2014 Cooper Tires British F3 Championship
Rounds 1-3, Rockingham, United Kingdom, May 4th/5th 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
Weather: Sunny, warm, dry.
Qualifying Report: With just six cars out in this year’s British F3 series, because Alice Powell (Carlin) is busy with a trial for the GB Skeleton wintersports team over in Loughborough this morning, it was a pretty quiet start to the season. Pole position for Races 1 and 3 went to Sam Macleod (Fortec Motorsport) who moved to the top of the timesheets early on and stayed there despite the best efforts of team-mate Matt Rao, who finished the session just 0.002 seconds shy of the pole-man’s time. 3rd for both races will be Andy Chang (Double R Racing).
Fastest in the very early stages was Rao, but Macleod didn’t hang about, getting the drop early on and edging ahead. Martin Cao (Fortec Motorsport) made an early bid for 2nd, only to lose it to Li Zhi Cong (Carlin), while Camren Kaminsky (Double R Racing) improved too to go 3rd. However, it was Macleod who was really pushing on to pull out quite a gap, ending his next lap over one second faster than the rest of the pack.
In the first part of the session it was Kaminsky who started to close on Macleod, while Rao went quicker than Chang to steal 3rd. Macleod though continued to maintain position on pole despite the rapidly diminishing gap, which had now reduced to a mere 0.3 seconds. Chang’s initial challenge evaporated when he spun off and collected lot of grass. That seemed to be a signal to the rest that the pits were the place to be and everyone apart from Chang came in.
Despite having filled the radiator with grass, Chang stayed out a while longer enjoying having the track to himself. It didn’t help his times any and as Rao led the field back out, Chang finally came in to let the team clear out the lawn clippings and other detritus and give the engine a chance to breathe.
By now the warm weather was starting to play a part and with the tyres going off in the heat the engines were also suffering. It didn’t stop both Rao and Cao managing to go quicker but neither improvement led to a position change, despite Rao now running a fraction slower than Macleod, the leader’s advantage now cut to 0.002 seconds. They probably weren’t helped by waved yellows out in the country when Kaminsky went off and was forced out of the session.
Macleod and Rao both pitted at that point, while Chang still hadn’t gone back out. Cao, meanwhile, found some extra speed from somewhere but it wasn’t enough to move him up the order and in fact would lead to his time being disallowed for a yellow flag infringement.
That only left Li, who was also about to give up the chase for the morning. He came in just after Rao went back out with a little over 3 minutes left to play with. If he was lucky he might get more than one timed lap. As it turned out, he was lucky although it made not a jot of difference to his grid positions.
And so, with just over three quarters of a second separating the grid, the session came to an end. The field may be small but it’s clearly close in terms of speed and ability. Macleod starts both race 1 and race 3 from pole, from Rao, Chang, Cao, Kaminsky and Li, with Powell starting from the back of the grid.