2014 Cooper Tires British F3 Championship
Rounds 16-18, Brands Hatch, Kent, August 30th/31st 2014
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
Weather: Cloudy, dry, air temperature 18.1°C, track 30.0°C.
At Brands Hatch this afternoon, it was all about new boy Santino Ferrucci (Fortec Motorsport) freshly imported from the FIA F3 European Championship and Hongwei Cao (Fortec Motorsport), who has been racing in this series all season, the team-mates splitting the two available pole positions between them at the end of a session that looked as if it was going to go Ferrucci’s way right up to Cao’s final lap. The pair also grabbed a 2nd place apiece with Li Zhi Cong (Carlin) qualifying 3rd for both races.
Initially it was all about another new boy, Dan Wells (Double R Racing) who was early on the pace, much as he was in this morning’s free practice, while Max Marshall (Double R Racing), who drove Wells’ car at Thruxton, struggled with a different car (and far more downforce than he is used to) as he tried to get on terms with the circuit and the car. Running well – after a trip to Pembrey to work on his speed – was Li, who seemed to have benefitted from the work done in the wilds of Wales at Carlin’s shiny new training facility.
In fact Li was running so well he promptly went fastest but Wells responded by going even quicker. However, at this point all three Fortec drivers were still sitting in the pits waiting for their moment, so there was a lot more still to come. As Li again went fastest, the sound of the Fortec engines firing up could be heard. With the order currently Li, from Wells, Camren Kaminsky (Double R Racing) and Marshall, Matt Rao, the current championship leader, and Cao emerged onto the track.
Li was still pushing hard as Rao and Cao completed their out laps and the Chinese driver promptly upped the pace, raising the bar even further a lap later. It couldn’t last though, with Cao’s first flying lap proving sufficient for him to move into 2nd, and a lap later he was on pole from Li and Rao. As Cao increased the speed with a 1:19.908, all three Double R cars pitted along with Li. That left the Fortec boys with a clear run, as Ferrucci had now come out to play too. Complaints about traffic would certainly warrant at last a slap!
Ferrucci’s first flying lap was enough for 3rd, while Cao’s pole position time was promptly disallowed over track limits. Cao didn’t let it bother him, immediately setting a very similar time that this time was allowed to stand. We’d reached the halfway point now and Cao was ahead of Li, from Ferrucci, Rao, Wells, Kaminsky and Marshall. It wasn’t over yet though.
A very handy lap from Ferrucci, who has never been here before, was enough to put him briefly on pole but then he too had his time cancelled for not respecting track limits. He too didn’t let it bother him and immediately put in another flyer that put him back ahead. There were now less than ten minutes of the session remaining, and everyone was back on the track. It was Kaminsky who was next to grab an improvement, with a time that put him 4th.
At the front Ferrucci was also still flying, which meant the new provisional pole time was 1:19.698. It remained to be seen whether that had put the American teenager clear of the chasing pack or not. Wells was next to set a better time, but it only moved him to 5th, while Li’s improvement had no effect on his position and he stayed 3rd.
That was the point at which Ferrucci decided he had done all could and he pulled into the pits and climbed out of the car, seeing no point in wearing his tyres out any further. Whether that was the right decision remained to be seen. Marshall was able to improve, though he stayed 7th, while Rao climbed the order to 5th, and Li and Cao briefly traded places for 2nd, Cao coming out ahead.
Meanwhile, Kaminsky had a brief off and Marshall abandoned ship in the pits, also feeling there wasn’t much to be gained from staying out. It looked as if Ferrucci had both pole positions wrapped up now, the American heading the order from Cao, Li, Kaminsky, Rao, Wells and Marshall with enough time left for two laps if you were lucky, one if not.
None of this seemed to in any way deter Cao though, the Chinese driver going for a time even on his last lap. It was enough to dislodge Ferrucci from the top of the tables as Cao came over the line to take the chequered flag. To prove that anything Cao could do, Rao could do too, the English driver also improved a he came round to finish the session, moving up to at the flag.
And so Ferrucci starts Round 16 this afternoon from pole position, ahead of Cao, Li, Rao, Wells, Kaminsky and Marshall, while Cao will start Round 18 tomorrow afternoon from Ferrucci, Li, Rao, Kaminsky, Wells and Marshall.
Grid Race 1 (Second Fastest Qualifying Laps):
1st – No. 10, Santino Ferrucci, USA, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:19.743
2nd – No. 57, Martin Cao, CHN, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1;19.766
3rd – No. 1, Li Zhi Cong, CHN, Carlin, Dallara F308, Volkswagen, 1:20.118
4th – No. 7, Matt Rao, GBR, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:20.299
5th – No. 16, Dan Wells, GBR, Double R Racing, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:20.419
6th – No. 34, Camren Kaminsky, USA, Double R Racing, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:20.422
7th – No. 18, Max Marshall, GBR, Double R Racing, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:21.527
Race 3 Grid (Fastest Qualifying Laps):
1st – No. 57, Martin Cao, CHN, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:19.495
2nd – No. 10, Santino Ferrucci, USA, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:19.698
3rd – No. 1, Li Zhi Cong, CHN, Carlin, Dallara F308, Volkswagen, 1:19.859
4th – No. 7, Matt Rao, GBR, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:20.248
5th – No. 34, Camren Kaminsky, USA, Double R Racing, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:20.274
6th – No. 16, Dan Wells, GBR, Double R Racing, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:20.343
7th – No. 18, Max Marshall, GBR, Double R Racing, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:21.370