Despite a winless weekend in the British Formula Three International Series Brazilian Felipe Nasr clinched the 2011 crown in the single-seater series and maintained his grip at the top of the Sunoco Rolex 24 At Daytona Challenge.
A third place in the final race of the weekend was good enough to clinch the title – making him the fourth consecutive Carlin driver to do so – but the weekend actually saw Nasr's score in the Sunoco Challenge decrease.
This was not helped by a drive through penalty in the first race for exceeding the track limits. Serving the penalty dropped him from the lead, handing a maiden win to Hitech Racing's Pietro Fantin, who also scored points for pole position for both the F3 races that score Challenge points.
After the race Fantin revealed that he was already thrilled to have qualified on pole, and to be on course for second. “Second place was still OK,” Fantin told The Checkered Flag. “My aim was to be on the podium. After qualifying I was already happy, the weekend was done after that but I had a little bit of luck and I got the win.”
Fantin added a second place in the final race of the weekend to cap his best F3 weekend with a second podium, behind Kevin Magnussen.
Despite his average score dropping by five points in the Challenge standings Nasr remains well on course to take the top prize of a drive in a Daytona Prototype at January's Rolex 24 at Daytona, as his closest rivals also dropped points during the Rockingham weekend.
MTECH driver Matt Griffin began the weekend as the closest man to Nasr, but he and co-driver Duncan Cameron were among several drivers caught out by tricky conditions during the first of the two Avon Tyres British GT races at the track. Cameron spun on the warm-up, their Ferrari 458 thankfully surviving undamaged.
Cameron then had to stop early in the race to swap onto wet tyres as conditions changed for the worse, and though Griffin moved up the order when he took over for the second half of the race he was unable to break back into the top ten.
Griffin was able to reclaim some of the lost ground in the second race, when the duo finished third, behind the two CRS Racing entrants. Still, Griffin had had to recover from a drive through penalty – again for exceeding the track limits – before Cameron took third place from Michael Guasch in the closing minutes of the hour-long race.
Guasch and co-driver Matt Bell had begun the weekend leading the GT championship by just two points, but they too were forced to start the first race from the rear of the grid. Though Guasch had claimed pole position in Saturday's qualifying session a brake malfunction left the American stranded on the start line as the pack filed past.
The duo battle back to finish tenth in the first race, with Guasch crossing the line fifth in the second race after losing out in a battle with three Ferraris.
Bell remains in the top ten in the Challenge points, though now tied for ninth with Glynn Geddie who now leads the GT Championship points with his father Jim. Griffin too remains in the top ten, though he has fallen to fifth behind a trio of British Endurance Championship drivers.
Both race winners were 2011 first time winners. Beechdean Motorsport men Jonny Adam and Andrew Howard took full advantage of a wise call to start on wet tyres, after Howard had completed the out lap on slick rubber. They easily beat the Jones brothers in the Preci-Spark Mercedes SLS. Phil Keen drove the no.1 Trackspeed Porsche he shared with David Ashburn into third, the best placed of those who had stopped for wet tyres.
Andrew Tate and Alex Mortimer won race two, taking advantage of a slower stop by the Keen and Ashburn Porsche, plus a spin by Ashburn that necessitated a pitstop to remove an offending piece of flapping rear bumper.
Perhaps the most successful team of the Rockingham weekend were the GT4 Scuderia Vittoria pairing of Dan Denis and David McDonald who won and claimed pole position for their class in both races. They benefitted from starting on wet tyres in the first race, romping home to a comfortable win over the two factory backed Lotus Evora.
Their success in the second race only came after a tough battle with GT4 points leaders Marcus Clutton and Peter Belshaw and the Evora of Phil Glew retiring from a lead it had held since the start of the races. However, with just five cars in the class only half points were awarded, but the points were enough to move McDonald into eleventh in the Challenge Points.
Sunoco Daytona Challenge points as of September 5
|1||Felipe Nasr||Carlin||British Formula 3||85.00|
|2||Javier Morcillo||Azteca Motorsport||British Endurance||53.07|
|3||Craig Wilkins||GT3 Racing||British Endurance||51.25|
|4||Aaron Scott||GT3 Racing||British Endurance||51.25|
|5||Matt Griffin||MTECH||British GT||50.63|
|6||Marcus Clutton||ABG Motorsport||British GT||50.06|
|7||Calum Lockie||Strata 21||British Endurance||46.89|
|8||Paul White||Strata 21||British Endurance||44.89|
|9||Matt Bell||United Autosports||British GT||43.75|
|10||Glynn Geddie||CRS Racing||British GT||43.75|
The Checkered Flag race reports
British Formula 3 race one – Fantin scores maiden F3 win
British Formula 3 race three – Magnussen wins, Nasr's title
British GT race one – Beechdean duo win at wet Rockingham
British GT race two – Prancing Perfection: Tate and Mortimer Lead Four Ferraris