F3 International Series, Round 16, Silverstone, Northamptonshire,
August 12th/14th 2005
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
Before the race started, we lost Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing),
a man who seems determined to prove the Chinese curse about
living in interesting times. With a dreadful cold hampering
him to start with, he was somehow inexplicably short of tyres
for the second race of the day. The advice from Avon was that
if he only had wet weather tyres left, he'd be seriously ill-advised
to try and race on them, especially as it didn't look likely
to rain at this stage of the afternoon. Tim opted not to attempt
the impossible, and sat this race out.
After five Carlin one-two finishes in a row there was just
a chance that we might get a change of leader for Round 16.
After all, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) was on pole, and Alvaro
Parente (Carlin Motorsport) was only 2nd. To cap that, Charlie
Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) was starting from 5th, so the
odds on the two of them being able to grab the first two places
seemed rather slimmer than in previous races. However, within
a split second of the lights blinking out on the starting
gantry, it was clear that Asmer didn't have an answer. Parente
tore off the line, while the Estonian jinked to the right
to try and stop him. However, he was way too slow, and by
the time he'd corrected his trajectory, he'd been passed by
Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) and the fast-starting Kimball.
Asmer must have been kicking himself because this was his
second dreadful start of the day.
Further back, however, trouble was brewing. The mid-field
melee had been more ferocious than normal, and Charlie Hollings
(Promatecme F3) ended up in the wall, two-thirds of the way
down the pit straight. Quite who was to blame it was hard
to tell, though Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) may well have been involved.
Whatever the cause, the marshals bravely rushed to the scene
to try and sort it all out. Unfortunately, it wasn't the only
chaos. Round at Club, Alejandro Nunez (HBR Motorsport) was
off the track, taking Jonathan Kennard with him. Kennard got
going again, and he and Lewis both pitted just as the Safety
Car came out to slow the field up and give the marshals time
to clear away the mess. They were both able to take their
places at the back of the field, though still on the same
lap as the rest of the field, thanks to the very slow pace
of the Safety Car.
Once again Parente settled in to head the field, with Conway
behind him, Kimball in 3rd, and Asmer 4th. Bruno Senna (Double
R Racing) was next, from Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport), Steven
Kane (Promatecme F3), Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing), James
Walker (Fortec Motorsport) and Christian Bakkerud (Carlin
Motorsport). 11th was Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport), the
blue car sporting a chromed airbox, just because they could.
National Class leader Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport) was 12th
overall, with birthday boy Barton Mawer (T-Sport) right behind
him, followed by Ben Clucas (Fluid Motorsport), Josh Fisher
(Team SWR), Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing), Karl Reindler
(Alan Docking Racing), Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport),
Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) and Keiko Ihara (Carlin
Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) was 21st, fighting it
out at the back with Nick Jones (Team SWR) as usual, while
Michael Herck (Junior Racing Team) was next having recovered
from getting involved in the Club incident too. Lewis and
Kennard were back out in the last two places. It took two
laps to clear the mess away, and at the restart Parente again
kept an iron grip on the lead, controlling what happened.
Conway tried to find a way round into Copse, but he just wasn't
close enough to make the attempt. Asmer, in the other hand,
got the better of Kimball into Copse, snatching 3rd from the
American. Dirani also lost ground, when he managed to get
it all wrong round the back of the circuit, losing places
to Clarke and Kane, who swapped places and overtook him as
well when he shot up the escape road and had to disentangle
himself in order to continue.
That left Senna free to concentrate on Kimball, while Kimball
was trying all sorts to get Asmer. At the front Parente was
really working hard to keep ahead of Conway. It could have
been much worse for the series leader admittedly, but it was
keeping him honest even so. Neither he nor Kimball were about
to say die, that was for sure. However, just when it looked
like Parente might have his work cut out, the pressure suddenly
lifted as Conway slowed, his car now clearly horribly unwell.
As he coasted to a halt, Parente continued serenely on his
way to his ninth victory of the year, and his 12th podium
position from 14 races. It didn't look as if anyone could
challenge him this time out, not now Conway was out of contention.
Asmer was too busy trying to hold off Kimball, the Estonian
never able to break away.
Bakkerud was now trying to join the party too, the Dane apparently
now finding the new engine beginning to work much better than
it had in Round 15. He was beginning to close down Walker,
though it looked as if it wouldn't exactly be easy. The likable
youngster was mostly disregarded by the crowds this time though,
because there was a major battle going on back in the National
Class now. Mawer had made a mistake and dropped away from
a leadership challenge, but Clucas was now after Duran, and
Fisher had gone with him. Annala dropped back a little after
he was passed by Reindler and O'Mahony, but he now had the
Australian series leader right behind him. It was unlikely
Mawer would stay there for long, and sure enough, he didn't.
Herck also managed to get ahead, and that left Kennard behind
the young Finn. For a couple of laps there was a terrific
battle, which eventually ended with Herck getting the better
of Mawer on the last lap. This was no great concern as Herck
was one of only two runners in the Invitation Class, Nunez
having been the other
Annala lost out to Kennard to
his great annoyance, but at least the Finn was happier with
his car at long last, having dialled a great deal of the understeer
out of the thing to make its handling much more to his liking.
