TEAM NEWS: Carlin Motorsport recorded two further podium positions today, in round 14 of the British F3 championship at Spa-Francorchamps. In a rain-soaked race consisting of just four racing laps, Maro Engel finished second, just ahead of Sam Bird, who adds a third place to his race win yesterday. In treacherous conditions all five Carlin cars finished in the top nine.
Having stayed dry for every F3 session of the event so far, the heavens finally opened this morning, soaking the challenging 4.3 mile long circuit. Conditions were deemed so bad by race organisers that the race was started under the safety car. As the F3 field crawled round the track, it was clear that the race would be run to the 30 minute time limit rather than the 12 lap race distance.
Racing finally commenced at the end of lap two. While Engel and Bird were tucked up behind Kennard, Carlin team mates Mario Moraes, Alberto Valerio and Niall Breen were making up places. By lap four, Moraes had moved up three places to sixth, Valerio four places to seventh and Breen three places to ninth place and into the points. 19 year-old Moraes continued his strong weekend, passing Mustonen on lap five to take fifth place.
The safety car made its second appearance on lap six, and would unfortunately stay out for the remainder of the race, with the cars taking the chequered flag under safety car conditions. With positions remaining unchanged, the order was Engel second, Bird third, Moraes fifth, Valerio seventh and Breen ninth.
Second placed man Maro Engel said “I was a bit disappointed that we started behind the safety car, as the start is the best opportunity to make up places and get into the lead. In these conditions it was very difficult, the car was handling really well, but I couldn’t see anything.
“I saw Jonathan go straight at the Bus Stop chicane and closed right up on him along the F1 start finish straight. I pulled up the inside of him into La Source and it was quite close, but he put the power on a little better and was able to pull away just enough. I’m disappointed that the race was so short; it’s not very satisfying when a race starts and finishes behind the safety car.”
Having closed the gap to championship leader Maro Asmer, Sam Bird had a strong weekend at his first visit to Spa. “It’s been a solid weekend, obviously this comes after a fairly disastrous Brands Hatch, and this was my first wet race in F3, so it was quite a learning curve. I’m delighted to be on the podium again. Driving conditions were very difficult; it was like driving with two sheets of tracing paper in front of me. Hopefully I can keep the momentum going at Zolder for the F3 Masters next weekend and again when we return to British F3 at Silverstone the week after that.”
Trevor Carlin Team Principal added, “I’m confident that we could have been first and second had the race been run to full distance. Our cars were the best of the field, we had five cars in the top nine and it’s a shame that the races was cut short by the safety car Maro had a good race and made no mistakes and would have overtaken Jelly for sure if it hadn’t been for the safety car. Sam was keeping pace and watching for any mistakes ahead of him and thinking about points for the championship.
“Alberto was raring to get on with it and was very frustrated by the long safety car periods. Niall went to overtake Asmer and there was contact which gave him a puncture. The team and his engineer reacted quickly when the safety car was called and told him to stay out, so Niall didn’t pit and consequently managed to pick up some points, despite a partially deflated left front tyre.”