2012 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series
Round 29, Donington Park, Leicestershire, September 29th/30th 2012
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
Weather: Cloudy, cold, windy (and getting very dark).
Race Report – Round 29 (Race 3):
After a very long delay caused by major damage to the circuit barriers in the GT1 race earlier in the day, the 2012 British F3 International Series champion was finally crowned when Jack Harvey (Carlin) came home to victory, thus scoring enough points to ensure that he won the title after a season long battle. Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport) was 2nd ahead of Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), the latter thus claiming the runner up slot in the series after Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) fell back in the closing stages of the 40-minute feature race. Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing) won the National Class race to make it three out of three on his return to racing.
At the start though, it was still all to play for between Harvey, Jaafar and Serralles with 5 points separating the three of them. A mistake on anyone’s part would be fatal to their chances, and as the race started it was clear they all knew that. Harvey started well, and got away from pole into the lead with Lynn trailing him despite having Jaafar all over his rear wing.
Serralles tried to go round the outside of Jaafar when the Malaysian driver had to back off and recover from his attempt to get the better of Lynn. Luckily for his, Serralles had problems of his own in the shape of Carlin’s Pietro Fantin, who seemed quite keen to pass the Puerto Rican given the slightest opportunity.
It didn’t take long for Fantin to barge through, and that pushed Serralles down to 5th, doing his championship chances no good at all. Further back Nick McBride (ThreeBond with T-Sport) and Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing) were fighting over 12th behind Lloyd (who claimed to have spent the long wait eating carrots in an effort to improve his night vision in advance of what was clearly going to be a race that would end in near darkness).
At the front Harvey was pushing hard and was in pursuit of the extra point for fastest lap too if he could possibly secure it. At the end of lap 2 he did have it though the fact that there were 26 more laps to run meant it was hardly a given. At the other end of the field Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) lost 14th place to Pedro Pablo Calbimonte (T-Sport).
A lap later and Jaafar had closed right up on Lynn but it wasn’t quite close enough for him to launch an attack on the Englishman. Likewise Serralles couldn’t quite nail Fantin either though he did set a new fastest lap as he chased the Brazilian. With the sky getting darker and darker several teams were readying wet weather tyres in case the forecast downpour did materialise, but so far all was well on the weather front.
Lap 4 saw Jaafar make a move as he tried to get up the inside of Lynn at the Melbourne Loop. It didn’t quite stick though as Lynn resisted strongly. Meanwhile Serralles set another fastest lap which meant he and Fantin were part of the log jam developing behind Lynn, with Jaafar, Fantin and Serralles bunched up together. There was then a gap to Harry Tincknell (Carlin), who was holding off Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport) and Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport) for 6th.
It was the turn of Lynn to set a new fastest lap on lap 5 as he started to catch Harvey in an effort to stop the leader from opening too big a gap. It was certainly working as he edged closer to Harvey, while at the back Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport) had fallen off at the Old Hairpin while trying to get past Lloyd for the National Class lead. By the time the Australian had recovered he was last and had given himself a lot of work to do. That allowed Lloyd to break away and extend his class lead, while behind him Padayachee snatched 2nd back from Calbimonte.
At the front the gap was now opening up again with Fantin losing touch with Jaafar and thus ensuring that Serralles was out of running unless he could find a way past the Brazilian. Easier said than done of course, though Felix kept right on trying despite the difficulty of running in the dirty air behind the Carlin car, something that always messes up the handling of the following car.
After having settled down for a couple of laps it got lively again on lap 9 with Lynn setting a new fastest lap of the race as he closed right in on Harvey again. With 17 laps left to run, it looked as if we might be about to see a change of leader, especially as Jaafar was now right with them again too. Lynn saw his chance and went through, but locked up, smoking his tyres and undoubtedly doing them no good, and as he tried to keep control Harvey snatched the lead back again, with Jaafar almost making it up to 2nd before Lynn rebuffed his advances.
Jaafar settled back in to 3rd though he must have been wondering how much harm Lynn had done to his tyres and whether it might eventually make a difference to the result. Behind the Malaysian, Serralles was now back on Fantin’s tail, as Fantin caught up with the leading trio after their brief scuffle came to nought.
This was followed by a batch of warnings about exceeding track limits and now respecting the pit lane exit line, the offenders being Calbimonte and Fantin respectively. The former was probably a bit distracted as he was in pursuit of Padayachee and was all over the Australian, finally finding a way round at Goddards to reclaim 2nd in the National Class. As if that weren’t bed enough, that left Padayachee vulnerable to Goddard, who started to reel him in hand over fist.
Meanwhile, Jaafar was edging close to Lynn again, and Serralles persisted in sitting right on Fantin’s rear wing. Neither Jaafar nor Serralles were ready to give up their title hopes yet though neither of them could get into a position to make a move. With the top five split by around a second, and over half distance gone, Harvey couldn’t manage to pull out a gap, and needed to concentrate to the full to ensure the trophy remained within his reach. He was doing all he could, but it was nerve wracking for his family, and for the friends waving a massive “Go Harvey Go” banner in the grandstand opposite the pits.
At about the same time as van Asseldonk and Serralles were both shown the black and white flag for disrespecting track limits, Goddard finally caught Padayachee. Almost immediately he tried to go round the outside at Goddards. Having failed there he did much the same at Redgate too and that didn’t work either. He would have to rethink it and try again.
With 14 minutes left on the clock, Harvey still couldn’t establish a comfortable gap, no matter how hard he tried. With the odd spot of rain now falling, the weather wasn’t helping him either, but he kept his head and tried to ignore what was happening in his mirrors where Lynn must still have been looming larger than was good.
Time was running out, and although the threatened rain didn’t arrive, the daylight was almost gone. Serralles ran wide and life got interesting as he lost ground to Tincknell and Derani as a result. To add insult to injury van Asseldonk also tried to pass the Puerto Rican youngster, leading to an outbreak of wheel banging between the team-mates. Van Asseldonk backed off but not willingly and was obviously not going to go away any time soon.
Further up the order, Jaafar had a go at Lynn at Redgate but again he was not quite close enough to get through and then Fantin closed right in again. There were now three laps left to run, and Fantin was back on Jaafar’s tail while Lynn was busily keeping Harvey honest. And then Serralles’ day went even further to the bad when Fantin ran wide, Tincknell and Derani both had to avoid him, and Serralles spun. Fantin lost two places, but that was no consolation to Serralles when van Asseldonk stole 7th from him.
Most of the excitement was now over, apart from Goddard taking 14th from Padayachee only for Padaychee to get it back again before the end, but all eyes were now focussed on the front and the resolution of this year’s championship battle. Harvey finished the race in the lead to win the championship, the first British driver to claim the title in 6 years, giving Carlin their fifth successive victory. Lynn was 2nd, and Jaafar’s 3rd place secured the runner-up slot for the Malaysian, 13 points behind his team-mate. 4th in the race was Tincknell, from Derani, Fantin and van Asseldonk. Serralles’ 8th place gave the rookie 299 points, and while you could wonder what would have happened if the rain had fallen as expected well ahead of the race, instead of waiting until the end, you could only admire a tremendously assured season from Serralles in his debut year. 9th was Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Double R Racing), once more pursued by McBride and Uhrhane, leaving Lloyd to claim the National Class and 12th place, ahead of Calbimonte, Padayachee and Goddard.
The fastest laps of the race were set by Lynn and Goddard.
Next Races: Oulton Park, April 2013