And of course they all gained a place when Reindler dropped
out went missing on lap 8, but no one seemed to be able to
say why the likable Aussie had gone.
Back in the Championship Class, the top three were trading
fastest laps with Parente grabbing it on lap 7, and losing
it a lap later to Asmer, who held it for the length of time
it took Kimball to break the timing beam. However, on lap
9 Parente grabbed it back after the air temperature cooled
suddenly. As far as he was concerned he wasn't about to give
it back, and he held it till the end, claiming the maximum
available points for this round.
While all that was going on, a little back from them Kane
was closing on Clarke, and had now taken to looming large
in the No. 27 car's mirrors. It must have been quite unnerving,
and although Kane was locking up in his efforts he was out
for revenge after Round 15 and was determined to get it. Clarke
was having to defend himself at every turn against the Lola
driver, but it simply wasn't enough. Kane finally got the
better of him by driving all the way round the outside of
Clarke, and despite Clarke trying to get his place back at
Abbey it was too late. Clarke clearly didn't want to quit
in his efforts to get 5th place back, but now he had Dirani
all over him again. It really wasn't quite the drive in the
park he could have hoped for.
With the race moving into its closing stages there was change
at the front and back of the field. With five laps to go,
Cheong came across the line with the Mugen-Honda behind him
sputtering horribly and within half a lap he was out of the
race. Meanwhile, Asmer was getting more attention than he
really appreciated from Kimball, as they both disputed 2nd
place. What kept happening was that Kimball would catch the
Estonian at Stowe only to lose out again at Brooklands. However,
he was trying to force a mistake and he finally got what he
wanted when Asmer dropped his wheels on the grass at Copse
at 150 mph and promptly found out why that wasn't a good idea!
He was lucky to only lose 3 places, and was able to rejoin
in 5th place, thus handing Carlin Motorsport their sixth straight
top two. Kimball was not about to look a gift horse in the
mouth, and he gratefully took the promotion to follow Parente
over the line, 64 points behind his teammate. Bruno Senna,
meanwhile, had inherited a podium position after Asmer messed
up, and he was probably the happiest man up there!
4th was Kane, a welcome change in fortune for him, while Asmer
scraped together 5th from pole, his fortunes still very much
in the doldrums. Clarke was 6th from Dirani, Walker, Bakkerud
and Jelley. 11th and National Class winner was Duran, from
Clucas, with O'Mahony and Lewis splitting them from the 3rd
placed National Class man Fisher. Herck was next, from Mawer,
Kennard, Annala and Ihara. 21st was Teixeira, and the last
place was claimed by Jones.
Points for fastest lap went to Parente, Duran and Herck.
Afterwards, Parente was characteristically modest about his
achievements: "My start was very good. It was my best
start of the three races. At the start I pulled away from
Conway, even though my car's tyres only came in slowly. It
meant I had some oversteer, but Asmer and Charlie were fighting
and that let me pull away a little more. It meant I could
win by a comfortable margin."
Of course, one man's peaceful drive in the country can be
offset against another's fight against the field. Kimball
was delighted to inherit a good second place, though he did
seem to have had an interesting time out there: "I got
a good start and I was able to go from 5th on the grid to
3rd on the first lap, but then I botched the restart after
the Safety Car. I had a bit of a battle with Marko, but he
dropped a wheel on the inside at Stowe so I waited till his
car got away from him and went past. Later Conway pulled off
to the side and Marko's car seemed to be getting slower and
slower. Then he dropped his wheels off the track at Copse
and going on the inside on the grass at 150mph is so not good.
All I saw were rocks and some smoke and he was gone! I just
couldn't catch Alvaro though."
Senna was delighted to be at the press conference, and expressed
a hope that he might be there again very soon: "I got
a good start and got Asmer, but he took me back at Copse.
I finally got a tow into Stowe and braked really late when
he tried to outbreak me. I went really wide, and then was
able to get Kane too. After that it was just not making any
Duran was finally leading the National Class after Mawer's
dreadful weekend. He'd finally had a very easy race and wasn't
at all displeased, He certainly thought he might have turned
the corner as regards beating the Australian: "It was
not a difficult race. We've worked on the car all the year
and now we are faster than them. It was a comfortable race
for me. Now the championship is important."
Clucas had known that 2nd was the best he could hope for.
In fact it was more than he'd hoped for. "I was pretty
slow on Tuesday in testing and I didn't know what to expect
here his weekend. For the second race we went in the wrong
direction and I had oversteer, so I can't really complain
about having 2nd place. We went to Castle Combe with one test
day and to Monza with no more than that, so I've only had
3 test days in the car. I'm really happy about getting 2 second
Fisher too was somewhat surprised to be up there: "I
only had 3 hours of testing on Tuesday
we've not tested
a lot of miles before this weekend, and the team has no data
so to come away with two 3rd places is really good. Of course
it helped when Charlie (Hollings) had a bit of a love session
with a wall."
Rounds 17 & 18, September 2nd/4th, Nurburgring, Germany.