Hartley Hares to Victory in Belgium Brendon Hartley won Round 16 of the 2008 British F3 International Series at Spa passing Sergio Perez on the last lap after fighting his way back up from 5th after being delayed at the start after pole position holder Oliver Turvey was stranded on the grid. Nick Tandy scored his first ever British F3 podium finish after briefly leading on the opening lap. Jay Bridger took his fourth National Class win with a last lap move on Steven Guererro. It was a triple podium joy for the T Sport team as Salman Al Khalifa took his second podium finish of the weekend.
After being fastest all weekend in free practice, in qualifying and winning Round 15 Oliver Turvey was hopeful of making it a clean sweep at Spa as he lined up on pole position for Round 16. However the Mercedes engine in the back of his Carlin Motorsport Dallara had other ideas and as the lights went out to being the race Turvey’s car ground to a halt causing the cars behind him to take avoiding action. Luckily nobody hit the hapless driver but it did shake up the order with 5th placed Nick Tandy and 6th place Sergio Perez exiting La Source in 1st and 2nd respectively. Perez harried Tandy all the way through Eau Rouge and up the hill to Les Combes, with the Mexican overtaking the Mygale before the corner and then Jaime Alguersuari deciding to have a look down the inside of Tandy as well but the Englishman held onto second place.
Behind these the front runners John Martin and Walter Grubmuller collided at La Source with the unlucky Atte Mustonen getting caught up in the mayhem, putting all three cars into retirement. Another casualty was Sam Abay who limped into the pits with a punctured front left tire after a clash with Marcus Ericsson. Abay rejoined after receiving replacement Avon rubber but his hopes of his first podium finish after qualifying third were completely dashed.
Meanwhile back at the front it was Perez, who was 1.7 seconds ahead of Tandy, Alguersuari, with fourth placed Ericsson coming under pressure from Brendon Hartley who had lost out at the start. The New Zealander swept past the Swede’s Fortec run Dallara into Les Combe and the Red Bull driver set off after his teammate to try and take third, which he duly did two laps later.
Round 16 will a race that Ultimate Motorsport will want to forget in a hurry. Michael Devaney’s Mygale slowed to a halt on the outside of Turn 13, bringing out the yellow flags on lap 2 and then on lap 4 both Alistair Jackson and Ricardo Teixeira were given drive through penalties for corner cutting, which dropped both drivers out of points scoring positions.
Another retirement was Kristjan Einar, pulling his Carlin Dallara off the track with one wheel off the ground.
Lap 6 saw Brendon Hartley close the gap to Tandy and he chased the Mygale through Eau Rouge and up the hill trying desperately to use the superior speed of his car to drag past the British Driver. However Tandy had learnt a trick or two from his Formula Ford days and defended his position vigorously and as they went into Les Combes Tandy was still holding second place.
Meanwhile in the National Class Jay Bridger had got a fantastic start ending the opening lap ten places higher than his grid position however Steven Guerrero had also got a great start and was catching the class leader on every lap. Bridger held on until lap 7 when Guerrero made his move and swept into the class lead.
Hartley was still trying to get past Tandy and on lap 8 he succeeded and once clear of the Mygale he pulled away to start closing the gap on Perez. The Mexican held a 2.4 second lead but the New Zealander cut this by 0.7 seconds a lap and by the penultimate lap was right on the tale of the Honda powered Dallara.
Further back Henry Arundel had managed to get past Max Chilton for 6th place early on in the race and pulled away as Chilton came under pressure from Daniel Campos Hull in the Invitation Class Dallara and Philip Major’s Fortec. Chilton held on until lap 8 but lost out to both the following drivers at Les Combes. Campos Hull soon closed the gap to Arundel, passing the English driver on the final lap to finish 6th overall and making up for the disappointing first race in which he failed to finish.
Hartley was right on Perez’s tail as they crossed the line to being the final lap. The two cars were side by side out of Eau Rouge and up the hill for Les Combes with Perez holding the inside line. It looked as if Perez was going to hold on but Hartley left his braking to last possible second. His timing was perfect and he swept past his rival and into the lead in possibly the move of the championship.
