Rockingham races promise a close Formula 3 battle

Jack Harvey and his RSF-backed F3 car

With five different winners already this season and a championship lead which has changed hands with every race, the unpredictable and competitive Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series returns to the UK next week (9/10 June) for a triple-helping of excitement at the Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northamptonshire.

After races at Monza in Italy and Pau, France, the Rockingham rounds will be the first chance since Easter for the F3 field to race on a home track. Jack Harvey, the leading British contender, can’t wait: “We are coming back into the realms of more consistent weekends, more ‘typical’ F3 races," said the Racing Steps Foundation-backed driver. “Rockingham is a circuit at which I have gone well in the past, and as always I will be going out with the intention of winning, of putting myself in the best possible position to win at least two out of the three races. It’s a realistic target."

Harvey’s Volkswagen-powered Carlin Dallara won the opening round of the championship at Oulton Park and the Lincolnshire 19-year-old has twice headed the points table, picking up podium finishes in Italy and France. “The start to my season has been quite good. I think our pace at every race has been good enough to win. After Oulton Park a few things went against us and we ended up paying a decent-sized price for that, but we are still good enough to win the championship, and there is no panic."

Jack was seventh fastest at last week’s Rockingham test. “I am a lot happier with the way things went than the timesheets might suggest. Just as I was about to start my flying lap on new tires the red flag came out, so that prevented me from setting a more representative time. In any case, it’s not always a good thing to show your hand; the Fortec drivers are looking good but we believe we can do better than them come the races."

Heading the field to Rockingham – albeit by a slender margin – is 17-year-old Carlos Sainz, son of the former World Rally Champion, who has three victories under his belt from the eight races so far run. Red Bull-backed Carlin driver Sainz was impressive in the streaming wet conditions of Monza and led home his British F3 rivals in last month’s Pau Grand Prix.

But the Spaniard has only three points in hand over his team-mate Jazeman Jaafar. The Malaysian is in his third season of Formula 3 and knows well enough that points make prizes – he’s been on the podium six times already and was the leading championship finisher in the first of May’s Pau races.

Fortec’s men have been to the fore also, with Puerto Rican rookie Felix Serralles claiming an accomplished third-round victory at Oulton Park, leading all the way from the front row after beating pole man Harvey to turn one. Felix followed that up with a win in the Monza reverse-grid race and is the championship’s leading F3 newcomer in fourth spot overall.

Serralles is a handful of points ahead of his Fortec team-mates Alex Lynn and Pipo Derani. Like Felix, Essex-based Alex is new to Formula 3 this season and has been mightily impressive, particularly in testing, where he has often been quickest – indeed Lynn was on top last week, with his team-mate Hannes van Asseldonk second, in the last FOTA test day at Rockingham.

Lynn was on the podium at Monza and Pau, and his first win cannot be too far away. Derani scored his maiden victory in the Oulton Park reverse-grid race, and it gave the Brazilian a major confidence boost; like Lynn, he was a podium visitor in Italy and in France.

The season’s other podium visitors are Harry Tincknell and Pietro Fantin, both of whom endured difficult weekends at Pau, Devonian Harry with a couple of wheel-bending crashes and Brazil’s Pietro through mechanical woes which cost him a lot of track-learning time. Both men have extensive F3 experience of Rockingham and should be more at home there.

The T-Sport and Double R teams are both looking for their first podium finishes, and Rockingham would be an ideal place for them. Like Fortec, Double R relies on Mercedes-Benz power for its Dallara chassis, and both its drivers – Australia’s Geoff Uhrhane and Malaysian Fahmi Ilyas – were in good shape in testing. For T-Sport this is very much a learning season as the team and its Australian rookie driver Nick McBride get to grips with the new Nissan power unit.

T-Sport and Double R field drivers in the National class also. The former team’s Spike Goddard has won the class six times from eight starts to lead his Double R rival, Duvashen Padayachee, by a 39-point margin.

Provisional championship standings after Round 8
1 Carlos Sainz (ESP/Carlin) 104 points; 2 Jazeman Jaafar (MAS/Carlin) 101; 3 Jack Harvey (GBR/Carlin) 83; 4 Felix Serralles (PUR/Fortec) 73; 5 Alex Lynn (GBR/Fortec) 64; 6 Pipo Derani (BRA/Fortec) 61 etc.
National class: 1 Spike Goddard (AUS/T-Sport) 141; 2 Duvashen Padayachee (AUS/Double R) 102.

Rockingham timetable
Fri 8 June pre-event testing
Sat 9 June 1045 qualifying; 1515 Race 1 (30 mins)
Sun 10 June 1040 Race 2 (20 mins); 1350 Race 3 (40 mins)

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