Season 2003 Results and News
Race No. 3, Qualifying Round 6
Date: 01 May 2004
Track: Croft (2,127 miles/3,423 km)
2004 Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 6,
Croft, Yorkshire, May 1st/2nd
© Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite

Qualifying Times:
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.



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