Avon Tyres British Formula Three Championship - Round 13,
Castle Donington, Leicestershire, June 25th/27th
© Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite
Weather: Overcast, cold, damp, track wet.
For a meeting held in mid-Summer, conditions were horribly
reminiscent of what we'd encountered back in April at the
first race of the season. Quite why the gods had it in for
us was a bit of mystery, though it may just have something
to do with the fact that the ETCC programme contains the Renault
V6 and 2000 series, which seem to be something of a rain magnet.
Anyway, it was getting late in the day, which did nothing
to aid visibility, but there was no choice. The drivers lined
up for the race start, with almost everyone on wet weather
tyres, and no one using dark visors. The exceptions to the
wet tyres were all at Hitech Racing, and you had to wonder,
looking at the sky, whether team principal David Hayle had
taken leave of his senses. Andrew Thompson, Marko Asmer and
James Walker were the victims of this decision, while Lucas
di Grassi had gone with the majority choice.
Anyway, the lights turned red, and then went out and the field
set off on an 18-lap slither around the full circuit at Castle
Donington. The lack of wisdom of going on slicks soon became
very apparent. As Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) came screaming
down towards Redgate, someone nerfed him into the beginnings
of a spin. Most likely it was di Grassi, and the two of them
went off, di Grassi's car having all four wheels off the ground
at one point. They didn't even get as far as Redgate, unlike
Asmer, who did but only just, the Estonian crashing out after
having to take evasive action and finding he had now place
left to go but straight on into the gravel trap. Afterwards,
Power was sure that Asmer was to blame, but it seemed more
likely to have been di Grassi who started the trouble. And
to be fair, Power's got a bit of a history of blaming the
wrong man for his misfortunes, having shouted at Richard Antinucci
once last year, when the guilty party was Michael Keohane.
He's also had more than one go at Will Davison for incidents
that were nothing to do with his fellow Australian.
Meanwhile, safe from all the mayhem in the middle of the pack,
Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) made a blinder of a start from
pole position, and was away into the lead before the others
could so much as blink. He wasn't the only one to get away
well, with Fairuz Fauzy (Menu Motorsport) slotting in to 3rd
place behind Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport). Despite the
resulting outbreak of yellow flags at Redgate, the top three
were through and well away, with Danny Watts (Promatecme F3)
following on their heels, holding off James Rossiter (Fortec
Motorsport), the Englishman having also benefited from the
general chaos, ending up 5th at the end of the first lap,
despite starting from a lowly 12th on the grid. Even so, he
couldn't shale off Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports), the Brazilian
determined that where Rossiter went, he would go too. And
so they started fighting over positions, while Carroll made
a determined effort to put as much ground between him and
the rest of the field as he possibly could.
While Carroll was attempting to cement the overall lead, the
Scholarship Class lead had gone to Ryan Lewis (T-Sport), after
Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing) got boxed out at the start
and ended scrabbling for purchase on the wet track, having
no option but to settle into 2nd place and play a waiting
game. To add insult to injury, Jelley's new teammate Ronayne
O'Mahony tried a move for 2nd, but couldn't quite make it
stick. He'd have to watch his mirrors for the next few laps,
if the Irishman wasn't going to snatch that much from him.
In the meantime, there was further excitement brewing, when
Watts decided that whatever he wanted, he didn't want to sit
behind Fauzy for any longer than was strictly necessary. He
made up his mind, taking the place from the Malaysian with
a move up the inside at the Schwantz Curve. Just for good
measure, Rossiter took that as a sign of vulnerability and
forced a mistake from Fauzy, the Menu driver running wide
at the Melbourne Hairpin and letting the Fortec man through.
However, he couldn't hold the place and would have to try
The main beneficiary of all the infighting was Carroll, who
was three and a half seconds ahead of Dirani by the time they'd
finished lap 2. Meanwhile Rossiter was having another look
at Fauzy, and was side-by-side with him into Fogarty's, Rossiter
emerging ahead this time to claim 4th place. Into the bargain,
by the time Fauzy had sorted himself out again, both Clivio
Piccione (Carlin Motorsport) and Piquet had passed him as
well, the latter having to give ground to the former as part
of the move. And just behind Fauzy now, Marcus Marshall (Fortec
Motorsport) was trying all sorts in an attempt to pass Alvaro
Parente (Carlin Motorsport). Some of this was, frankly, surprising,
not least the aggression Marshall was showing; perhaps he's
found his feet now.
