2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series Round 29 – Race Report

2011 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series
Round 29, Silverstone, Northamptonshire, October 8th/9th 2011, © Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Cool, damp, grey.

Race Report – Round 29 (Race 2):
At Silverstone this morning a slightly chaotic start to the sprint race resulted in Alexander Sims (Motopark) coming home a clear winner after a tense battle with Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) on a drying track. 3rd went to Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) while the Invitation Class was won by the only runner, Guilherme Silva (Hitech Racing) and the Rookie Class by Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing), the Japanese also the only runner in his class.

Really, though, this race was all about tyres and making the correct choice. The track was slippery in places and wet in others but it didn’t look likely to rain in the next half hour. Even so, slicks would be a gamble, and as it turned out not a gamble Sims was willing to take. Despite the regulations, the team set about changing him from slicks to wets with less than three minutes to go before the start (this is strictly not allowed) but as they weren’t the only ones to be in the wrong place/desperately changing tyres at that point the officials decided against imposing any penalties (presumably on the grounds that if they had we’d all still be here tomorrow arguing about it).

At the start it became clear that at least in terms of getting off the line, wets were the way to go. Carlos Huertas (Carlin) tried to put the power down and nothing much happened as Foresti sprang into the lead, beating Sims and Fantin to the draw. Meanwhile in the pack Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing) came to grief, taking out Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) at the same time, thus reducing the number of cars by two before a lap had been completed. Meanwhile, the enigma that is Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) struck again, stunningly quick in tricky conditions but often lacklustre and off the pace when conditions are perfect. This time, having made the right tyre choice, the Bahraini was challenging the 2011 champions, Felipe Nasr (Carlin) for 5th, and more to the point had got the better of the slick shod Brazilian. Behind Nasr, also on wet weather tyres, were Jack Harvey (Carlin) and Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) were locked in a battle for positions. Unnoticed in all of this, Fantin had settled into 3rd while Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) was in trouble and dropping down the order like a stone, ending up in 16th, presumably having been caught up in some trouble at the start.

Towards the back there was action too, with newcomer Mitch Evans (Double R Racing) attacking Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) for a place and then setting off to make up as much ground as possible in the time available. Evan’s team-mate Scott Pye, meanwhile, had pitted having decided slicks really were not the way to go. He was right, as Huertas would no doubt have agreed if asked. He was now the highest places runner on slicks, and he could not live with the wet weather runners. At the front Sims was now having a real go at Foresti for the lead, and they had Fantin right with them as well. This had the potential to be entertaining for all concerned. Despite the dry line starting to appear, it was still very slippery out there, and Huertas soon lost 5th to Pipo Derani (Double R Racing) which proved it. He wasn’t the only one struggling; Nasr lost a place to Harvey and although he tried hard to take it back, it was becoming increasingly clear that wets were the answer. They certainly seemed to be providing enough grip for the leaders, with Foresti and Sims still battling away, the pair of them side-by-side for a very long time before Foresti blinked and Sims was through. With Idafar setting a new fastest lap of the race, Harvey was through on Huertas too.

It was surprising that more drivers hadn’t been off the track given how tricky it was out there, so it was no real surprise when Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport) speared off into gravel and out of the race. The only real surprise was that he hadn’t done it sooner perhaps. That brought out the yellow flags for a while, but he was so far off that it didn’t take long to drag him to safety and the race continued pretty much unabated.

A new fastest lap went to Sims as he started to open up a gap over Foresti, while at the opposite end of the field Pye was now flying on his new tyres and in fact was fastest of all for a while, enjoying the open track and pushing hard to at least claw back a point or two if he could. He couldn’t because Sims upped the pace again, and anyway the track was starting to dry. It was anyone’s guess how fast they’d be by the end. Evans had now fought his way through the pack and was up to 12th, just behind Yann Cunha (T-Sport) while William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) was losing ground and falling back, the New Zealander soon finding a way past. Nasr, meanwhile, was starting to benefit from the improved conditions too and managed to get the drop on Harvey to reclaim 7th though he couldn’t hold it and Harvey came charging back at him, the pair of them having demoted Huertas some while back.

That left Huertas within reach of Kevin Magnussen (Carlin), the latter another of the wet rubber shod boys. Magnussen couldn’t resist and promptly set about looking for a way past the Colombian, the fact that they driver for the same team notwithstanding. Magnussen was determined and eventually sorted the battle in his own favour by driving round the outside of the blue and white car at Stowe, almost adding Huertas to the list of non-friends that has Nasr at the head of it after Donington. Not that Kevin cared; all he wants to do is ensure his second place in the title chase. Someone else in trouble was Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin), the English driver being black and white flagged for failing to respect the track limits. He wasn’t the first, just the most noticeable it seemed. As he was back in 15th it didn’t really matter; it was perhaps more a matter of venting his frustration at finding himself back there that was causing the usually well-behaved youngster to get a bit wild.

And so, with a final flourish from Magnussen that saw him set the fastest lap of the race by an incredible margin of over one second, the flags came out to signal Sims’ victory. Foresti was a somewhat subdued 2nd from Fantin, Idafar, Derani, Harvey, Nasr, Magnussen (who is almost home and dry for the runner up slot as he’s 19 points ahead of Huertas with one race left), Huertas and Cunha. 11th was Evans, from Buller, Max Snegirev (Hitech Racing), Silva, Svendsen-Cook, Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport), Fong, Sakurai and Pye.

Fastest race laps went to Magnussen, Silva and Sakurai.

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