Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 6,
Croft, Yorkshire, May 1st/2nd
© Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
Weather: fine and sunny - it was all a bit odd if you'd
seen the weather forecast - it really wasn't meant to be doing
this, but no one was complaining. Not after Silverstone, anyway.
After the antics of the morning, this was a much better behaved
session. Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) was out there from
the word go, making an attempt to get a better grid position
than he'd managed in the morning. He was certainly on the
pace to begin with, but he still didn't look at all happy
on the twisty latter half of the circuit. Another driver out
early was Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), the Indian moving into
2nd place early on, and certainly looking far more confident
than he has of late. Of course, we go to Knockhill next, which
he's not at all happy about - but at least he likes Croft,
unlike Piquet who hates the place. Chandhok was soon displaced
by Ernesto Viso, P1 Motorsport's Venezuelan, but he in his
turn was bumped by Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing), the Scot
looking remarkably quick in the early stages of the session.
Viso slammed in another fast lap to claim provisional pole
from Piquet, with Danny Watts (Promatecme F3), ahead of Alvaro
Parente (Carlin Motorsport). Meanwhile Marcus Marshall (Fortec
Motorsport) moved into 5th place, temporarily the fastest
of the four Australians now lurking in British F3.
Of course things were likely to change. What passes for normality
this season seemed to be restored when James Rossiter (Fortec
Motorsport) shot up to 2nd, but he was knocked back down again
by Chandhok. Meanwhile, Viso was taking an early pit stop
for fresh rubber and a few adjustments. While he was doing
that Watts moved to pole, only to lose out to Danilo Dirani
(Carlin Motorsport), the Brazilian keen to make it a brace
of poles in Yorkshire. Mind you, his teammate Alvaro Parente
was right up there with him, ahead of Viso, Chandhok and Rossiter.
Piquet, on the other hand, was still in trouble, and was sliding
down the order, looking increasingly miserable with every
lap. Thompson improved his times, but it was clear there'd
be nothing left in his tyres before long. Viso re-emerged
from the pits, just as Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport)
shot onto pole, perhaps trying to smash the theory that he
needs rain to go well.
The Scholarship Class was being led by Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme
F3), which seemed a bit odd, but neither Ryan Lewis (T-Sport)
nor Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing), who would normally
up there, were in any way finished yet. At the front of the
field Dirani was now getting it very sideways but it looked
good and it seemed to work! He clearly wanted that pole position
and he intended to hang on to it by whatever means possible.
Meanwhile Ajit Kumar (Mango Racing) was continuing as he had
in the morning, when he spun again. At least he managed to
miss everyone and everyone missed him. His was the first of
a number of spinners. The next one was Jelley, who went off
at the Hairpin, just as Watts pitted to see what - if anything
- could be done to get the Lola-Dome up to speed. Mr. Jelley
was soon on his way again, but he wouldn't be the last one
to fall off there. It's a very awkward sort of bend, positioned
as it is after a right-hander that seems to give a lot of
people trouble anyway. It wasn't giving Rossiter trouble though;
he looked very smooth through there and his times were beginning
to reflect that. Someone who didn't look smooth - but who
was getting quicker by the lap - was Will Davison (Menu Motorsport),
the Australian digging deep to produce a lap that hauled him
up to 5th.
Viso was now back out on the track and was edging his way
back into contention, which was just as well as his team-mate,
Adam Carroll, was only 19th with half the session gone. Viso
grabbed 2nd place, while Davison improved again to go 3rd.
He knew he had it in him to go well here, and he's not a man
who's prone to talking garbage - another of those straight
talking Australians, don't you know? And he's all the better
for it. The only real question was could he hang onto that
place? As it turned out? No.
Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) had a go next, moving to 5th,
but he couldn't hold it either. While everyone was squabbling
for positions, Parente spun, and Watts only just managed to
avoid him. Needless to say that slowed them all down for a
while. However, it was soon sorted out, and a very wound up
Viso was now really going for it. Will Power was also a man
on the move, the Alan Docking Racing Australian having had
a disappointing morning. He was 8th and looked to be about
to go quite a lot faster. It wasn't an illusion. A lap later
he was 3rd, behind Viso. There didn't seem to be anything
anyone could do about Dirani, though Rossiter was another
who was keen to give it a try. His final effort hauled him
into 3rd, dropping Power down a place. And then it all seemed
to come to a grinding halt. The tyres had run out of adhesion
again - or perhaps they had too much. Whatever, they were
working anymore, and the glacial drift back to the pits began
in earnest. It's making life very interesting for a lot of
people this year; if it continues like this much longer, it
seems likely that the teams will get together and hold Trevor
Swettenham of Avon to ransom until something is done. Of course
from the casual spectator's point of view, the current situation
goes a lot further towards making F3 interesting than any
of the daft ideas currently being bandied about seem likely
to do. (Pit stops anyone - hello? Did they make F1 any more
interesting? I don't think so!)
The order now was Dirani from Viso, Power, Rossiter, Lucas
di Grassi (Hitech Racing), Piccione, Carroll and Davison,
his efforts having come to nothing. Di Grassi was the next
to give up, closely followed by Piquet whose distress at being
12th was made manifest when he reached his pit. The tantrum
didn't last long but was by all accounts quite impressive.
It's understandable; he really isn't used to being back there,
and whatever they'd tried between sessions hadn't worked at
all. Of course, what he didn't know just then - and most likely
wouldn't have cared if he had - was that the top 16 were within
a second of each other, which is incredibly close.
Meanwhile, Lewis had worked his usual magic on the Scholarship
Class and was on pole, just ahead of Barton Mawer (Performance
Racing) and Jelley. The changes really had evaporated now,
though, and so Viso was wasting his time tooling round looking
for an answer to Dirani. All he achieved was a spin at the
Hairpin, which brought out the yellows for a while but hardly
inconvenienced anyone. He was soon on his way again, retreating
into the pits along with the rest of the front-runners, while
they all waited out the man with the chequered flag.
And so the grid lined up, with Dirani, from Viso, Rossiter,
Power, di Grassi, Piccione, Carroll, Davison, Asmer and Chandhok.
Thompson had slipped to 11th, ahead of Piquet, who now looked
about ready to slit his own wrists. James Walker (Hitech Racing)
was 13th, ahead of Fairuz Fauzy (Promatecme F3), Parent and
Watts. And then - surprise, surprise - Lewis wasn't on pole
in the Scholarship Class. His car failed scrutineering (the
rear wing didn't measure up) and his times had been disallowed.
He would start from the back of the grid with a ten-second
penalty. And that promoted Mawer to class pole, from Jelley.
Marshall had slipped right down the order, though he was still
ahead of Calasan, Adam Langley-Khan (Alan Docking Racing)
- who'd looked seriously out of sorts all day - and Kumar.