Bahraini Al Khalifa takes solid points haul in thrilling Bucharest debut
DRIVER NEWS: Bahraini racing driver Salman Al Khalifa continued his consistent form in the British F3 International Series at the weekend with a solid points haul which leaves him fifth overall in the National Class championship standings.
The 2005 Formula BMW Asia champion handled the treacherous conditions around the Bucharest street circuit superbly, as the Romanian capital’s debut on the F3 calendar was punctuated by incidents as wet conditions caused chaos.
Problems in qualifying for race one left Salman well down the grid for Saturday’s opening race, yet the rookie avoided the carnage of a race marred by numerous safety car periods to finish a creditable eighth in class. Qualifying for race two however was much better and after a sterling drive the Promatecme F3 driver passed many of his rivals to finish fourth, just missing out on his second podium of the season following a late battle with championship leader Frankie Cheng.
“I didn’t push hard enough in qualifying for race one and it left me way down.” Salman admitted. “Then, during the race, we didn’t quite get the perfect set-up so I felt it was important to survive and bring the car home. That’s what we did and it was pleasing to score points.”
Race two however saw Al Khalifa show his true potential with a drive which saw him carve his way up through the field despite a technical drama with car’s sequential gearbox.
“I noticed it as soon as I left the pits to line-up on the grid,” he revealed. “There was a problem with the gearbox which meant I had to lift off the accelerator every time I up shifted. I thought my race would be over but I adapted to the situation and pushed as hard as possible. We started on slicks, but the conditions were changeable and when it started raining during the race it caught some drivers by surprise. Thankfully though I was able to keep it together and put in some nice overtaking moves to finish fourth. A podium would have been sweeter, but overall I am really happy.”
Salman also gave a big thumbs up to the new venue which he described as a hugely satisfying circuit. “It’s very rare to find a street circuit with so many different types of corners. The downhill section is superb. It’s thrilling to stay flat down there whilst threading your way through concrete barriers! It’s challenging though, very bumpy and unlike anywhere I have ever driven before.”
Promatecme F3 Team Boss Chris Weller was delighted with Al Khalifa’s weekend. “He did the job we asked of him and we are very pleased. The idea in qualifying was to stay out as long as possible to learn the track and he did a good job. Then, in the race, conditions were difficult due to the weather but he did superbly on a very, very tough track which saw so many incidents.”
Salman returns to action in two weeks time when the British F3 International Series returns to the UK for Rounds 7 and 8 at Snetterton.