2011 British F3 International Series, Round 22 – Race Report

2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series
Round 22, Rockingham Motor Speedway, Northamptonshire, September 3rd/4th 2011, © Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Cool. Overcast but clearing.

Race Report – Round 22 (Race 1):
Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) took his first British F3 victory at Rockingham today despite a less than brilliant start, in a race bedevilled by a Safety Car and a number of penalties for failing to observe the track limits. Second at the end of an eventful race was Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin), just ahead of Jack Harvey (Carlin). The Rookie Class was won by Luca Orlandi (Team West-Tec F3), aided by the only other Rookie Class runner, Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) crashing out before the race was a lap old, but slowed significantly by what may be a guilty conscience.

At the start Fantin failed to capitalise on his pole position and Felipe Nasr (Carlin), charged round the outside of the pole sitter at Turn 1 to nip into the lead. Just behind them Svendsen-Cook got the drop on Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) for 3rd, the Dane having to give way to the more experienced man. In the middle of it all Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport) was having a very bad afternoon, having to hold off Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) for a lowly place near the back just before picking up some sort of rear suspension damage. And then as the pack headed to the Deane hairpin things got messy. Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport) ran out of brakes or talent or something, and tripped up both Sakurai and Jan Cunha (T-Sport). With three of them off in the scenery the officials had no choice but to scramble the Safety Car, which stayed out for five full laps as the breakdown trucks rolled up and winched away a collection of variously modified Dallaras.

As the Safety Car pulled out to take over the field, Magnussen managed to throw away his 4th when he out braked himself into Deane and spun. By the time he’d recovered he was 12th, with a lot of work to do if he wanted to get anywhere near the podium. For the next 5 laps, Nasr led the pack behind a pretty rapid Safety Car, with Fantin 2nd, from Svendsen-Cook, Harvey, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Scott Pye (Double R Racing) who was 6th after a very good start, Carlos Huertas (Carlin), Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport), William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) and Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing). Outside the top ten were Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport), Magnussen, Tincknell, Hylkema, Pipo Derani (Double R Racing), Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) and an already very distant Orlandi.

While the Safety Car continued on its way, Tincknell pitted and the team swarmed over the car, looking hard at the rear left side while the others continued on their way. Finally on lap 8 – with around 20 minutes left on the clock – it all went live again. Nasr controlled the restart beautifully, but behind him Huertas made a mad dive to try and get past Pye, demoting the Australian to 7th, while Harvey made an attack on Svendsen-Cook; when that didn’t work he fell back into Jaafar’s clutches, which had been the plan. Meanwhile, back in 12th, a thoroughly maddened Magnussen was on the move. Most of the drivers could be heard bemoaning the difficulty of overtaking round Rockingham; looked like no one had told Kevin.

A lap later and Buller charged up the inside of Pye at Deane, before setting about trying to brake the tow. On the same lap Magnussen took a place back from Foresti and headed off in pursuit of Lloyd. Nasr was untroubled by any of this and simply continued on his way to what looked as if it would be another comfortable victory. Fantin certainly couldn’t live with him, and was concentrating on his own race, anxious not to make a mistake. At the opposite end of the scale, Tincknell was back on the track after a long gap and was at least 5 laps down. This was clearly now an extra test session for him, because there was no chance of ever catching up with even the slowest driver out there. Actually, it didn’t even work out as a test session and a couple of laps later he pulled back into the pits where the team dragged the car into the garage and retirement.

As Nasr and Fong were both warned about not respecting the track limits, Magnussen took a dive up the inside at Tarzan to try and claim 10th from Lloyd, only for the Welshman to almost immediately snatch it back. However, this was definitely not over yet. As they arrived back at Turn 1 Magnussen took a deep breath and went for it; this time Lloyd had no answer and the Dane was back in the points.

At the front Nasr’s massive lead was about to vanish. A drive through penalty for the Brazilian meant the lead would be handed back to Fantin. The gap just wasn’t big enough for Nasr to come back out ahead of the chasing pack, and this despite him pushing vary hard to extend his lead. A clever decision by the team then followed as Nasr stayed out as long as possible, setting a new fastest lap of the race as he attempted to ensure that he would lose as little ground as possible when he had to come in. Fong has also been awarded a drive through penalty, but given how far back he was, it didn’t really matter that much in the scheme of things. As everyone wondered when the two of them would serve their penalties, Orlandi got confused and, thinking the penalty was for him even though the team said it wasn’t and told him not to come in, drove into the pits and out the other side. As he was dead last anyway apart from Tincknell, it didn’t matter much, and it provided some light entertainment for the watching crowd on top of the garages.

A lap later Pye had a go at Buller, only to find Nasr – penalty completed – coming out just ahead of the pair of them. As they both avoided tripping over the bright yellow liveried Brazilian, it looked for a moment as if Pye might make it past. Nasr clung on for 8th, determined not to let Idafar (in 9th just ahead of Magnussen) past if he could avoid it. He didn’t want to give himself too big a mountain to climb and was having to use every ounce of his considerable talent to hang on to a decent position. A lap later and he’d got the better of Pye for 7th, and was chasing down Buller for 6th, while Magnussen had got the drop on Idafar and was setting about Pye, who was probably heartily sick of seeing Carlin cars in his wing mirrors.

Buller, meanwhile, was given a warning over track limits, as was Hylkema, and just for good measure both Nasr and Fong, who had also already served his initial drive through, were in danger of getting another one each as they were also warned again. Afterwards Nasr was adamant that he hadn’t actually done anything wrong, and as he’s not stupid and would certainly not go out of his way to acquire not one but two penalties, perhaps the limits need to be more clearly defined so that no one is in any doubt at all about where they are and are not allowed to be. Whatever the validity of the warning, Nasr was now closing on Buller and one lap 19 he challenged the local hero at Deane, squeezing past and then driving away from the Fortec car. A lap later and Magnussen launched an assault on Pye (yet another Carlin car – just what Pye didn’t need), having a serious look at Brook. Pye ran wide and Magnussen just failed to get by. As they arrived at Turn 1 Magnussen had another go and this time was able to make it stick.

With the clock ticking down Buller was finally awarded a drive through of his own, but didn’t seem inclined to serve it, or perhaps he was just distracted by the presence of Magnussen right behind him, looming large in his mirrors. That was a bad mistake on his and the team’s part as the stewards would later penalise him 60 seconds, dropping him from 7th to 15th as a result. Meanwhile a delighted Fantin came home to his first win, just over a second clear of Svendsen-Cook, with Harvey 3rd after a race long battle with Jaafar. 5th was Huertas, from Nasr, Magnussen, Pye, Idafar and Lloyd. 11th was Foresti from Hylkema, Derani, Fong, Buller and Orlandi.

Fastest laps went to Nasr and Orlandi.

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