last of the Class A runners to actually finish the race. The remaining places went to the Promotion Class drivers, with Giebler taking 2nd in class, ahead of James Andanson, Marcos Ambrose, Romain Dumas (who sustained some bodywork damage at the start), Julien Piguet and Frederic Makowiecki.
It was interesting to see the French series runners beating the rest of the world, particularly as they are in year old cars with engines that at present do not seem to be running very strongly anywhere else. Of course how these cars will fare at Zandvoort, where sheer straight-line speed and outright grunt tend to be important remains to be seen. It may be that Mugen-Honda are going to have to make a real effort if they are not going to be beaten out of sight, though this seems unlikely and my money would be on a Mugen-Honda win, particularly if Pizzonia isn't too distracted by F1 test drives at the time.
<pre> Results: 1st - No 5 - Jonathan Cochet, Signature, F399 Renault, 43:40.066, 36 laps 2nd - No 7 - Tiago Monteiro, ASM, F399 Renault, Gap: 3.006 3rd - No 31 - Patrick Friesacher, BSR, F300 Opel, Gap: 3.434 4th - No 25 - Ryo Fukuda, LD, F399 Renault, Gap: 9.027 5th - No 12 - Nicolas Kiesa, RC, F300 Opel, Gap: 11.478 6th - No 4 - Mathieu Zangarelli, Signature, F399 Renault, Gap: 22. 264 7th - No 11 - Milos Pavlovic, RC, F300 Opel, Gap: 34.780 8th - No 32 - Andre Lotterer, BSR, F399 Opel, Gap: 25.186 9th - No 27 - Paulo Montin, Target, F399 Opel, Gap: 37.282 10th - No 22 - Juan Manuel Lopez, Manor, F300 Honda, Gap: 41.611 11th - No 64 - Lucas Lasserre, LD, F399 Renault, Gap: 41.844 12th - No 14 - Adam Jones, La Filière, MK 73 Opel, 44:33.175 (Promotion Class Winner) 13th - No 30 - Ben Collins, Carlin, F300 Honda, Gap: 54.004 14th - No 15 - Philip Giebler, La Filière, MK 73 Opel, Gap: 1:07.141 15th - No 1 - James Andanson, La Filière, MK 79 Opel, Gap: 1:07.576 16th - No 10 - Marcos Ambrose, EMC2, MK 79 Renault, Gap: 1:10.094 17th - No 3 - Romain Dumas, La Filière, MK 79 Opel, Gap: 1 lap 18th - No 16 - Julien Piguet, EMC2, F396 Opel, Gap: 1 lap 19th - No 19 - Frederic Makowiecki, Griffiths, F396 Fiat, Gap: 3 laps 20th - No 21 - Antonio Pizzonia, Manor, F300 Honda, Gap: 4 laps 21st - No 20 - Warren Carway, Rowan, F300 Honda, Gap: 4 laps
Not Classified: No 6 - Yannick Schroeder, Promatecme, F399 Renault, Lap 30 No 17 - Martin O'Connell, Rowan, F300 Honda, Lap 20 No 26 - Davide Uboldi, Uboldi, F399 Fiat, Lap 16 No 8 - Tristan Gommendy, ASM, F399 Renault, Lap 11 No 9 - Julien Beltoise, ASM, F399 Renault, Lap 6 No 2 - Ying-Kin Lee Marchy, La Filière, MK 79 Opel, Lap 4 No 37 - Pierre Gilbert, Griffiths, F396 Fiat, Lap 3 No 29 - Takuma Sato, Carlin, F300 Honda, Lap 1
Did Not Start: No 18 - David Moretti, Griffiths, Dallara F396 Fiat
Fastest laps: A Class: No 5 - Jonathan Cochet, Signature, F399 Renault, 1:11.939, 138.117 kph, Lap 5 Promotion Class: No 14 - Adam Jones, La Filière, MK 73 Opel, 1:12.978, 136.150 kph, Lap 17