BRITISH ACE BIRD FLIES THROUGH F3 MASTERS FIELD AT ZOLDER Manor Motorsport's Sam Bird produced an outstanding raceday performance at Zolder in Belgium this afternoon, Sunday, 10th August, to finish a highly creditable seventh overall in the 2008...
BRITISH ACE BIRD FLIES THROUGH F3 MASTERS FIELD AT ZOLDER
Manor Motorsport's Sam Bird produced an outstanding raceday performance at Zolder in Belgium this afternoon, Sunday, 10th August, to finish a highly creditable seventh overall in the 2008 RTL GP Masters of Formula 3 -- the most high profile F3 event in Europe.
Although an unlucky qualifying session left the 21-year-old with a literal mountain to climb in the race, he performed brilliantly in tricky, wet conditions by rising from 22nd on the grid -- avoiding several incidents along the way -- to claim a deserved top seven finish as the highest placed Manor driver.
For Bird's three team-mates, Koudai Tsukakoshi, Niall Breen and Kazuya Oshima, the race was less favourable. Breen and Oshima both fell victim to tyre choice issues, the circuit very wet following earlier rain, while Tsukakoshi was forced out of the race mere yards from the grid following contact from Dutchman Renger van der Zande.
With pole-sitter Nico Hulkenberg making a sluggish getaway, both Tsukakoshi and van der Zande had an opportunity to make gains on the run to the first turn. As the Manor racer attempted to negotiate the German's car following his tardy getaway though, van der Zande turned into the Japanese star to end his race there and then.
Bitterly disappointing for Tsukakoshi and the whole Manor team, a potential podium in one of the biggest events of the year disappeared just seconds into the race.
Further behind though, British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) Superstars driver Bird was making good progress and although he did benefit from several cars spinning off the circuit in the difficult conditions, he came through the order superbly into seventh place.
For Oshima, a gamble to begin the Masters event on slick tyres just didn't pay off as the track remained wet pretty much to the end and he came home in 20th position. Having struggled throughout for grip, during the closing stages cars on dry tyres did have the chance to lap quickly and Oshima posted a time of 1m 31.362 seconds, less than two 10ths of a second off the best of the race.
Irishman Breen, meanwhile, took a decision to pit for slicks midway through the race but taking into account his position at that point and the loss of time during the change, he was unable to make much headway and finished the race in 22nd position. It's important to note, Bird, Oshima and Breen were all handicapped due to being in the slower of the two qualifying sessions and thus forced to start the Masters race outside the top 20, as per event regulations.
Commenting on Manor Motorsport's fortunes in the 2008 RTL GP Masters of Formula 3, team owner John Booth said: "Sam had a cracking race, he was a bit fortunate at the start with some incidents but he drove very well. Seventh from 22nd on the grid is great, it tells its own story.
"Koudai was very unfortunate, van der Zande could have left more room and they would both have gone through the first corner ok but he just turned in. It's a real shame, Koudai had a great chance to be on the podium. Kazuya suffered because he started on slicks and the track just didn't dry out -- it was as simple as that. Niall came in to the pits part way through the race for slicks but there wasn't much he could do during the time left."
Manor Motorsport returns to Formula 3 Euroseries competition three weeks from now for its home event at Brands Hatch Indy Circuit in Kent on 30th/31st August. While Bird and Breen will both be aiming to do well at their home venue, Tsukakoshi and Oshima will be equally keen to shine and begin to get some consistent results under their belts.