Kevin Magnussen survived soaking conditions and contact with team-mate Felipe Nasr to claim his 6th victory of 2011 in the 3rd and final race of the British F3 series’ weekend at Donington Park.
Changeable conditions provided an intriguing prologue to what became a highly dramatic race, as the Derby heavens opened during the warm-up lap forcing the slick-wearing runners in the field – which was everyone except the top 6, and Round 26 winner Vallteri Bottas who still opted to start on slicks – to change onto wet Cooper tyres. The pre-race pit stops meant only 10 drivers lined up on the starting grid, whilst those who made tyres changes were forced to start from the pitlane.
As the lights went out, Magnussen made the best start of the front-runners, leaping from 5th into 2nd place behind Carlin team-mate and new champion Nasr. Magnussen looked high on confidence in the wet conditions, and quickly pulled alongside Nasr as the pair raced through the Fogarty Esses on the opening lap – a move dangerous enough in the dry. Contact looked inevitable, and seconds later Nasr was sent spinning back down to 10th position, whilst Magnussen stumbled only to 3rd as Jack Harvey and Rupert Svendsen-Cook took up 1st and 2nd respectively.
Bottas discovered the obvious after slithering around on the soaking opening lap and pitted for wet tyres, rejoining at the back of the pack.
At the head of the field, newly intensified rain caught out Svendsen-Cook at Goddard’s hairpin, allowing Magnussen past into 2nd place with Harvey now in his sights. It didn’t take long for the Dane to arrive on the back of British F3 rookie and make a decisive move through the same Esses – this time without incident – to assume the lead. A clear track without the blinding spray from a car ahead, Magnussen was able to pull a gap after only a few sectors.
Pipo Derani discovered some excellent pace in his Double R Dallara, and marched past Svendsen-Cook and onto the back of Harvey by the mid-stage of the 24 lap race. Harvey put up a stiff defence in the face of the Brazilian’s efforts, but his work was unfortunately undone by a failing VW engine only 4 laps from home. Derani happily inherited 2nd place and even managed to cut Magnussen’s lead to just 4.8 seconds by the chequered flag. Svendsen-Cook enjoyed his 2nd podium of the weekend another 3 seconds down the road.
Carlos Huertas scored another 4th place for Carlin, whilst Scott Pye inherited 5th place after an impressive performance from Adderly Fong was spoiled by a post-race penalty, as his SinoVision team weren’t able to clear the starting grid in time, adding 10 seconds to the Chinese driver’s overall time and dropping him from 5th to 7th – still his season’s best result. Pietro Fantin officially finished in 6th, with Lucas Foresti in 8th just 2 seconds ahead of Nasr, who could only recover to 9th after his 1st-lap contact with Magnussen. Jazeman Jaafar rounded out the top 10, whilst Bottas could only manage 13th after his strategy fumble.
The Finn did set the fastest lap however, taking the bonus points but leaving the Double R team wondering where he could have finished had he not fallen so far behind early on.
With a 6th victory under his belt, Magnussen moves within 1 point of the runner-up spot occupied by a highly consistent Carlos Huertas. Consistency, in fact, is something that has haunted Magnussen all season, as engine misfires and a variety of incidents have stopped Nasr’s only real championship threat from mounting a sustained challenge. The young Dane can secure 2nd in the championship at the season’s final weekend at Silverstone on 8-9 October.
Provisional results Championship class
1 Kevin MAGNUSSEN / DEN, Carlin Dallara-Volkswagen 40m 30.222s / 88.43mph
1 Nasr 302 points; 2 Huertas 196; 3 Magnussen 195; 4 Will Buller 183; 5 Svendsen-Cook 179; 6 Jaafar 175 etc
1 Sakurai 324 etc