F3 Asia 2005

Driver Profiles

17 March 2005
British Formula 3
Official Test Silverstone
Track: Silverstone Int. (2,2490 miles / 3,6194 km)
Weather / Track: Cloudy / Changeable

British F3 International Series Press Day, Silverstone, March 16th 2005
© Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas

Weather: changeable (starting dry and ending up damp and nasty).
Someone told Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport) that it would be the wettest day of the year. At first it seemed as if his flatmates might just be winding him up, but as the day wore on it began to look as if it might be true. It was certainly pretty grim by mid-morning. The teams had all been asked to set up and look professional, and some of them had even managed it. Of the teams that were looking especially good, Carlin and Fortec both seemed very neat and tidy, as did P1. Performance Racing was also looking very smart.
Sadly the same could not be said of newcomers Räikkonen Robertson Racing, henceforth to be known as Double R Racing. They were not looking at all impressive, but they had good reason. Most of their kit hadn't arrived yet (they should be called Repossessed Retro Racing, according to Team Manager Anthony "Boyo" Hieatt). However, just because they looked messy, doesn't mean we should write them off. For one thing, half of last year's Carlin boys seem to be working there, and for another they have a couple of promisingly quick drivers. Daniel Clarke, 2004 Formula Ford Festival winner, has been notably quick on occasions in the past, though he seems to have a tendency to lose his head more often than you might expect. If he can calm down and think all the time he may do well. In the second car is Bruno Senna, one of the few drivers who kept a cool head in the Macau Formula Renault race last year (thus finishing on the podium instead of in the Armco). He's fresh from Formula BMW, and knows that the pressure will be on simply because of who he is. It's fair to say that the family resemblance is alarming when he has his helmet on and the visor up, and all you can see are his eyes and nose. Meanwhile, he's keeping his head down and trying to learn. Meanwhile, he's keeping his head down and trying to learn.
Over at Carlin, Dave Lowe was looking somewhat stressed. As the new Team Manager he feels he has to win it for Trevor Carlin (now Technical Director of Jordan/Midland/Whatever they're called now). With Trevor on an aeroplane bound for Malaysia, it's all down to Lowe to get it right. He was not being helped by the fact that not all of his drivers were in place yet (or rather they were all present, it was just that not all of them had cars to drive yet). Christian Bakkerud seems to be more than a little insane, but in our experience this is perfectly normal for Danes; he seems cheeky and outgoing, and as he's in agreement that Tom Kristensen is a fine person, we were off on the right footing there. He also seemed to be getting the hang of F3 quite quickly, though he wasn't as fast as his new team-mate, Charlie Kimball. Kimball is much quieter, and seemed to be taking a studious approach to things, poring over the data logging long into the afternoon, end expressing disappointment at only being third fastest. He might, perhaps, have been happier had he been the fastest rookie. He certainly seemed to be settling in well, and thus far prefers the smooth style of an F3 car over the rough-and-tumble of Formula Ford (at least last year's version of it). Keiko Ihara, on the other hand, was never very effective in Formula Renault (though to be fair she wasn't completely useless either), and can, I think, best be regarded as part income generator for the team (she has sponsorship from a cosmetics company) and part publicity stunt. She is also, at 31, the oldest driver in the formula. It would be nice to think she might turn into an effective driver, but somehow it seems unlikely.
The fastest woman is surely going to be Suzie Stoddart, the rapid young Scot delighted to have moved up the ladder at last. She was slightly embarrassed to drop her Alan Docking Racing car in the gravel during the session, but at least she wasn't alone. Her National Class team-mate, Jonathan Kennard, also collected a large amount of gravel thus putting a premature end to his session. The other Championship Class ADR runner, Juho Annala, on the other hand, stayed out of trouble, though he wasn't too happy with his turn of speed (he spent a lot of the session in the garage, but seemed unable to grasp the idea that garages don't tend to go very fast), and doesn't like Silverstone one little bit. Still, as he said, at least one car was still in one piece.