Hartley pulled away and by the time he saw the chequered flag he was 1.3 second ahead. However Perez waved his arms in the air to his T Sport team on the wall, obviously pleased to finish on the podium at what had been a very difficult weekend for him. Nick Tandy held off the attentions of Jaime Alguersuari to claim his first podium finish, while 4th place was god enough to give the Spaniard a slender one point championship lead over Perez with six races remaining.
The National Class battle was just as exciting. On the penultimate lap Salman Al Khalifa managed to pass Round 15 winner Stefan Wilson to claim the final podium position but the real fight was at the front as Steve Guerrero and Jay Bridger crossed the line nose to tail to start the final lap, with Bridger getting a good run to reclaim the lead at the right moment to take the chequered flag and extend his championship lead.
The next two races are at Silverstone on Saturday 16 August, with the next two races on the streets of Bucharest in Romania the following weekend. With just 22 points separating the top four drivers and 126 points still on offer, the 2008 British F3 International Series title race looks like going down to the final race at Donington Park in October.
Round 16 - Result
1 - 3 - I - Brendon HARTLEY - NZL - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:18.580
2 - 9 - I - Sergio PEREZ - MEX - Dallara F308 Mugen Honda - 27:19.974 - 1.394
3 - 28 - I - Nick TANDY - GBR - Mygale M-08F3 Mercedes HWA - 27:20.869 - 2.289
4 - 4 - I - Jaime ALGUERSUARI - ESP - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:21.136 - 2.556
5 - 8 - I - Marcus ERICSSON - SWE - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:21.872 - 3.292
6 - 73 - INV - Daniel CAMPOS HULL - ESP - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:38.825 - 20.245
7 - 6 - I - Henry ARUNDEL - GBR - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:39.906 - 21.326
8 - 7 - I - Sebastian HOHENTHAL - SWE - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:40.877 - 22.297
9 - 14 - I - Phillip MAJOR - CAN - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:42.165 - 23.585
10 - 1 - I - Max CHILTON - GBR - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:48.036 - 29.456
11 - 15 - I - Oliver OAKES - GBR - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:49.905 - 31.325
12 - 50 - N - Jay BRIDGER - GBR - Dallara F307 Mugen Honda - 27:51.751 - 33.171
13 - 53 - N - Steven GUERRERO - COL - Dallara F307 Mugen Honda - 27:52.639 - 34.059
14 - 57 - N - Salman AL KHALIFA - BHR - Dallara F307 Mugen Honda - 27:57.338 - 38.758
15 - 74 - INV - Basil SHAABAN - LIB - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 27:57.848 - 39.268
16 - 52 - N - Hywel LLOYD - GBR - Dallara F306 Mugen Honda - 27:59.194 - 40.614
17 - 51 - N - Stefan WILSON - GBR - Dallara F306 Mugen Honda - 28:00.898 - 42.318
18 - I - Ricardo TEIXEIRA - ANG - Mygale M-08F3 Mercedes HWA - 28:13.547 - 54.967
19 - 11 - I - Alistair JACKSON - GBR - Mygale M-08F3 Mercedes HWA - 28:16.328 - 57.748
20 - 55 - N - Craig REIFF - GER - Dallara F306 Mugen Honda - 28:34.101 - 01:15.521
21 - 18 - I - Sam ABAY - AUS - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 28:53.344 - 01:34.764
54 - N - Kristjan EINAR - ISL - Dallara F305 Mugen Honda - 09:57.121 - 4 - D.N.F. - 168.90
24 - I - John MARTIN - AUS - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 03:14.602 - 1 - D.N.F. - 129.56
16 - I - Michael DEVANEY - IRL - Mygale M-08F3 Mercedes HWA - - 0 - D.N.F. - N/A
17 - I - Oliver TURVEY - GBR - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - - 0 - D.N.F. - N/A
2 - I - Walter GRUBMULLER - AUT - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - - 0 - D.N.F. - N/A
26 - I - Atte MUSTONEN - FIN - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - - 0 - D.N.F. - N/A
3 - I - Brendon HARTLEY - - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 02:15.347 - 4 - 115.75mph - 186.29
73 - INV - Daniel CAMPOS HULL - - Dallara F308 Mercedes HWA - 02:16.222 - 5 - 115.01mph - 185.09
53 - N - Steven GUERRERO - - Dallara F307 Mugen Honda - 02:17.492 - 9 - 113.95mph - 183.38