To say that Jean-Eric Vergne's victory in this afternoon's Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International championship feature race was straightforward would be accurate, if a little simplistic. However, such was the manner of his victory today at Thruxton. Similarly, Menasheh Idafar beat team-mate and National championship rival, James Cole by over two laps following an early accident.
Championship leader and sprint race winner, Vergne was on pole again and lead confidently into first corner, Allard. As he approached Woodham hill, Vergne's mirrors were full of the red, white and blue Dallara of team-mate James Calado. The British driver was in no mood to exchange niceties and outbraked the Frenchman into notoriously treacherous chicane, Club.
Next time around it would be a different story and Vergne pulled an almost identical manouvere on Calado, before beginning to build a lead. At the end of lap three, there was significant incident between Max Snegirev and Adderley Fong at the Club chicane. Neither drive was seriously hurt, but a lengthy safety car period followed as the cars were removed and safety barriers fixed. At the restart, Vergne made a good get away and that was the last Calado saw of his Carlin team-mate until the end of the race.
Unbeknown many, it was the weather at Thruxton that would play a key role in the afternoon feature race. The temperature soared and this significantly affected the tyres of a number of competitors. We're used to hearing about the difference weather and tyres make in Formula One, but the same goes for Formula Three. As the race approached the midway mark, Calado's challenge of Vergne's lead faded and the driver slipped ever closer to the swift looking Fortec of Oli Webb. Webb used every inch of the Thruxton tarmac and eventually overtook his fellow countryman around the outside at Club. Despite a late charge, Webb wasn't able to get close to Vergne's Red Bull liveried Carlin Dallara Volkswagen and finished eight seconds adrift.
Trevor Carlin's team of spirited youngsters still managed to dominate proceedings, despite the ever present thorn of Webb ruining their chances of another 1-2-3-4 result. Adrian Buzaid is a driver who has grown significantly this season, he and Rupert Svendsen-Cook added to their points tally with comfortable fourth and fifth place finishes respectively. Felipe Nasr made up for his earlier error with a strong sixth placed finish.
Unfortunately, this was small cheer for Raikkonen Robertson. The Woking-based team was again subject to poor luck when Nasr's team-mate, Daisuke Nakajima was victim of mistaken identity. An error by marshals meant that Nakajima's number eight car was somehow mistaken for Adderley Fong's number eighteen car, which had overtaken under waved yellow flags. The penalty Nakajima served, a drive thru, ruled him out of contention for the rest of the race, having been in a promising eighth place. Fong subsequently was fined, but Nakajima's race was run. Raikkonen Robertson team manager, Malcolm Swetnam was understandably livid after the race.
Hitech racing were the only other team who could claim a worse race than Raikkonen Roberston. After Will Buller was penalised for jumping the start, he and team-mate Gabriel Dias collided on the last lap at the Club chicane. It was an unfortunate incident that damaged Dias' car significantly and caused his immediate retirement. T-Sport's Alex Brundle benefited from the incident and recorded a well deserved tenth place.
As the team's head for Silverstone next weekend, Vergne is ahead in the championship by 104 points, an almost unassailable lead. Webb is second, just one point ahead of Calado. After his eleventh win in twenty one starts, Vergne remarked, “A few more points at Silverstone and the title is possible. Today was a good race; it's always great to win like this, with a really great carâ€¦”
In the National Championship it was more of the same from Idafar. The nineteen year-old carried on where he left off in the sprint race and finished comfortably ahead of James Cole, at times mixing with the superior International Class cars. As Idafar crossed the line, he was almost pushed into the pitwall by a dazed Buller, luckily escaping and just pipping the Hitech driver on the line. Cole, was an unlucky victim in the earlier crash at Club and following a stop for a nose-cone change, pitted again shortly after; which all but ruled him out of contention for the lead.
Cooper Tires British F3 International Series
Round 21 Thruxton 8/8/2010 33 laps = 77.75 miles
Provisional results International class
1 Jean-Eric VERGNE / FRA, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen 40m 52.546s / 114.12mph
2 Oli WEBB / GBR, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +7.895s
3 James CALADO / GBR, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +9.694s
4 Adriano BUZAID / BRA, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +12.535s
5 Rupert SVENDSEN-COOK / GBR, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +16.484s
6 Felipe NASR / BRA, RR Dallara-Mercedes +19.409s
7 Lucas FORESTI / BRA, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +21.039s
8 Jay BRIDGER / GBR, Litespeed Dallara-Mercedes +28.428s
9 Daniel McKENZIE / GBR, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +29.534s
10 Alex BRUNDLE / GBR, T-Sport Dallara-Volkswagen +35.146s etc
1 Menasheh IDAFAR / GBR, T-Sport Dallara-Mugen Honda +41.895s
2 James COLE / GBR, T-Sport Dallara-Mugen Honda 31 laps
Fastest lap: Vergne 1m 07.264s / 126.09mph