British F3 Championship Gripped by Avon Tyres - Rounds 17 &
Thruxton, Hampshire, 16th & 17th August 2003
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
Report - Round 18:
And for anyone who thought there was more than enough excitement
in Round 17, we give you Round 18, which was much worse in some
Again we had people diving for the pits before the race got started,
this time though, it was Michael Keohane (Carlin Motorsport), who
had the disturbing experience of finding his brake cable jamming
open. Admittedly, it could have been worse; he could have had no
brakes at all, which is really not an experience you want around
This was always at risk of being a rather odd race. After all, Fairuz
Fauzy (Promatecme F3) was on the front row, and no one would have
bet on that happening at the start of the year. He wasn't on pole,
that honour having gone to Eric Salignon (Hitech Racing), a Renault-Sodemo
engine once again proving to be the power unit to have around here.
However good your engine is, though, is of minimal importance if
you fail to make a good start. Salignon promptly proved that, getting
away very slowly and allowing Fauzy to charge into the lead, closely
followed by Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport). Suffice to say,
this was all pretty weird
A certain amount of mayhem quickly ensued anyway, the worst sufferer
being Billy Asaro (P1 Motorsport). The Canadian had had his best
ever qualifying and started from 4th, but it quickly came to nothing
as he spun under braking into the Complex and dropped way back.
Just for good measure, there was soon another spinner, this time
Danny Watts (Hitech Racing). He and Will Power (Fortec Motorsport)
made contact and the Englishman was the loser, Power continuing
on his way. The other Fortec car was not so lucky, Robert Dahlgren
pulling into the pits at the end of the first lap and retiring from
the race, shortly after Keohane had vacated the area and taken to
the track. He was at least safer in the pits than out on the track.
Adam Carroll (Menu Motorsport) was busy trying to take 4th place
away from Jamie Green (Carlin Motorsport), while also having to
fend off Power. Additionally Salignon had barged van der Merwe out
of the way to take 2nd and was now in pursuit of Fauzy, while Will
Davison (Alan Docking Racing) was on a charge as well, trying to
make up for his truly awful qualifying. It was getting rough out
A lap later and Carroll was attempting to get Green by going up
the inside at Allards. As a result, the two of them and Power all
arrived together at the Complex. The spectators held their breath
and by some miracle, despite Carroll locking up, no one went off.
And you thought this would be a quieter race? It was anything but.
It wasn't long before another driver was in trouble. In recent races
Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports) has got used to being at or near
the front (at least until the lights go green anyway) but this time
he started 11th. From there he was swamped in the pack, and within
two laps had managed to spin out of contention altogether, in effect
scuppering not only his race but his championship chances as well.
The resultant outbreak of yellow flags while he got going at least
calmed the rest of them down for a split second or two.
Just for good measure, Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) also seemed
to feel the need to join in, spinning at the Complex. That meant
that Piquet, Watts, Asaro, Keohane and Piccione were all now circulating
at the back of the field, fighting each other for positions, while
trying to claw their way back up the order.
Just for good measure, while the battle for the overall lead was
a war of attrition, the top three in the Scholarship Class were
running in close formation too, with Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport)
leading the pack from Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), and Steven Kane
(T-Sport), the latter having bundled Tor Graves (Manor Motorsport)
out of his way in order to try and get on terms with his team-mate.
At the very front, Salignon was now reeling Fauzy back in, although
he wasn't yet close enough to do anything about the Malaysian. However,
the way things were going it might just be a matter of waiting as
yet another spinner caused further yellow flag waving. This time
it was Can Artam (Promatecme F3), the Turk finding Thruxton something
of a challenge at this stage of his career. The question that was
beginning to form in the mind, though, apart from an exasperated
"And they call themselves professionals?" was "Do
we have a tyre problem here?" Now Avons are usually pretty
trouble free, but on Friday they had been splitting after a few
laps. Perhaps there was something wrong with the compound this time
out, perhaps not. Perhaps the strong winds were ruffling the drivers
badly; perhaps they were just in the grip of some sort of mass stupidity.
It was hard to tell.
