Felipe Nasr found himself victorious in Round 18 of the British F3 Paul Ricard weekend after a fantastic battle with Kevin Magnussen and Antonio Felix Da Costa ended in tears at the final corner. Pole-sitter Magnussen led the race from the first lap to the final corner of the last, before a very aggressive lunge from HiTech‘s Da Costa pitched them both off onto the run-off, allowing Nasr – in 3rd at the time – to sweep past and seal his 7th victory of the 2011 season.
Da Costa was able to recover and still finish 2nd, whilst Magnussen tumbled out of the race in sight of the finish line – classified 13th overall. The incident also allowed Round 17 winner, William Buller onto the final step of the podium.
The final race of the weekend got off another chaotic start as the field charged into T1. Magnussen, Nasr, Da Costa and the other front runners all swept through the left-hander nose-to-tail, but a midfield shunt between Pietro Fantin and Jazeman Jaafar saw both the runners out on the spot. Harry Tincknell was also caught up in the drama, as well as Scott Pye, who failed to complete a racing lap on Sunday. Lucas Foresti was also collected, but less severely than his rivals and rejoined the pack. It started as yet another difficult round for Bart Hylkema too – some bodywork damage forced him to pit on the first lap, but was able to rejoin behind Foresti as the safety car controlled the field.
After the restart, the Magnussen vs Nasr vs Da Costa fight continued throughout the entire race. Magnussen had his mirrors full of the championship leader in the opening stages – the Brazilian rarely more than 0.5s behind the Dane. Da Costa refused to let the pair get away in the early stages, using the their squabble to edge closer. After 10 laps it was Nasr who was coming under the most pressure as Da Costa began to fly through the final 2 sectors. Merely a lap later a brave move into turn 1 relieved Nasr of 2nd place – he then began hunting down the race leader.
Magnussen stayed firmly in control however, keeping the gap at a barely defendable 0.5s. A brief exchange between Nasr and Da Costa allowed the Dane to briefly build a 1.0s cushion, but he was soon reeled back in by the hard-charging Da Costa, who had reclaimed 2nd place. In the closing laps, Magnussen finally looked set for his 1st race win of the weekend, but a last-ditch dive from Da Costa ended with inevitable contact.
A close outer wall spelled the end of Magnussen’s race – he could only watch as main rival Nasr passed to extend his championship lead from an impressive one, to a dominant one.
A free promotion for every runner in the top 10 saw Buller take 3rd after a fairly anonymous race, with Jack Harvey some 6 seconds behind. Rupert Svendsen-Cook took 5th place ahead of team-mate Carlos Huertas. Fahmi Illyas drove an impressively progressive race to finish in 7th, as did Hywel Lloyd who wound up 8th. Bart Hylkema also made an excellent recovery to finish 9th after being caught up in the T1 carnage and pitting. He carefully picked his way through the field on the way to the top 10 and the first International Class points of his F3 career. Pipo Derani rounded out the top 10.
Rookie driver Kotaro Sakurai worked his way up to 11th in his National Class Dallara, adding his performance to the list of excellent drives in the midfield.
Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series
Round 18, Paul Ricard FRA 17/7/2011
17 laps / 61.71 miles
Provisional results Championship class
1 Felipe NASR / BRA, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen 40m 52.715s / 90.60mph
2 William BULLER /GBR, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +3.248s
3 Jack HARVEY / GBR, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +3.734s
4 Rupert SVENDSEN-COOK / GBR, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +9.626s
5 Carlos HUERTAS / COL, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen +10.327s
6 Fahmi ILYAS / MAS, Fortec Dallara-Mercedes +17.462s
7 Hywel LLOYD / GBR, Sino Vision Dallara-Mercedes +24.990s
8 Bart HYLKEMA / NED, T-Sport Dallara-Volkswagen +26.775s
9 Antonio Felix da COSTA / POR, Hitech Dallara-Volkswagen +31.504s
10 Pipo DERANI / BRA, Double R Dallara-Mercedes +32.711s etc
1 Kotaro SAKURAI / JPN, Hitech Dallara-Mugen Honda +43.028s
Fastest lap Adderly FONG / CHN, SVR Dallara-Mercedes 2m 02.445s / 106.75mph Rec
Full timesheets http://bit.ly/oJQaiF
Provisional championship standings
1 Nasr 237 points; 2 Huertas 133; 3 Lucas Foresti 127; 4 Jazeman Jaafar 115; 5 Kevin Magnussen 113; 6 Buller 106; 7 Svendsen-Cook 104; 8 Harry Tincknell 64; 9 Pietro Fantin 61; 10 Riki Christodoulou 51 etc
1 Bart Hylkema 182; 2 Sakurai 213.
Rounds 19-21 of the 2011 Cooper Tyres British Formula 3 International Series take place on 30-31 July at the illustrious Spa Francochamps circuit in Belgium.