British F3 European swing report
British Formula 3 teams begin a hectic spring tour of European racetracks next weekend (22/23 May) at the French Grand Prix circuit of Magny-Cours, venue for rounds seven, eight and nine of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series. A week later they will be at the home of the German Grand Prix, Hockenheim, for another triple-race weekend and, the week after that, many will make the trek to the Dutch seaside circuit of Zandvoort for the European 'Grand Prix of F3', the RTL Masters.
It's a busy schedule but one which championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne is relishing, not least because the tour starts in his home country, on a circuit he knows well. "I have done a few races at Magny-Cours; in Formula Campus I won the championship there, in the wet, so it's a really special track for me. And then I raced there over two seasons in Formula Renault, so I know it very well. It's one of my favourites in France, after Le Mans. It's a really nice track and I think it will be very exciting for F3, especially through the chicanes."
Parisian Vergne, who turned 20 last month, is looking to bounce back from a quiet weekend at Silverstone at the beginning of May; he scored useful points in Northamptonshire to maintain his championship lead, but there were fewer flashes of the brilliance which netted the Red Bull-backed Carlin driver twin wins at Oulton Park at the start of the year.
Jean-Eric says he will be a dutiful host to his five team-mates: "There are no great secrets to driving Magny-Cours, but if I can help my team-mates I will, of course; that is my job, to help the team move forward."
His five Carlin colleagues are Silverstone double winner James Calado, Oulton Park sprint race victor Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Ipswich), the quick and consistent Adriano Buzaid (who is the only driver other than Vergne to have scored in all six races), Jazeman Jaafar and Lucas Foresti. Pershore-based Racing Steps Foundation driver Calado takes with him not only the momentum of those Silverstone victories but has also laid to rest the nightmare of his problem-strewn start to the season at Oulton Park.
With four second-place finishes (two behind Vergne at Oulton, the others on Calado's tail at Silverstone) to his credit, Fortec's Oli Webb looks the next-most-likely race winner on the grid, but Knutsford-based Webb may have a disadvantage in never having driven at Magny-Cours. "I think the circuit is quite similar in terms of driving style to Silverstone," he says, "so I am sure we can work around that as to how I should approach the track. Obviously Vergne has home advantage, but all I'm thinking is that if we can beat him there then that will really strengthen our attack for the championship."
Webb's team-mates in the Mercedes-powered Fortec team are reigning National class champion Daniel McKenzie (Poole) and Russian racer Max Snegirev.
Daisuke Nakajima shone at Silverstone for Raikkonen Robertson Racing, twice making the podium, with the Japanese driver's Brazilian team-mate, Felipe Nasr, delivering on his promise in the third of the weekend's races with a fine third place. RR's Colombian ace Carlos Huertas will be looking to reassert himself in France.
The Hitech Racing team accelerated into contention at Silverstone, with Gabriel Dias scoring maximum points behind the sprint race-winning invitation driver Alexander Sims, and Will Buller (Islip) on strong form also and moving into the championship top 12.
The championship's other regular International teams - T-Sport with Alex Brundle (Kings Lynn); Litespeed with Jay Bridger (Horsmonden); CF Racing with Manor, with Hywel Lloyd (Corwen) - will be in action at Magny-Cours also, as will Sino Vision Racing with a car for Adderly Fong.
With three wins apiece in the National class, the tussle for dominance between T-Sport team-mates James Cole and Menasheh Idafar is becoming tense. Liverpudlian Cole has a 25-point edge currently thanks to one extra race finish.
British F3 is sponsored by US tyre manufacturer Cooper Tire and is further supported by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and Mirror.co.uk
Provisional race weekend timetable
Friday 21 May: 1400-1700 testing
Saturday 22 May: 1015 Qualifying & 1400 Cooper Tires British F3 Round 7 (30min)
Sunday 23 May: 0915 Round 8 (20min) & 1540 Round 9 (40min)
Thursday 27 May: 1100-1200 & 1600-1700 testing
Friday 28 May: 1055-1125 & 1340-1410 free practice & 1610 Qualifying
Saturday 29 May: 1325 Round 10 (30min) & 1750 Round 11 (20 min)
Sunday 30 May: 1030 Round 12 (40 min)
Provisional UK TV schedule
Sunday 30 May: 0730 Channel 4 & 1905 Motors TV
Sunday 6 June: 0730 Channel 4 & 2043 Motors TV
Full European TV schedule: http://bit.ly/b7uWb3
Provisional championship standings after round 6
1 Jean-Eric Vergne, Carlin 76 points
2 Oli Webb, Fortec 64
3 James Calado, Carlin 51
4 Adriano Buzaid, Carlin 49
5 Daisuke Nakajima, Raikkonen Robertson 40
6 Rupert Svendsen-Cook, Carlin 34 etc
1 James Cole, T-Sport 86
2 Menasheh Idafar, T-Sport 61
3 Luiz Razia, West-Tec 23
Mirror.co.uk Challenge Cup
1 Webb 43
2 Calado 38
3 Svendsen-Cook 36
4 Daniel McKenzie, Fortec 26
5 Alexander Sims, ART GP 22
6 Will Buller, Hitech 21 etc