F3000 Race report

It was a complete wash-out at the start of the Silverstone round of the FIA F3000 championship, as the heavens opened after the F1 qualifying

F3000 Race report

The start was, in fact delayed while conditions improved, leading to a new start time of 1320.

Conditions had indeed got somewhat better by the time the cars came to start, but the amount of spray kicked up on the parade lap still raised concerns about visibility.

Consequently, the start was made behind the safety car to allow the drivers to familiarise themselves fully with the state of the track.

Nevertheless, Fabrice Walfisch of Astromega had spun off at Becketts during the first official lap. The Frenchman had been in 8th.

By lap 5 of 40 the lights on the safety car had gone out, and the cars were ready start the racing proper.

Darren Manning sped off to hold the lead, but Wilson was already challenging Webber for second. Webber toughed it out into Copse, and held his place.

Jaime Melo spun off from 21st on lap 7, after touching Ananda Mikola when the Indonesian tried to shut the door. Both cars continued, but Melo required help from the marshalls to get out of the gravel.

Ricardo Mauricio for Red Bull Jr also spun at Becketts, trying to make up time, but was able to continue, chastened.

Manning had an advantage of 2.8 seconds after 8 laps of the 40, but the lack of further rainfall meant that the teams would have to start thinking about pit stops.

Stephane Sarrazin, the series favourite who has yet to win a point, did his title chances no favours by spinning irrecoverably into the gravel on lap 9 at Becketts - the site, already, of a considerable number of indiscretions.

The move for the lead came at Club corner when Webber shoved his nose aggressively inside Manning. Manning held his line to claim the inside for the second part of the corner, but rather than allowing himself to be pushed onto the grass, Webber toughed it out. Both cars slid, but the drivers caught them well, and Webber gained the lead.

The Australian's car was clearly better set up for the drying track and within a couple of laps, he was several seconds in front.

Mario Haberfeld made up a place on lap 11, the British F3 champion of 1998 taking the place from Nordic's Kevin McGarrity.

Mario Haberfeld spun off through a lake of water on lap 18. At Becketts, he spun at speed, but managed to recover after a couple of wild doughnuts on the sodden grass. He dropped to 21st from 12th.

Manning was beginning to come under pressure from Justin Wilson in the Nordic car, whilst Albers was drawing up to the back of Bruno Junqueira.

The conditions, while drying, were still very slippery and Albers lost it at Becketts, which was rapidly become a Lola B99/50 graveyard.

Meanwhile, Scheld and Victor Maslov had lost their grip on the tarmac proving that the track was still somewhat treacherous.

Bas Leinders, driving for Kid Jensen Racing was charging through the field by lap 25, having climbed from 25th to 15th - no doubt aided by the plethora of spins and retirements. He was drawing up to the back of the recovering Jaime Melo at some speed by the beginning of the next lap, showing no signs of halting his charge.

Sebastien Bourdais had caught Kristian Kolby's DAMS car, and they looked like having a replay of the Manning/Webber incident. This time, however, it was the leading car which prevailed, leaving the French F3 champion still some way short of a points position.

Amazingly, Manning's car appeared to be returning to him, and he set fastest lap on la 31, after pulling two seconds back on Webber.

The track, after taking a considerable time to dry appeared to be improving on most of its length to an almost dry state.

Championship leader Nicolas Minassian demonstrated that his car had a more effective set up in these conditions, by passing two cars - Kolby and McGarrity - in two corners.

With 6 laps remaining, Webber looked to have Manning under control. In reality, Manning had more to worry about with holding Wilson off for the remaining laps.

Each time it seemed the track was becoming more driveable, a number of drivers contrived to throw it off the island. Mauricio and Leinders collided at Club, whilst Scheld lost it, in particularly strange manner, at Luffield and in trying to drive back onto the circuit ended up driving the wrong way and clouting a barrier.

Again, with two laps to go, Webber seemed to slow, as Manning began pulling chunks out of his lead. 2 laps from the end, the gap was down to less than two seconds.

With one lap to go, Manning was closer than ever - 1.4 seconds - as Manning once again set fastest lap. Manning's tyres seemed to be in much better condition than Webbers, as the dry track began to torture the wet tyres.

It was not enough, however, and Webber held on to take his first single seater win since Brands Hatch '97 in the British F3 series - and the F3000 series lead.

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