2014 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 Championship – Race Report Round 5

Cooper Tires British F3 Championship
Round 5, Silverstone, United Kingdom, May 23rd/25th 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Weather: Cool, overcast. Rain during the race.

Race Report – Round 5 (Race 2):
A bizarre game of “Ten (or more accurately Seven) Green Bottles” this afternoon at Silverstone saw a steadily reducing field eventually finish a curtailed race with only three cars still on the track. Victory was claimed by German youngster Marvin Kirchhofer (Fortec Motorsport), ahead of Martin Cao (Fortec Motorsport) while the final place was claimed by Li Zhi Cong (Carlin) after the race was red-flagged with around six minutes still to run.

At the start, under increasingly ominous skies, Matt Rao (Fortec Motorsport) made an average start that was made to look a lot less impressive by Kirchhofer who simply lit up the tyres and stormed away from 3rd place into the lead, diving between Rao and Andy Chang (Double R Racing), giving Chang a bit of a fright. Rao hung onto 2nd grimly but Cao outbraked him into Vale and demoted him to 3rd.

Chang, meanwhile, had dropped back into the sights of Egor Orudzhev (Carlin), who opted to try and drive round the outside of both Chang and Rao, to try and snatch 3rd. The Russian went wide, then walloped Chang as he tried to get back on the Tarmac. Orudzhev limped as far as the Wellington Straight before parking, while Chang nursed his car back to the pits, the wheels alarmingly skewed with the suspension no longer doing its job. And then there were five…

Rao hung on to Cao for a while longer, but in the end his Chinese team-mate was just too strong, and the gap between them started to open out, probably helped by a wheel-banging moment between the two of them. Cao set off in pursuit of the disappearing German, who had been making the most of the fact that his nearest challengers were so busy falling over each other. And while all this was going on, the skies were becoming ever darker.

Eventually Cao proved the faster and he promptly set the fastest lap of the race, although he didn’t get to keep it, Kirchhofer responding by going faster. Behind the Fortec trio, Li was in pursuit of Camren Kaminsky (Double R Racing), quickly catching the American, and staying right with him.

However, things started to change when – with 18 minutes still left on the clock – rain began to fall at Becketts. With the screen showing a warning that heavy rain was being reported between turns 2 and 4, and Rao setting his personal fastest lap, Kaminsky fell victim to the increasingly slippery track spun into the wall at Copse.

That left four and we still had more than half the race to go. We might not get a full podium to the finish at this rate. This was enough for Li to opt to pit for wet weather tyres. It could have been seen as a gamble, but then in effect he was last so had nothing at all to lose and possibly a great deal to gain.

Certainly Li and the team had called the weather correctly. It wasn’t long before the rain was pelting down all round the circuit. Li was a long way back, but it was still possible that he might catch up with the leaders, especially as they were beginning to slow as their slick tyres ran out of traction. The one man still pushing ahead despite unsuitable rubber was Cao, as he attempted to hunt down Kirchhofer, closing the gap to the GP3 series regular.

However, the conditions were worsening, and with Kirchhofer looking very sideways into Woodcote on more than one occasion. There were 11 minutes left and the lap times were dropping, with the top three all running around 15 seconds a lap slower than they had in the dry. Rao now opted to pit for wet weather tyres too. Changing tyres had cost Li around 70 seconds. Rao’s pit stop was much faster and he was very quickly on the hunt for his team-mates.

Li was lapping way faster than the two still on slicks, so it was reasonable to expect that Rao would also be able to make inroads into Cao and Kirchhofer. Except it soon became apparent that his pit stop had maybe been slightly too fast; coming into Brooklands on his out lap, the right rear wheel parted company with the rest of his red and white Dallara.

With only three cars left, it was getting worrying. However, as the rain came down ever harder, and the marshals struggled to get Rao out of the way, the officials hung out the red flags and the race was ended, the results declared a lap back at the end of lap 11. Only the top three were classified…

The fastest lap was set by Kirchhofer.

Afterwards Orudzhev was given a 5 grid place penalty for dangerous driving and thus starts tomorrow morning’s race from the back.