British driver Darren Manning headed the the timesheet during first practice session for the London Champ Car Trophy at Brands Hatch. The times quickly tumbled as the drivers learned the circuit with Manning, Paul Tracy and Adrian Fernandez ...
British driver Darren Manning headed the the timesheet during first practice session for the London Champ Car Trophy at Brands Hatch. The times quickly tumbled as the drivers learned the circuit with Manning, Paul Tracy and Adrian Fernandez all leading the way during the session.
The cars queued up for several minutes at the end of the pit lane with the drivers blipping the throttle waiting to go out. At 10am the lights turned green and Adrian Fernandez led the cars out for their first cautious laps of Brands Hatch.
Nearly all of the cars were wearing rain tyres as the drivers proceeded around in single file for one or two flying laps. The first timed lap of the weekend was set by Fernandez at 1:05.786, a time which would quickly improve significantly over the next few minutes.
After a brief silence the cars returned to the track and then the times started to tumble. Sebastian Bourdais and Paul Tracy led the way and Tracy was down to a 40.0s time within a few laps. The rest of the drivers meanwhile lapped around 44s as they all bunched up and followed each other around the circuit.
The first sub-40s lap was set by Paul Tracy and he significantly beat this milestone with a 38.9s lap. Monteiro and Vasser were also improving quickly and soon followed Tracy into the mid 39s. Darren Manning, driving at his home circuit, put on a good show for the local fans with a series of quick laps to move up to second. Manning and Fernandez then started trading fastest times with each knocking a tenth of a second from the other's time.
Most drivers returned to the pits but Bruno Junqueira stayed out and did some serious work while virtually alone on the circuit. He consistently lapped within a few tenths of Tracy and ultimately went just 0.01s slower than the leader on the last lap of his run.
Paul Tracy then returned to the track after a ten-minute break and immediately improved to 38.4s to go second and then 38.1s to go fastest. After a brief visit to the pits he went back out and was straight on the pace to improve to 38.1s.
Drivers were pushing hard bv now with fast times and twitching cars, particularly under braking for the Druids hairpin, and the top fifteen drivers had now lapped under 40s. Also they were keeping away from each other and to concentrate running on their own.
Darren Manning was the first driver to go under 38s with a 37.953 lap to go fastest after 30 minutes, a lap which ultimately turned out to be the fastest of the session.
Monteiro was pushing hard when unfortunately he spun off the circuit near the end of a lap. His car went straight on midway through the high-speed Surtees left-right section and spun across the grass into the gravel. The car was undamaged and the session continued.
Within a couple of minutes of Monteiro's spin the first accident of the weekend happened, caused by Adrian Fernandez at exactly the same spot where Monteiro had gone off. Fernandez's car twitched midway though the left-right sequence, causing him to run wide. The car spun round and ran over the grass before hitting the tyre wall backwards. The rear wing and right-rear tyre were ripped off but the driver walked away unharmed.
"Too much kerbs, basically, that was it", said Fernandez after the session. "I was trying to see how the car was behaving and unfortunately it reacted. I know the limit now!"
The spin brought out not only the red flags but also the chequered flag to end the first practice session. Darren Manning headed the times with his 37.953 lap, closely followed by Junqueira in second and Tracy in third.
A smiling Manning said afterwards "That was quite a good start, as this morning I was suffering from a headache!" He explained how he had managed to lay down some rubber although the circuit was still slippery in places.