F3 International Series, Rounds 1 & 2, Castle Donington,
April 2nd/3rd 2005
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
Cold, cloudy, windy.
Again there was a lot of activity prior to the race start.
Marko Asmer's Hitech Racing car needed a new flywheel. He'd
discovered this early on in Round 1, when he'd failed to get
off the line at the start, and had had to put in quite a recovery
drive. "I had a clutch problem this morning. The clutch
was slipping - actually it was - I don't know what they call
in it English - but it was slipping for the first lap so I
went to last. Then for the Safety Car period I managed to
cool down the clutch and then it was OK. After that I had
a good race." What he didn't want was a repeat of the
problem. As it was, he nearly didn't get to start the race
at all, sliding out of the pitlane all of five seconds before
it closed. He tore round to take up his place on the grid,
and the Hitech boys promptly swarmed all over the car, still
trying to complete the rebuild. When the 30-second buzzer
went off, they had to be swatted away and made to go back
behind the pit wall, leaving the Estonian sitting there in
a car that was apparently being held together by bits of tank
tape and the odd cable wrap.
He wasn't the only one in trouble. Suk Sandher was another
who only just made it out. His car had been heavily damaged
in the Round 1 start line crash, and the lads at Performance
had "worked flat out to get the car back together. I
really didn't think we'd make it - the guys worked so hard,
and it was ready literally at the last minute. They'd closed
off the exit to the track so I had to find another one...
We got there and at first the car was a little bit out of
shape, just basically because it was all settling down again,
but afterwards it felt pretty good."
Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), who'd been ill during
the week with some sort of stomach bug, was another who wasn't
ready when he should have been, the scrawny Dane legging it
back to the pitlane, presumably for an urgent toilet break
Anyway, finally everyone was ready, and lined up waiting for
the lights to come on up on the starting gantry. At least
this time no one stalled on the line, although Asmer was again
very slow to get away. And once again Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport)
was incredibly quick getting his Lola off the line and into
the lead, getting the drop once again on Daniel Clarke (Double
R Racing). Asmer would slot in behind Clarke, with Mike Conway
(Fortec Motorsport) also getting a fine start, and hanging
onto 4th. Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) also made
a good start to claim 6th, while his team-mate Charlie Kimball
didn't. Perhaps the Dane can explain it to the American before
we get to Spa-Francorchamps in two weeks time. Another man
looking very good was Steven Kane, the Promatecme F3 driver
making a lightning start, and slotting into 5th place. And
this despite the fact that he'd spent an awful lot of the
previous week surviving on very little sleep while he and
the team attempted to get his Lola chassis ready.
And so, they all streamed through Redgate with no problems
(though Kane took a good look to see if he could gain a place
there), only for it all to go wrong at the Old Hairpin. What
exactly happened seems a little uncertain, but Bruno Senna
was at the heart of it, underestimating the coldness of his
tyres on a British Spring day, but perhaps also underestimating
his fellow racers. There was a suggestion that he was squeezed
out by Susie Stoddart (Alan Docking Racing) when he tried
to get alongside her and she fought back. Whatever the cause,
the result was that he collected Charlie Hollings (Promatecme),
and they were both out of the race there and then. Stoddart
- if she was even involved - drove on. As did the Safety Car,
which once again picked up the leaders at the end of lap 1.
The thing you have to wonder about is this; why does this
discovery that cold tyres don't work always seem to come as
a big shock to the latest collection of South Americans every
year, and why don't the ones who were here last year say something
in advance. Do they find the resulting shunts funny, perhaps?
National Class leader Barton Mawer (T-Sport) wasn't surprised,
though he did get a bird's eye view of the whole thing. "Senna
had the world's biggest spin at the Old Hairpin. He nearly
took me off, but I could see what was going to happen so I
backed down a bit. We've got the on-board camera and it was
scary! He came past me sideways!""
And so, once again, Dirani settled down behind the Safety
Car, intent on keeping control of the race again, much as
he had in the morning's race. Behind him were Clarke, Asmer,
Conway, Kane and Bakkerud. 7th was James Walker (Fortec Motorsport),
Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing), Stoddart and Mawer. Ryan Lewis
(T-Sport) was behind his National Class team-mate, which wouldn't
have made him very happy, while Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking
Racing), Josh Fisher (Team SWR Pioneer) and Sandher were next
up. Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport), Juho Annala (Alan Docking
Racing), Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Nick Jones (Team
SWR Pioneer), Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing), Ricardo
Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport), Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport),
Jelley and Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport) completed
the rest of the order.
The biggest difficulty was keeping tyres warm in the freezing
cold conditions that prevailed all day. People were weaving
desperately, especially if they'd been smart enough to work
out that cold tyres were what had bitten young Senna
Anyway, for three laps they trailed slowly round, waiting
for the lights on the Safety Car to go out again. And once
again the Safety Car appeared with its lights off, pulled
into the pitlane, and everyone stared into the distance, wondering
where the leaders were. Dirani had slowed them right down
this time, and was once again able to break away at the restart.
The rookies seemed to be caught napping, because Asmer had
a go at Clarke, while Kane sized up Bakkerud before pulling
a classic overtaking manoeuvre on the youngster at Redgate.
And so Kane was 4th, not where he'd expected to be if he was
being honest. And this was despite the fact that the car was
a long way from its optimum set up. It mostly looked nasty,
especially to begin with. "At the start it wasn't too
good, but after that it cooked up, and it was just a matter
of getting used to it. I'm rusty, the car's rusty, the set
up hasn't been touched. As soon as it picked up I was on it,
and it was fine."
