2014 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 Championship – Race Report Round 1

Cooper Tires British F3 Championship
Round 1, Rockingham Motor Speedway, United Kingdom, May 4th/5th 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Weather: Hot, sunny.

Race Report – Round 1 (Race 1):
At Rockingham this afternoon Sam Macleod (Fortec Motorsport) got his British F3 Championship challenge off to a flying start with a lights-to-flag victory over team-mate Martin Cao and Andy Chang (Double R Racing).

Despite the sadly depleted field this year the race was not without interest or excitement right from the start, when Macleod made a smooth getaway from pole, while behind him Alice Powell (Carlin) got off the line in spectacular fashion and despite starting from 7th she was 4th by the time they arrived at the Deene hairpin. She was briefly able to get ahead of Chang for 3rd, but he fought back and was able to reclaim the place into Tarzan.

Not so fortunate – or perhaps skilful – was Matt Rao (Fortec Motorsport) who managed to spin a long way off at the Hairpin, having got into an untenable position as regards any of the possible lines through there, managing to outbrake himself out of 2nd place. It took some time to get going again and he was a long way back once he regained the track.

Macleod led from Cao, Chang, Powell, Li Zhi Cong (Carlin) and Camren Kaminsky (Double R Racing), and while the leader set the first of what would be a series of fastest laps, Rao began to try and catch up with the tail of the pack, pushing hard to get back in the race. As Macleod started to pull away, Chang was after Cao at all costs, and that saw him net a new fastest lap, but he didn’t quite seem to have the pace of the Fortec cars no matter what he tried.

In fact it wasn’t long before the top three became quite spread out, the action now centring on the fight for 4th, 5th and 6th. Certainly Kaminsky was taking a long, hard look at Li, while Li was all over Powell. This was partly what allowed Rao to get ever closer, a four-way fight threatening any time soon. That got shaken up when Kaminsky looked a little too hard at Li and spun off, handing 6th to Rao. The American was able to get going again but he’d lost an awful lot of ground with his impromptu trip into the boonies. As it turned out, it might have been for the best.

At the front Macleod was looking very comfortable in the lead, with Cao and Chang unable to do anything to close on him, and Powell was starting to escape from Li’s clutches too, as the latter started to find that Rao was looming ever larger in his mirrors as the Fortec driver started to close the gap at around a second for every lap. The Fortec boys certainly seemed to have the pace this afternoon, if Macleod and Rao were anything to go by.

To prove their point Macleod set yet another fastest lap, and Rao clawed back another 2 seconds, and was now right with Li. And that was when it all went wrong again. A rather ill-considered overtaking attempt at the Hairpin pushed Li into a spin that he would not be able to recover from, and damaged Rao’s car to the extent that he was also out on the spot. The question of why Rao tried it there was a good one. He had the pace to pass easily it seemed, so why he did what he did is probably best ascribed to inexperience. It really was not the place to try such a stunt.

Embarrassingly perhaps, that meant a Safety Car!!! Even more embarrassingly, the Safety Car promptly failed to pick up the five cars still running. It really shouldn’t have been that difficult. Eventually everything was sorted out, and Macleod settled in to lead Cao, Chang, Powell and Kaminsky round as they all bunched back up again.

At the restart Macleod backed the field up massively, to the distinct lack of amusement of the clerk of the course, and there were almost a couple of collisions behind him as a result. When the race actually resumed everyone had survived and Macleod started to pull away almost immediately. All Cao and Li could do was try and hang on for the ride. Meanwhile, Kaminsky was making the most of the Safety Car enabled-reprieve and was looking for a way past Powell. He eventually found it when he dived round the outside at Deene to go through. Powell tried to fight back but lacked the speed and had to let him go.

There was now very little left of the race and it really was all over bar the shouting. Macleod finally came home over 4 seconds ahead of Cao, with Chang, Kaminsky and Powell the only other finishers.

The fastest lap was set by Macleod.

When the draw was made for Race 2, Macleod pulled 4 from the hat which means that 4th place finisher Kaminsky will start from pole with Chang alongside him for the race on Sunday morning.