F3 International Series, Round 19, Mondello Park, Ireland,
September 17th/18th 2005 © Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria
Cool. Dry. Sunny.
We're missing Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing), after an accident
at home with a bonfire. He turned up at the circuit on Friday,
despite the fact that he'd been hospitalised on Wednesday,
so he probably shouldn't have been running at all. After two
slow and painful test sessions he saw sense and called it
a day, flying back home at the end of the day. He was out
of the meeting.
In a departure from normal procedure, instead of Ryan Lewis
(T-Sport) being the first runner on the track, Stephen Jelley
(Menu Motorsport) was the first man out, the Englishman leaving
the pit apron a good twenty seconds ahead of anyone else.
As a result, at the end of the first handful of flying laps,
Jelley was fastest, ahead of Bruno Senna (Double R Racing)
and Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), the local hero.
It was odd but at least explicable. Jonathan Kennard (Alan
Docking Racing) shooting up the order to 2nd overall was a
little harder to account for. He was replaced by his team-mate,
Australian Karl Reindler. As least he's in a Championship
Class car, unlike Kennard. In a bid for team solidarity the
third ADR runner, Juho Annala, slotted into 3rd overall. None
of them would be anywhere near that far forward by the time
the session ended.
In a bid to salvage something from a relatively pointless
season O'Mahony was really pressing on at his home circuit.
With 13 of the field now running, he put in another quick
time to claim a very early provisional pole. In the National
Class it should come as no surprise to anyone to know that
Salvador Duran (P1) was ahead of the rest and was suddenly
2nd overall. Neither he nor O'Mahony got to enjoy their positions
of superiority for long, with Jelley and then Senna each taking
a brief turn at the top. They'd all reckoned without Steven
Kane (Promatecme F3) who quickly edged both Senna and Jelley
out. The changes were still coming through thick and fast
though, with Duran once more attempting to stake his claim
with a time that was good enough for 4th overall behind Kane,
Senna and Jelley. He was pushed down a place in the overall
scheme of things when O'Mahony clawed his way back to 2nd,
but was displaced when Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) decided
he fancied a run at the National Class pole and leapfrogged
everyone to go 3rd. It was beginning to look as if this might
be a very odd race indeed. However, there was still time for
everything to change. The first sign of normality came when
Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) came out of nowhere to
go 2nd on the grid, and he was followed almost immediately
by Charlie Kimball in the second of the Carlin cars, the American
hoping to clinch the runner-up slot in the title chase before
the weekend is out. It looked as if it might be another Carlin
benefit after all.
Meanwhile Duran had edged back up the order and was lurking
threateningly just behind Hollings. They weren't the only
ones locked in a fight for positions. Lewis had tried to claim
4th, but was kicked back a place when Mike Conway (Fortec
Motorsport) grabbed 3rd, only to find that Kimball came straight
back at him, and showed every sign of hanging on to the place
now he had it.
Late to the party - being Brazilian makes getting up early
a no-no it seems - was Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport), the
Brazilian re-adapting quickly after his first outing in a
Renault World Series 3.5 litre car at Donington last weekend.
Certainly his step up the ladder had done his turn of speed
no harm at all, something he proved by setting the 6th fastest
time of the session. Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport)
was another beginning to improve as the session started to
wear on, and he hauled himself into the top 10, after languishing
a long way back for the first half of the session.
This was in direct contrast to Marco Asmer (Hitech Racing)
who had only completed two laps, before managing to spin out.
This left him languishing in 22nd, and not looking at all
happy about it. His mood probably wasn't improved by the fact
that the officials didn't seem at all inclined to stop the
session and rescue the Estonian. However, when O'Mahony went
off, suddenly the situation changed drastically. The red flags
came out and both cars were rescued.
At this point the order was Kane, from Parente, Kimball, Conway,
Lewis, Dirani, O'Mahony, Senna, Jelley and Bakkerud. Hollings
was holding off Duran for the National Class, from James Walker
(Fortec Motorsport), Kennard, Josh Fisher (Team SWR), Barton
Mawer (T-Sport), Reindler, Annala, Dan Clarke (Double R Racing)
and Nick Jones (Team SWR). Cheong Lou Meg (Edenbridge Racing)
was 21st, ahead of Asmer and Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport).
It was a very neat break in the session, with fifteen minutes
out of thirty still to run.
The clean up operation was effected quickly, and the session
got underway without too much delay. However, you could be
forgiven for wondering if there was any real point in having
a half hour session. Parente didn't even bother to go back
out, and Kimball went out for a lap or two but soon returned
to the pits. They seemed to have made the right decision.
The improvements simply wouldn't come, though a couple of
the more desperate cases were able to move up the grid a little.
Walker was the first of them, the Nürburgring winner
getting a clear run that proved his first victory in cars
wasn't the fluke it appeared to be. Clarke was also languishing
a very long way down the order, his case seemingly even more
parlous than Walker's. A real push for the line saw him move
up to 14th, which still didn't look at all good. However,
a lap later he'd pushed Walker out of 7th to claim it for
himself. With one notable exception, that was the last of
the position shifts, though Jelley, Clarke and Lewis all managed
to improve their times, albeit without shifting up the order.
The notable exception was Dirani, who had slipped down the
order after a good start, but who seemed to suddenly recover.
The result was a very happy Brazilian in 5th place! Of course
there was also a very happy Northern Irishman, in the shape
of poleman Kane. Parente was happy enough with 2nd, with nothing
really left to prove, and Kimball was 3rd ahead of main rival
for 2nd in the championship, Conway. 5th was Dirani, from
Lewis, Clarke, Walker, O'Mahony and Jelley. Senna was 11th,
from Bakkerud, with National Class pole sitter Hollings next
up. 14th was Duran, from Kennard, Mawer, Fisher, Reindler,
Ihara and Annala. The final places went to Jones (who was
21st), Cheong and a despondent Asmer.