Monza Preview: Asmer Leads BF3 Return

On June 24th 2007 the Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 International Series will return to the home of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix for the first time since 2005. Two races on Monza’s 5.7km circuit will test the skills of the teams and drivers to the max.

The races held at Monza two years ago were hailed as three of the best ever staged in the 43 year history of the world’s leading Formula 3 category and 2007 promises to have more of the same with thirty-one cars confirmed as travelling to Italy, with the possibility of a couple of extra entries from Italy in the Invitation Class.

With eight of the twenty-two races completed, Estonian Marko Asmer currently holds a commanding 48 point lead over his rivals and with five wins the 22-year-old Hitech driver is going to take some beating this season. Asmer is one of three drivers currently competing in British F3 who raced at Monza two years ago.

Last time out at Snetterton the Carlin Motorsport team took five of the six available podium positions and a 2nd and 3rd places for Britain’s Sam Bird put the rookie driver from Roehampton into second place in the title chase ahead of Raikkonen Robertson Racing’s Stephen Jelley. Jelley has yet to win in 2007 but, like Asmer, he raced at the Italian circuit in 2005 and will be hopeful for a change of fortune.

Alberto Valerio also scored a double podium in Norfolk, with the Brazilian former South American F3 Champion settling in at his new team. 2006 Formula BMW champion Niall Breen became the fourth different driver to win a race this year, joining Carlin teammates Sam Bird and Maro Engel on the top step in only his seventh BF3 race and pushing the Irishman to 4th in the championship table. Maro Engel scored two solid points finishes but the young German will need to return to winning ways in Monza if he is going to stand a chance of closing the gap to Asmer.

Jonathan Kennard has shown that he has the pace to take his first overall win in British F3 but a number of factors have denied the 2004 Formula Palmer Audi Champion. Kennard has taken pole positions and fastest laps this year; equalling the Oulton Park lap record at Easter; but he has yet to step onto the top step of the podium. As one of the three drivers who raced at Monza two years ago, the driver from Kent will be looking to put this knowledge to good use and move his 2007 title charge up a gear.

Fortec’s Sebastian Hohenthal got a great start to his first year in British F3 but the luck didn’t run his way in Bucharest and at Snetterton. The 2006 UK Formula Renault champion has shown he has the pace to challenge for the win but has only scored 13 points in the last four races. Currently lying in 8th overall, the Swedish racer will be looking to up his game on the fast curves of the Monza, a circuit that will suit his driving style.

Hohenthal’s Fortec teammates will be looking forward to racing at Monza for the first time, a circuit well known to their father. Nigel Mansell won the 1991 Italian Grand Prix for Williams and was a favourite of the Italian fans during the two years he drove for Ferrari, with the Tifosi calling him ‘Il Leone’; The Lion. Younger brother Greg is currently joint 9th in the championship table after a good start to his rookie British F3 season, including a podium finish at Donington Park. His pace belies the fact that this is only his, and brother Leo’s, second year in racing and many of their rivals have years of karting experience over them. However, their father will be on hand in Italy to give his sons some advice on how to tackle the high speed corners at one of the fastest race circuits in Europe.

2006 British F3 National Class Champion Rodolfo Gonzalez rounds out the current top ten, and the young Venezuelan is also the top Mugen-Honda runner. The T Sport driver has been finding the highly competitive Championship Class challenging, but at Snetterton he showed flashes of his 2006 winning style and will be up there challenging in Italy.

Amongst the rest of the twenty-one driver strong Championship Class field there will be a local driver for the Tifosi to cheer. Milan based driver Francesco Castellacci is racing for 2002 British F3 championship winning team Alan Docking Racing, but the young Italian is still finding his feet in the world’s leading Formula 3 championship. However he is looking forward to racing at Monza for the first time and is sure to get a boost from racing in front of an Italian crowd for the first time in 2007.

While Asmer is the runaway leader in the Championship Class, the National Class is a closely fought affair, with Mexico’s Sergio Perez and China’s ‘Frankie’ Cheng tied at the top of the table. Perez didn’t get the best of starts to the season but three wins has vaulted him to the top of the table while Cheng started well with two wins but struggled a little in Bucharest and Snetterton.

Iceland’s Viktor Jensen has been getting stronger as the season progresses and a win in Round 8 in Norfolk was his just reward for the former Formula Palmer Audi racer. Oxfordshire’s Michael Meadows also has two wins to his credit but two non finishes in Bucharest and Snetterton have dropped him to 4th in the championship table. The ten driver strong National Class grid has plenty of contenders, with Bahrain’s Hamad Al Fardan looking for his first win of the season after a double podium at Snetterton to add to the one he took in Romania.

Rounds 9 & 10 of the 2007 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 International Series will take place on Sunday 24th June, with Round 9 due to start at 10:00 (local time) and Round 10 later in the day at 18:00.

Saturday, June 23rd

09.00 – 10.20 FIA GT Championship Free Practice 1

10.30 – 11.15 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 Int. Series Free Practice

11.25 – 12.25 FIA GT3 European Championship Free Practice 1

12.35 – 13.55 FIA GT Championship Free Practice 2

14.05 – 15.05 FIA GT3 European Championship Free Practice 2

15.15– 15.45 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 Int. Series Qualifying Practice 1

16.45 – 17.20 FIA GT Championship Qualifying Practice

17.30 – 18.00 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 Int. Series Qualifying Practice 2

18.10 – 19.00 FIA GT3 European Championship Qualifying Practice

Sunday, June 24th

09.00 – 09.30 FIA GT Championship Warm Up

10.00 – 10.30 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 Int. Series Race 1

11.00 – 12.00 FIA GT3 European Championship Race 1

13.15 – 15.15 FIA GT Championship Race

16.30 – 17.30 FIA GT3 European Championship Race 2

18.00 – 18.30 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 Int. Series Race 2