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

Cooper Tires British F3 Championship
Round 3, Rockingham Motor Speedway, United Kingdom, May 4th/5th 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Weather: Hot, cloudy, dry, gusty winds.

Race Report – Round 3 (Race 3):
At Rockingham Motor Speedway this afternoon we saw the second winner of the weekend when Matt Rao (Fortec Motorsport) took victory despite an early if somewhat precipitate charge by dual winner Sam Macleod (Fortec Motorsport) that came close to wiping the pair of them out. 2nd place was claimed by Martin Cao (Fortec Motorsport), who also picked up the driver of the weekend award. Macau’s Andy Chang (Double R Racing) finished 3rd.

Before the start Camren Kaminsky (Double R Racing) seemed to be having some trouble getting his engine to fire up at the start of the formation lap, but in the event everyone got off the line more or less well at the start of the race itself. In the “more” camp were Rao and Macleod, while Cao was “less” being dreadfully tardy and ending up dead last.

Actually, that might have been the safest place to be as Macleod launched a wildly optimistic attack on Rao as they reached the Deene hairpin. Macleod ended up so far off the track he was almost in the next county, his race run. Rao survived slightly rattled but in one piece. To add insult to injury for Macleod, all he could do was sit on the sidelines near his stricken car and watch his rival coast home to victory, while his championship lead was also taken from him. Live and learn…

In the pack, Alice Powell (Carlin) was also on the move, and had gained two places despite starting last. It was possibly that she might gain more just by being patient, but that is really not the nature of the beast by any stretch of the imagination. She was soon all over Kaminsky for 4th, towing the recovering Cao with her.

Rao, meanwhile, was in some trouble, at least to begin with as Chang and Li Zhi Cong (Carlin) were both battling to find a way past the leader. Helped by the fact that Kaminsky in 4th had Powell and Cao bottled up behind him, Cao swarming all over Powell. The pack got rearranged when Li managed to spin and lose all the places he’d gained and then some. That gave Chang a bit of breathing space and dropped Li to last where he would need to make a tremendous effort to catch up again.

Ahead of Li, Rao set a series of fastest laps as he started to pull away from Chang, who in turn had opened a gap to Kaminsky. The interest was now further back where Cao was on the move, passing Powell into Turn 1, before he set about catching Kaminsky hand over fist. A lap later and he again squeezed up the inside at Turn 1, this time to take 3rd from Kaminsky. His next target was Chang.

Once again, Cao seemed to easily chase down Chang, and again he pulled the Turn 1 pass to clear success. Now he was 2nd. Rao might prove a tougher prospect though, especially as the Englishman was a good six seconds ahead already. It didn’t seem to put Cao off though, the Chinese driver setting a new fastest lap as he set off after his team-mate.

At the same time as Chang was reported as being under investigation for a jump start, the 3rd-placed driver found himself being caught by Kaminsky and Powell, all after taking the place from him. While Rao responded to the threat of Cao with a new fastest lap of his own, Kaminsky had a go at passing Chang into Deene but then thought better of it and backed off. That left him vulnerable to Powell who made her move in Turn 1, diving up the inside and then holding station in Deene so he could not come back at her. She next focussed her attention on Chang, while ahead of them Rao was ever more uncatchable, and Cao was running around in isolation in 2nd.

A lap later Powell saw her chance and attempted a lunge past Chang into Deene; Chang defended strongly and she backed off, waiting for a better opportunity to present itself. The four-way battle for 3rd was still very tight, which was just as well because the gap was getting bigger and bigger between 1st and 2nd. The 3rd place scrap settled slightly when Li fell away, presumably as his tyres started to lose the will to live. As if to make up for it, the remaining trio bunched right up together.

Chang’s life got considerably easier when Powell’s engine started to sound like a badly tuned lawn-mower, though she hung on for a long as she could. The VW got progressively worse though, and on the penultimate lap she pulled into the pits and out of the race, exhaust damage causing a loss of power that made continuing impossible. That handed 4th place back to Kaminsky.

At the front Rao simply motored on to his first win of the season, taking the flag a whole 14 seconds ahead of Cao, delighted with his win despite the poignancy of achieving his first victory a week after the death of his brother James. Cao himself would leave Rockingham as the championship leader, two points ahead of Macleod and an object lesson in the importance of consistency. Chang was 3rd, from Kaminsky and Li.

Fastest lap went to Rao.

Next Races: Rounds 4, 5 & 6, Silverstone, May 24th/25th 2014.