A lap later and the battle was still raging as Piquet came
within inches of committing a yellow flag offence trying to
get back past Piccione at Redgate. He was still right with
the Monegasque as they headed for Coppice, where he finally
made his move and got through.
At the same time, Watts was beginning to catch Dirani, while
Piquet now had clear air in front of him and was busy setting
the fastest lap of the race so far, as he set off after Rossiter
once again. Lewis, meanwhile, was having a fairly spirited
go at Marshall, which looked as if it might turn out to be
unwise. It was, but not for Lewis. In the end it was Marshall
who lost out, with an unscheduled spin at the Melbourne Hairpin.
Of course, what all this meant was that Carroll was still
getting away unchallenged, though it looked as if that might
not last much longer, since Watts was now on Dirani's rear
wing and not looking at all inclined to stay there for long.
And further back, Lewis was still fighting out of his class,
though he lost out to a determined Karun Chandhok (T-Sport),
the Indian seemingly one of the few who was attempting to
look after his tyres as the track started to dry out. Maybe
that was because he could smell his tyres melting, and he
wasn't enjoying it at all.
With a third of the race distance run, Piquet now had Rossiter
in his sights, while Watts had seen off Dirani with ease and
was now starting to close the gap that Carroll had carefully
built up, all 8.8 seconds of it. While Watts was setting lap
times that were eight tenths faster than anything Carroll
was able to dredge up, Parente had his sights set on Fauzy,
and Piquet was trying everything he knows to get by Rossiter,
including a number of attempts at going round the outside,
none of which were quite sufficient to do the job. And just
when you thought it couldn't get much more exciting, there
were Dallaras three abreast at the Melbourne Hairpin as Chandhok
took Parente, who was busy passing Fauzy and hadn't noticed
the threat posed by the T-Sport driver. And just to add to
the fun, Lewis tried to join in too by attempting to go up
the inside of all three of them as they went into Goddards!
He couldn't do it, but it was fun to watch. This was looking
more like a Formula Ford 1600 race by the lap, not at all
like a supposedly grown up Formula Three race!
A lap later Piquet finally got what he was looking for, and
found a way past Rossiter, edging up the inside at Redgate.
Perhaps not surprisingly, once past he simple drove away,
setting off after Dirani and Watts, the latter still reeling
Carroll in for the lead at a seemingly unstoppable rate. Needless
to say, it didn't take long for Piquet to get on terms with
Dirani, and when Dirani got all sideways at the Melbourne
Hairpin, Piquet was more than ready, diving up the inside
to go 3rd as they exited Goddards. He was now on a charge
and his next target was Watts, while Watts was still chasing
down Carroll. The gap had now come down to a little under
7 seconds and everyone was waiting to see whether Carroll
could find a response or not. Of course, with Piquet starting
to set faster times that Watts, maybe he wouldn't need to
With 8 laps left, Rossiter suddenly went wide at Goddards,
and promptly lost ground, having to let Piccione and Dirani
through, to his annoyance. That hadn't been in the plan at
all. And now lots of people were looking for puddles in an
attempt to preserve their tyres. Of course, there are always
exceptions to these rules, and Lewis was one of them as he
tried to put the moves on Fauzy. He could have just sat back
and enjoyed his class lead, but he seemed to feel the need
to do more, and so he was on the attack, to the consternation
of more than a few Championship Class runners.
It was starting to get darker and colder out there, and you
had to wonder if this race would finish ahead of the next
rainstorm that was looming. The world was especially dark
and cold for Dirani, who completed lap 9 another place down
after his teammate, Piccione, came barging by and into 4th
place. His mood wasn't improved when he realised Rossiter
was catching up again. A lap later he was ready to try and
squeeze the Brazilian out, while a couple of places further
back Marshall pulled alongside Lewis, trying to get his own
back for his earlier demotion. This was not a good idea as
it turned out, as Marshall came back with a mangled front
wing and had to pit for a new one.