At least this time the Safety Car wasn't needed, and Artam's car
was eventually dragged to a place of safety. As soon as the front-runners
were clear of the area, Salignon gave it one more go, snaking to
the inside and then the outside, and finally passing Fauzy to snatch
the lead! This left the little Malaysian to face the daunting prospect
of having van der Merwe looming in his mirrors, while he tried to
A third of the way through the race, Salignon was leading from Fauzy
and van der Merwe. They were well clear of Green, Carroll and Power,
who seemed to be glued together and an equally alarming trio in
the shape of Ronnie Bremer (Carlin Motorsport), Andrew Thompson
(Hitech Racing) and Richard Antinucci (Promatecme F3). Quite what
Andrew was doing caught up in the Richard and Ronnie Roadshow was
hard to say at the time. Enjoying himself immensely, as it turned
out later. Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport) had Davison all over
him and behind them the Scholarship Class trio of Viso, Chandhok
and Kane looked as if it too could turn nasty at a moment's notice.
Graves now had to fight Rizal Ramli (Team SYR) for his place, while
Joel Nelson (Alan Docking Racing) was an alarmed observer. Behind
him Justin Sherwood (Performance Racing) was holding off Masato
Shinoyama (Team SYR), probably well aware that he could expect to
see Piquet, Watts, Asaro, Piccione and Keohane in his mirrors pretty
soon. Except that he wouldn't get all of them, because Keohane pitted
again, the brake problem continuing to trouble him.
Predictably perhaps, it all got too much for Fauzy, spinning off
at the Complex and losing 2nd to van der Merwe. By the time he was
able to sort himself out, he was at the back of the field, stuck
behind Shinoyama, who had not only failed to pass Sherwood, but
had been forced to give ground to Asaro and Piccione. Of all the
places to make a debut in British F3, Thruxton is probably the toughest.
The Japanese was certainly well aware of this by now. In addition,
a little further forward Piquet had barged his way past Nelson,
which was weird if not unexpected and was trying to claw his way
back into the points.
And now, Salignon was coming in for the same tough treatment that
van der Merwe had dished out to Watts in the first race of the day.
Encouraged by the spectre of the Carlin car right behind him, Salignon
went wide, van der Merwe made a dive for it at the Chicane, and
failed. He settled in, ready to try again and again if necessary.
The trouble is, it probably wasn't really necessary, except in Alan's
A lap later, he tried again, and again failed. Except this time
he spun out of the race and delayed Salignon to such and extent
that Green, the one man who could still take the title, grabbed
The initial upshot of this was a whole bunch of people cursing roundly
and asking "Why did he do that?" because, instead of leaving
circuit with a 86 point lead, he might well be leaving with a 64
point lead, or 63 if he was very unlucky. The only thing that could
derail Green looked to be Carroll. Adam could now scent at least
the possibility of his first ever F3 victory and started to pressure
Green mercilessly. Green responded with a display of excessive weaving
that really ought to have earned him a slap from the Clerk of the
In the Scholarship Class battle, meanwhile, Kane had overtaken Chandhok
to maintain his lead in the category title chase.
Carroll was still trying to wrest the lead from Green, although
his next attempt to get past the Carlin car had to be abandoned
because of the waved yellow flags at the Chicane to warn of van
der Merwe's parked car. As soon as he could, Carroll piled on the
pressure again, and was all over Green's rear wing. In 3rd, Power
was sensibly keeping his distance, waiting for it all to end in
tears. It looked as if it was about to on Lap 14. This time Carroll
was just about under the gearbox of Green, and Green had to defend
for all he was worth. They were side-by-side into the Chicane, and
Carroll left his braking incredibly late, locked up and was forced
to lift. A lap later it finally did end in tears. Carroll tried
one more time when Green went wide. Carroll dived up the inside
and was pushed into a spin. He barely missed a beat in recovering,
but it was enough to let Power through into 2nd. And that was the
order they finished in.
Another driver in trouble was Asaro, who came out of the Chicane,
lost the car completely, and spun it into the pit wall. Luckily
for him he was able to extract the car and limp back round to retire
from the race.
The battle for 4th was still raging too, with Bremer having to give
ground to Thompson, only to get the Scotsman back a lap later. Perhaps
he was inspired by the need to keep ahead of Antinucci. Perhaps
not. Either way, he would hang on to 4th for the rest of the race,
despite the huge queue that had built up behind the three of them.
The whole circus decamps to Spa-Francorchamps, in Belgium, in two
weeks time. It is to be hoped that they have got all the silliness
out of their systems. If they start behaving the same way in the
Ardennes, the consequences could be very serious indeed. Perhaps
the Clerk of the Course needs to have a very severe word with the
lot of them!