Brands Hatch promises a classic Formula 3 battle Teammates and title rivals Felipe Nasr and Kevin Magnussen look set to continue their tussle for supremacy in the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series next weekend (18/19 June) when the UK’s top single-seater championship blasts back in action on the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
Two days of testing this week at the Rockingham circuit have underlined the Carlin men’s speed, with Brazilian Nasr setting the pace on Tuesday only for his time to be eclipsed today - by five-hundredths of a second - by Danish driver Magnussen.
Nasr, with three race wins under his belt, has led the championship from the opening round at Monza in mid-April. Magnussen, who scored twin wins at Snetterton last month, heads for Brands Hatch with half the number of points of his rival and with plenty of catching up to do.
With five drivers from three different teams having taken race wins from the nine races so far this season, there is everything to play for as British F3 enters its crucial mid-season phase - 12 races between now and the end of July.
The season’s other race victors are Fortec driver Lucas Foresti, who like Magnussen has two wins under his belt. The Brazilian led all the way from a head-earned pole at Oulton Park at Easter and then repeated the feat in the ‘reverse grid’ race at Snetterton in May. Foresti arrives at Brands jointly second in the title stakes - tied with Carlos Huertas - and looking to make up the 43-point deficit between himself and Nasr. Colombian Huertas, meanwhile, looks to be on the brink of a long-awaited maiden F3 win, after thirds at Monza and Oulton and a second last time out.
Then there are British drivers Rupert Svendsen-Cook, who triumphed in the reverse-grid race in Italy, and Midlander Riki Christodoulou, who led home his team-mate Pietro Fantin for a Hitech 1-2 in the second Oulton sprint. Rupert endured a miserable home meeting at Snetterton, where all sorts of car trouble blunted his ambitions, and is raring to go to make amends this weekend.
“My position in the championship does not reflect the potential that I have,” said Rupert, who was the quickest British driver in yesterday’s Rockingham test. “I should be winning races and I hope that Brands Hatch will provide the opportunity for me to do so. I am a big fan of the track; it’s so rich in tradition and so spectacular.”
Any one of the above could be on for further glory at Brands, and there are several more podium finishers from the earlier races looking for even better. These include Carlin’s Malaysian ace Jazeman Jaafar and Fortec’s young Brits, Will Buller and Harry Tincknell. Ulsterman Buller started his season well enough, with a brace of poles at Monza, but the results have not flowed since as he would have liked. In fact, Westcountry-based championship newcomer Tincknell heads his more experienced team-mate in the title standings thanks to his Oulton Park third and a second at Snetterton, but Buller will be buoyed by a strong showing in today’s Rockingham test.
In 2010 Brands Hatch provided the backdrop for a dramatic British F3 championship finale, with rain mid-way through the race prompting a flurry of pit stops and some impressive damp-track drives. Not the least of these came from Menasheh Idafar and Adderly Fong, the former hustling his National class T-Sport car up to third overall and the latter his Sino Vision Racing machine to fourth. Reigning National Champion Idafar, now promoted to the International division with T-Sport, made it on to the podium again at Oulton and ought to be a contender at Brands. Said Menasheh: “We had another good run today and I’m quite happy with the gap to the front. It would have been nice to be another couple of tenths quicker but it was a really competitive day so to be half a second off isn’t bad. I can’t wait for Brands Hatch now; the GP circuit is a great track.”
Fong has yet to score this season for SVR but his team-mate Hywel Lloyd has enjoyed an impressive run of top-10 finishes, the Welshman’s best so far a fifth at Snetterton - an indication of better things to come from the talented engineers at the fledgling Mercedes-powered squad.
Formula 3 is also a battle of the engine suppliers - Volkswagen leads the way currently with seven wins to Mercedes’ two. Hoping to join Fortec in scoring for the three-pointed star is the Double R Racing team, whose young drivers, Pipo Derani from Brazil and Australia’s Scott Pye, have been edging closer to the front with every outing. Pye has no shortage of Brands Hatch victory experience - he was a winner there three times last year on his way to the Formula Ford crown.
The sixth British driver in the series is Jack Harvey; he had to miss Tuesday’s test to sit an A-level exam but shone today to record eighth-best time overall. “I’m happy with how today’s test went,” said Jack. “We knew that having less track time than everyone else would be a disadvantage but we hit the ground running and were immediately on the pace. We have made some big steps forward since Snetterton and our race pace in today’s test was strong so I’m really looking forward to Brands.”
Fortec’s fourth man, Malaysian Fahmi Ilyas, has yet to score and will be hoping to follow in the wheeltracks of Brazil’s Yann Cunha, who broke his duck at Snetterton with a brace of top-10 finishes for T-Sport.
There’s a battle royal going on also in the Rookie class between T-Sport driver Bart Hylkema, from the Netherlands, and 16-year-old Japanese Hitech driver Kotaro Sakurai. The Dutchman has won seven times so far but Sakurai received a boost at Snetterton with his first class win after Hylkema fell by the wayside.
British Formula 3 enjoys the headlining support of Cooper Tires and is additionally backed by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and OAMPS.
Brands Hatch timetable
Friday 17 June: 1010-1110 & 1200-1300 free practice
Saturday 18 June: 1045-1115 qualifying; 1445 Round 10 (30 mins)
Sunday 19 June: 1120 Round 11 (20 mins); 1410 Round 12 (40 mins)