Meanwhile, next time through Redgate, Dirani took his place
back from Rossiter, whose front wing end plate decals were
flapping festively, while Fauzy fell off at Goddards, which
might well have been safer than staying with the pack. Watts
was still pushing hard, and this time round he took half a
second out of Carroll in the first sector. He was aided in
his cause by Piquet making a mistake and going off at Goddards.
The Brazilian ran wide but survived in 3rd place, though significantly
further back than he had been. It gave Watts some breathing
space, though Piquet was soon back up to speed and in hot
pursuit once more, while Carroll responded to the news that
Watts was getting closer by trying to open up the gap again.
A lap later Piquet again got very sideways, while Rossiter
came back at Dirani, presumably at least dimly aware that
Chandhok was looking at catching them both. The track was
now very much drier than it had been, a fact made clear when
you realised that Thompson, who was two places from last on
his slicks, was now lapping at the same pace as the wet-shod
runners. Unfortunately it was a bit late for him to make any
sort of progress. With his teammate Walker dead last, this
had turned out not to be a good call in anyone's estimation.
At the front, though, Piquet was trying very hard to catch
Watts, while the Lola-Dome driver was a mere 3.5 seconds back
from Carroll and closing. It was now a matter of time, and
also of whether Piquet could get to Watts, before Watts could
get to Carroll. This was all great fun for the spectators,
who deserved some sort of reward in return for standing out
there in the cold and damp, way into dinnertime.
And even with only three laps left, there was still plenty
of entertainment, this time round because Chandhok was right
with Rossiter and Dirani now, and seemed to be having fun.
He was circulating a full second faster than Dirani and a
little over half a second quicker than Rossiter. Inevitably,
he decided to have a go as the three of them arrived at the
Melbourne Hairpin. It didn't quite work, but shortly after
that, he barged his was past Dirani when the latter went very
wide at Redgate. That only left Rossiter as a target, though
time was running out now. And at the front, Piquet came back
at Watts as they lapped the unfortunate slick-shod Walker.
Once he was disposed of, they we're both catching Carroll
at an alarming rate.
With the gap down to 1.8 seconds between the two British drivers
at the front, Piquet set the fastest first sector time to
move even closer to Watts, who was not going to catch Carroll
in the lap he had left, though he'd done his considerable
best. Perhaps his tyres were shot, perhaps there just wasn't
anything he could do, but Piquet was closing on him at an
incredible rate. With one corner left on the last lap, Piquet
decided he'd nothing to lose, and he launched himself at Watts
from slightly too far back as they approached Goddards. Watts
was already turning and Piquet found himself out of control,
unable to avoid the Lola. Watts was left fuming on the sidelines
within sight of the chequered flag, while Piquet came home
in 2nd place on the road. To be fair the Brazilian was horribly
contrite afterwards, though this was not a lot of help to
Danny or to the people on the Lola project. And though it
was clear Piquet never meant it to happen, come Sunday he
and Watts still weren't talking to each other, not helped
by the fact that Nelson believed his attempt to apologise
had been rebuffed by Danny, and by the fact that Danny couldn't
understand why Nelson hadn't apologised.
Afterwards, the distressed Brazilian was docked 15 seconds,
which dropped him back to 6th, and was also fined and had
his licence endorsed. It seemed somewhat harsh to hit him
with all three penalties, particularly in light of the mere
fine imposed on Rossiter after Knockhill, and Piquet was convinced
he might as well have been disqualified.
The end result was that Carroll came home a delighted winner,
while Piccione was promoted to 2nd, and Rossiter claimed 3rd.
Chandhok was happy with 4th place, having thoroughly enjoyed
himself out there, while the much put-upon Dirani was 5th.
Piquet was 6th with an extra point for the fastest lap of
the race, which meant he still led the championship, originally
only by that single point, though in the end he was 8 points
behind once the penalty was applied. Parente was 7th, while
Lewis came home 8th overall to claim yet another Scholarship
Class win, though this time Jelley, who was 2nd in class and
9th overall also got the fastest lap. O'Mahony was 3rd in
class on his return, while Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3)
was a distant 4th. Behind him, and 8th in the Championship
Class was Walker, who finished despite the tyre situation,
while 9th and last was Marshall, the Australian getting his
first points of the season.