Photo: Jakob Ebrey Photography
Saintly Sainz slithers his way to victory & series lead at Monza
Carlos Sainz is celebrating his maiden Cooper Tires British Formula 3 race win this afternoon after putting in an impressive display in treacherous driving conditions at a rain-hit Monza. Carlin driver Sainz gained the upper hand from the outset and quickly built a useful lead over his pursuers; his closest rival, Fortec’s Pipo Derani, was almost 10 seconds behind at the line. Sainz moves into the championship lead by a single point.
The race start was one of the most unusual seen in British F3: a slight drizzle became heavier as the cars waited on the grid and race officials declared a wet race. At the end of the green flag lap the entire field streamed into the pits for a change to grooved tyres, and the starting order was effectively settled by the speed at which the technicians completed their task.
Sainz was first in the queue at pit exit and profited most; behind him in line astern were Fahmi Ilyas, Pietro Fantin, Spike Goddard and Nick McBride. Poor Felix Serralles, who should have started the race from pole position thanks to his sterling qualifying efforts, got away only 10th.
Sainz completed the first lap 1.3s clear of Ilyas’ Double R racer, and by lap four had built a 4.3s lead over the Malaysian. Fahmi slipped to fourth next time around and lost places for the rest of the race as he struggled to find grip.
Pipo Derani left the pits in P8 and drove a storming opening lap to rise to fifth. Fortec’s Brazilian picked off McBride on lap two and Fantin for third in consecutive laps, and then saw off Ilyas on his fifth tour. By this time, however, Sainz was 4.8s clear and looking unlikely – mistakes excepted – to be catchable.
Carlos did make one error, losing half a second of his lead with an 11th-lap error, but recouped it all on his next lap. “It feels great to win at Monza, it’s very special,” said Carlos. “Half of this win is for the guys; they did a superb job for me in the pits. In the race, I think we all were making mistakes, because it is really hard here with cold tyres and braking as late as possible. It was all about who made the least mistakes. I made a couple.”
Jazeman Jaafar got away from the pits seventh and drove well to battle through to fourth by lap six. Next time around he stole third from Fantin, and the Carlin man was pleased with his resulting podium finish: “These are good points for me,” he said. “I was seventh and I had to pass a few cars to get there, and I also got a knock from someone but managed to save it.”
Hannes van Asseldonk placed fourth for Fortec, with Jack Harvey salvaging fifth after being one of the slowest away from the pits – not the slowest, because that disadvantage was handed to Geoff Uhrhane, whose Double R technicians had to overcome a stuck rear wheel.
Alex Lynn survived a scary trip through the gravel trap on lap six, which left him 10th, to claw his way back to sixth by the finish, ahead of Fantin, McBride and Ilyas. Serralles was a disappointed 10th, but did at least get the satisfaction of seeing victor Sainz pull the number 10 from the grid lottery on the podium, which means Felix will have another chance to go from pole in tomorrow’s race two.
Uhrhane was the final finisher of the International runners, with Harry Tincknell ending his race in the gravel after damaging his suspension on a kerb.
The National class battle was close throughout between Australians Spike Goddard (T-Sport) and Duvashen Padayachee (Double R). Goddard led all the way to the final lap, during which Padayachee got ahead before the pair clashed as Spike repassed. Padayachee clouted the barriers with Goddard able to continue to the flag for his fourth consecutive class win. “Coming out of the second chicane I moved out to pass and he tried to come across and he clipped my front left wheel,” said Spike.
Points leader Jason Plato will line up in pole position on the grid for the first of tomorrow’s three Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship races at Donington Park.
Plato’s new MG KX Momentum Racing MG6 set the fastest lap early in this afternoon’s qualifying session before rain thwarted his rivals’ chances on the swooping Leicestershire track.
It was the 36th pole of Plato’s illustrious career – achieved, significantly, in a car carrying maximum success ballast – and the former double Champion from Oxford was ecstatic.
“This is one of the most satisfying of all,” he enthused. “We knew the rain was coming so popped in a fast lap early on, but what a result for the team and this car. It is still very new to racing but we got a win out of it on its debut at Brands Hatch and it just gets better and better.”
Fife’s Gordon Shedden will start alongside Plato from second on tomorrow’s grid – his best lap in his Honda Yuasa Racing Team Honda Civic was just 0.054s adrift of Plato’s pole time. His Honda team-mate Matt Neal, the reigning Champion from Worcestershire, was third.
Shedden commented: “I had a few hairy moments out there – that is the maximum I could achieve with the car. But I’m on the front row so can’t complain too much given the problems I had at Brands Hatch.”
Neal added: “Even though my car has slightly less ballast than Jason’s the gap to him is still three tenths of a second. We have no more left in the tank. We need Jason to make a mistake tomorrow and he doesn’t make many of those.”
Another Honda driver, independent Andrew Jordan – one of the local favourites from Lichfield – was fourth in his Pirtek Racing Civic. He was one of the few drivers to improve his position as the track started to dry slightly in the session’s closing stages – another was Robert Collard who moved up to fifth in his eBay Motors BMW at the expense of Warwickshire ace Mat Jackson’s Redstone Racing Ford Focus ST.