Meanwhile, further down the order, the series first ever Angolan
driver, Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) was being very
polite and getting out of the way of the front runners (and
for that matter those who should have been front runners,
like Jelley and O'Mahony), pulling over with a polite gesture.
Someone who wasn't making polite gestures was Kennard. He'd
managed to get entangled with Fisher and had received an impromptu
flying lesson before landing on his head at the Chicane. The
officials readied the Safety Car board in case they needed
it again, but the ADR car was quickly moved to a place of
safety, and the driver was found to be unhurt.
After that everyone seemed to calm down a little, which was
probably just as well. Asmer was now awake and had passed
Clarke, who also promptly lost out to Conway. The Estonian
was pressing hard, trying to keep Dirani in his sights, while
the Brazilian was trying equally hard to stay ahead of Asmer.
It's possible that this may be the story of the season, except
that Kane was also still pressing on regardless. Lewis was
also showing that he should be regarded very seriously indeed,
at least when he manages a better qualifying time, his pursuit
of Bridgman occupying all his attention in the mid-stages
of the race. Bridgman wasn't enjoying this one little bit,
but there was nothing he could do apart from absorb the pressure
as best he could, and try to postpone the inevitable for as
long as possible. It didn't help and Lewis was soon through.
He then set off after Walker, but it would take a lap or two
before he could catch the Englishman. Meanwhile Conway set
the fastest race lap, though he wouldn't keep it for long.
And for the leaders, life suddenly got a lot easier when Cheong
had an off at the Hairpin, and followed it up by pulling into
the pits complaining of a lack of fourth gear - the trouble
was he didn't seem to have been going fast enough to actually
need 4th. The fun, though, continued just behind the leaders,
where it was becoming increasingly obvious that no one had
told Lewis you can't overtake in F3
Or maybe they had
but he just didn't believe them! With 8 laps to go, he was
all over Walker. And if that wasn't enough to keep you interested,
Asmer had Conway and Clarke right with him, and was having
to really push to try and break away from the battling rookie
pair. As a result, he managed the fastest race lap, thus earning
himself an extra point at the end of the race. What he didn't
manage was to get away from the pair of them, though he wasn't
about to be passed by either of them if he had anything at
all to do with it. With two laps to go, and Dirani progressing
serenely towards the chequered flag, Conway saw what he thought
was his chance. He made a lunge at Asmer, trying to get round
the outside of the Estonian, but Asmer wasn't about to cooperate.
A lap later, Conway tried again, and again resisted successfully,
holding off the Englishman at some cost to himself. The two
made contact, and though they both survived, Asmer suddenly
noticed bits flying off his car. He was lucky there was only
one lap left to run, though he had a couple of worrying moments
before bringing his rather tattered car home for 2nd.
Both Dirani and Asmer were very pleased with their afternoon
efforts. Dirani, in particular, seems very confident now.
"Lola is doing a great job, just like Roly." (Vincini,
Team Owner of P1 Motorsport). "We understand each other
very much. I think in the beginning I was a bit
to take the chance you know, to be able to race. And after
today I think I made a good choice." There was, he warned,
more to come. "We have a test on Wednesday, we have many
things to try, and of course we find something so I'm pretty
confident we'll be better at Spa. In the beginning - we never
did a race start or a long test - and so our first race was
like a testing, and we found some problems in the car, the
balance, we fixed for the second race - it was much better
and I was improving." As for Asmer, he knew he'd been
lucky to actually make it into the race, but he too felt he'd
had a good run. "I thought I could catch Dirani, and
I wasn't having any trouble with anyone behind either. I don't
know if you saw, but we pulled out from the pits very late
five second before they closed the thing, so there was pieces
missing from the car, and the car was no set up. They had
to pull the throttle two times to make it work. Anyway we
deserve this result, because I almost went off three times!"
Third was Conway, from a very impressive looking Kane. He
too was very happy with his results, and also sounded a warning
for anyone who thought he might not be a threat this year.
"I was just glad to get some points today. I started
to think if we could get in the top 10, it would be amazing.
I never expected 4th. There's a lot more to come. We'll be
testing at Thruxton on Wednesday and maybe a day at Pembrey,
but that's it really, so we won't get a lot of running before
Spa." In 5th was Bakkerud, who was being menaced by Lewis
as the race ended. 7th was Walker, from Bridgman, Kimball
and Stoddart. In 11th was Mawer, the National Class winner,
who'd had a fairly quiet afternoon once he'd avoided being
sucked into Senna's accident, which actually proved advantageous
in the end. "It was good for me because it pushed everyone
else back, and then we got the Safety Car and I got a good
restart. I was sort of on the back of the pack, and stuck
behind Stoddart, but there wasn't any advantage to trying
to get through, so we just tootled around. We're still 11th
overall, which is good." He was hopeful that the victory
would help in his search for a budget back in Australia. "These
races are being shown at home now, so I hope that'll help
me get a budget hopefully. With all that combined - and with
our good looks! - hopefully that'll help!"
In 12th overall, was Duran, who was delighted with his result.
It made up for not getting past the first corner in the morning
race. 13th was Jelley, having a weekend he'll want to forget.
14th was Ihara, then Sandher (3rd in class), Annala, O'Mahony,
Jones and Teixeira.
The fastest laps were set by Asmer and Duran.
Races: Rounds 3 & 4, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, April