Sebastien Bourdais set the fastest time in an eventful final practice session on Sunday morning. The French driver ran quickly throughout the session that was red-flagged three times due to spins and accidents. Paul Tracy finished in second after...
Sebastien Bourdais set the fastest time in an eventful final practice session on Sunday morning. The French driver ran quickly throughout the session that was red-flagged three times due to spins and accidents. Paul Tracy finished in second after running at a blistering pace near the end of the session, and Adrian Fernandez ran well all morning to ultimately finish in third place.
Michael Jourdain led the cars out of the pit lane at the start of the session under a clear blue sky on a beautiful day at Brands Hatch. Alex Tagliani and Adrian Fernandez were both driving their spare cars today -- Fernandez damaged his original car in an accident yesterday.
The times quickly fell to the 37-second range as the drivers exchanged fastest laps, with Fernandez and Bourdais regularly topping the times. Most cars returned to the pits after their initial runs and Robert Moreno had a moment when he tried to turn into his pit only to find one stationary car in the way and another car about to pull away.
Joel Camathias and Mario Haberfeld both did a single out lap and returned to the pits for an extended period to work on their cars. Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira, the two quickest drivers in first qualifying, lapped slowly while running on high fuel loads. Once the early laps had settled down Bourdais, Patrick Carpentier and Mario Dominguez all put in a series of quick laps and were able to lap at a very consistent pace.
The first stoppage of the day came when Rodolfo Lavin locked up under braking for the Druids hairpin and spun off into the gravel trap. The car was stuck and so the session had to be stopped while Lavin was pushed back on to the track and towed to the pit lane. The flat spots on his tyres were clearly visible as he coasted around the circuit.
Alex Tagliani led the cars back out on to the circuit at the restart. There was a small piece of green bodywork at the top of Paddock Hill bend, similar to the one that caused a stoppage in qualifying yesterday, but this session continued. Junqueira soon starting putting in competitive times and went straight up to second place. At that time the top six cars were separated by just 0.09 seconds.
The teams each concentrated on doing a series of laps and then returning to the pits to make set-up changes before going back for another run. The drivers staggered their stints so that there was the least amount of traffic possible and there was often around just seven or eight cars circulating at any one time. Darren Manning, Bruno Junqueira and Alex Tagliani all took turns at doing long runs.
A noticeable racing line was emerging along the start-finish straight where certain drivers would drive as close to the pit wall as possible before crossing over the track at the last minute to the other side to get the line for Paddock Hill Bend. Darren Manning first adopted this line and other drivers started to follow.
Mario Dominguez commented on this after the session. "I am learning the track a lot better", he said. "Maybe I should try to follow Darren Manning a bit! He takes very specific lines and nobody else does." Some drivers attempted to overtake going into Druids hairpin although it only really worked when the target car was travelling much slower and was willing to concede the place.
With about twenty minutes to go, the pace started to hot up along with the temperature and Bourdais knocked a few tenths of his fastest time to go into the high 37s. At this point Paul Tracy decided to make his mark and put his first quick lap of the day to go from eleventh to first with a 37.693s. His car was twitching and he was running over the kerbs on this lap. He improved by 0.2s on the next lap and then did a similar time before returning to the pits. His latter laps were much cleaner than his fastest lap.
Tracy's pace spurred other drivers into action and those who had been knocking around the middle of the timesheet up to this point suddenly appeared near the top. Fernandez did a 37.530s with Manning a couple of places behind at 37.811s.
Bourdais made a quick visit to the gravel at Clark Curve but was able to continue. His car twitched wildly on the exit and this sent him to the left and over the gravel. Fortunately he was able to regain control and continue.
Alex Yoong then went off into the tyres at Druids Hairpin. He made a mistake under braking and drove straight on, over the gravel, and came to rest head-on against the tyre barriers, causing very minor damage to the front. The session was red-flagged while the car was lifted out of the gravel and towed back to the garage.
Michel Jourdain led a queue of sixteen drivers that were eager to get back out on the circuit and continue their development work. Oriol Servia had worked his way solidly up the times during the session, completing more laps than any other driver and was running third towards the end while putting in consistently fast times.
Bourdais's team changed the springs on his car during the red-flag period for Yoong's accident. He was back near his pre-stoppage pace very quickly and soon went ahead of Tracy with a 37.749s lap. At that time Tracy was running in the low 39s, even with a high fuel load.
Alex Yoong was able to return to the pit lane in his repaired car after fifteen minutes in the garage. Soon afterwards, however, Camathias went off at Clark Curve and brought out the red flags. The car snapped out of control as he put down the power and came to a stop just inside the gravel trap.
The session was brought to an end as there were only a couple of minutes left with Bourdais fastest ahead of Tracy and Fernandez.