Returning to the fray after a long absence was Edenbridge Racing (Champions way back in 1995 with Oliver Gavin). After a number of years away from F3 in a variety of other series, they are back with a Macanese driver, Lou Meng Cheong. One of the difficulties he is likely to face - apart from not knowing any of the tracks - is his lack of English. Using an interpreter who is not a racer, and therefore doesn't understand the concepts he's having to translate into Mandarin, probably won't make communication much easier. Sadly, it also looks as if he could do to be one hell of a lot fitter; he's somewhat wider than the average F3 driver at present.
At the very sharp end of the time sheets was Marko Asmer. The Estonian appears to have got his focus back now, and as the only driver to have stayed in the same team as he drove for in 2004, he must start the season with a tremendous advantage. It remains to be seen whether he and Hitech Racing can make the most of the head start they have, but judging by his relaxed demeanour and his pace during the morning, it may well be on the cards for them this year. He was run a close second by Mike Conway in one of the Fortec Motorsport cars, the rookie Englishman spending a lot of time staring off into space and not communicating with anyone outside the team. Altogether less successful was O'Mahony. He made a nonsense of it early on and ended up being brought back in the rescue vehicle, his car dangling sadly from a forklift appliance on the circuit tractor. He was deeply embarrassed and ended the day last of the Championship Class runners. The two team-mates couldn't have had more varied fortunes. Tim Bridgman, in the second of the Hitech cars, was also faring much worse than his team-mate (Asmer), but at least he couldn't be blamed for his lack of pace. A clutch failure sidelined him early on, and by the time the car was even close to fixed the weather turned against us and no one was going anywhere fast (or even slow).
The latest Lola is in the hands of P1 Motorsport, with Roly Vincini taking on Danilo Dirani to run in the latest challenger to the might of Dallara. In addition to the personable Brazilian, he has a National Class Lola for Mexican Salvador Duran. While Danilo set a fine pace, Duran was confined to the pits once the weather turned nasty, because "Roly says I can't go out because he thinks I am crazy!" This, from the team boss who ran Ernesto Viso last year! This is some sort of crazy we are not at all anxious to find out about, though the lad seems friendly enough. He admitted he'd had a bad year last year in Formula Renault in Italy and Europe, and seems set to run for two seasons in British F3. He has the backing, which is more than can be said for some. He was second fastest in class, but he was outpaced in the course of the morning.
The fastest man in the National Class was the tall Indian, Suk Sandher. He was hoping to impress his potential sponsors to the point where they would put their hands in their pockets and stump up a budget for him. Certainly between Sandher and Performance Racing they did all that they could. If the money men weren't impressed they should have been. Fingers crossed that having recently seen the debut of the first Indian driver in Formula One, they may feel they'd like another one sometime soon.
Of the remaining three Championship Class runners, James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) was the fastest, having swapped teams. He's one of only three Class A runners from 2004 (Dirani and Asmer are the others), so in theory he's also at an advantage, at least during the early stages of the season. Ryan Lewis seemed to be struggling somewhat in the only T-Sport car, and almost certainly won't have things anywhere near as easy this year as he did in 2004 when he controlled the Class B championship from start to finish, only occasionally losing out to arch-rival Stephen Jelley. Jelley is back too, having moved up to the Championship Class with Menu Motorsport. Unfortunately, Jelley has lost ground already after writing off the first Dallara chassis in a somewhat bizarre accident at Snetterton a couple of weeks back. A minor off was the cause of his troubles; driving back on to the track in order to get underway again, the floor caught on the kerbs and was ripped off, taking the seat-belt mountings with it, and totally destroying the chassis. The second car, luckily, was on its way from the factory, but of course all the set up work needs to be done again. It wasn't what the driver/artist needed at this stage, but hopefully his talent will show through and allow him to catch up.
There are other drivers out there too, with Charlie Hollings finally getting as far as F3 after a career in Formula Fords and Renaults that seems to have lasted forever. He takes over Promatecme F3's 2004 Lola-Dome to compete in the National Class, and was well ahead of West countryman Josh Fisher, the Team SWR driver making the step-up from Formula BMW. It's going to be quite a learning curve for him and the team. Another driver who isn't going to find this year easy is Nick Jones, the American/Welsh driver also stepping up to F3 with Team SWR. The third of the SWR cars, a Lola-Dome, was driven by Gavin Halls.



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