Press Conference with Atte Mustonen, Niall Breen and Rodolfo Gonzalez
CLICK HERE to listen to the National Class Post Race press conference
Atte Mustonen (#26 Raikkonen Robertson Racing) scored his first win in British F3 finishing in a lights-to-flag victory ahead of Niall Breen (#21 Carlin) in Round 18 of the 2007 Lloyds TSB Insurance British F3 International Series.
Rodolfo Gonzalez (#9 T Sport) took his podium of 2007 and the first for Mugen Honda this season and it was all smiles in the T Sport garage as Sergio Perez and Salman Al Khalifa finished 1st and 2nd in the National Class.
Atte Mustonen led the 28-car field away as the lights went out to begin the race, with Double R teammate and Round 17 winner Stephen Jelley tucking in behind him as they entered the Complex for the first time. Jelley then was seen to slide sideways, either by contact with another car or a mistake, but the result was the Leicester driver was on the grass and trying desperately to rejoin the race but losing places all the time.
Sixth placed Niall Breen made an excellent start to move up through the field before the first corner and when the cars came back into view the Irish driver was behind Atte Mustonen, with Maro Engel (#23 Carlin) in third and Marko Asmer (#7 Hitech) in 4th as the big losers in the opening lap was 3rd placed Greg Mansell (#50 Fortec) and Jonathan Kennard (#2 Raikkonen Robertson Racing).
However things were worse for Mike Meadows (#55 Newnet Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and ‘Frankie’ Cheng (#39 Performance Racing) as a collision put both cars into the barriers and out of the race. The Safety Car was brought out for the second time that day to allow the two wrecked Dallara’s to a safer position and the two drivers were returned to the paddock, both OK after their experience.
This put Sergio Perez in a comfortable lead at the front of the National Class, while his T Sport teammate Salman Al Khalifa was two places further back with the Championship car of Leo Mansell splitting the two National Class runners.
The race resumed on lap 6 with Mustonen getting a good start to pull away from Breen and Engel, who were nose to tail around the circuit. Engel in turn had Marko Asmer breathing down his neck, with Rodolfo Gonzalez, Alberto Valerio (#22 Carlin) and Greg Mansell all waiting for the front runners to make a mistake that would allow them to move up.
Stephen Jelley was recovering well, picking his way back up the field and passing Greg Mansell on lap 11 to move into 7th and challenging Valerio for 6th. However at the Chicane both cars spun, dropping Jelley behind Mansell and Valerio two places further down the order.
Salman Al Khalifa was trying to get past the Championship car of Leo Mansell to allow him to get a clear run at Perez but it was difficult for the Bahraini driver to get past the more powerful Dallara. However on lap 13 Mansell made a mistake and spun at the Chicane, right in front of Al Khalifa, who had to take hasty avoiding action.
Further backing in the National Class Hamad Al Fardan (#38 Performance Racing) was clawing his way back up the field after a bad opening part of the race and was soon into the third podium spot after getting the best of the ADR Dallara of Viktor Jensen (#37 ADR), the young Icelandic race winner struggling for pace on the sweeping Thruxton circuit.
At the front of the field Mustonen continued to pull away from Breen as Gonzalez set up a determined challenge on Engel. The Venezuelan dived on the inside of the German into the last corner and moved ahead to take the final podium position.
As the race entered the final lap it Mustonen who was nearly five seconds ahead of Breen and the 18-year-old Finn finally saw the chequered flag to the delight of his Double R team. Niall Breenn secured his first podium since his win at Snetterton in June and Rodolfo Gonzalez came home in 3rd, the first podium of 2007 for the reigning British F3 National Class Champion and the first for a Mugen Honda engined car this season. Gonzalez underlined his pace by taking the fastest lap of the race and the additional championship point.
Maro Engel was 4th, one place ahead of championship leader Marko Asmer. Asmer now holds a 72-point lead with 84 points available. Engel becomes the only challenger to the Estonians relentless march to the coveted title after Sam Bird picked up no championship points and slipped to 4th in the table behind Stephen Jelley who recovered to finish 7th in the race.
Sergio Perez had another perfect weekend with two wins, two poles and two fastest laps and now holds a commanding 69 point lead over ‘Frankie’ Cheng. Two podiums for Hamad Al Fardan has closed the gap to third placed Mike Meadows to just 5 points.
Rounds 19 and 20 of the 22 race series will take place at Croft in North Yorkshire on Sunday 9th September. Channel 4 and Motors TV will be showing the highlights of the Thruxton races in the coming weeks.
ROUND 18 - RESULT
1 - 26 - C - Atte MUSTONEN - FIN - Raikkonen Robertson Racing - 30:07.208 - 24 - - 112.63 - 01:07.251
2 - 21 - C - Niall BREEN - IRL - Carlin Motorsport - 30:12.040 - 24 - 4.832 - 112.33 - 01:07.340
3 - 9 - C - Rodolfo GONZALEZ - VEN - T-Sport - 30:13.766 - 24 - 6.558 - 112.22 - 01:07.137
4 - 23 - C - Maro ENGEL - GER - Carlin Motorsport - 30:15.440 - 24 - 8.232 - 112.12 - 01:07.516
5 - 7 - C - Marko ASMER - EST - Hitech Racing - 30:19.102 - 24 - 11.894 - 111.9 - 01:07.578
6 - 4 - C - Mario MORAES - BRA - Carlin Motorsport - 30:22.929 - 24 - 15.721 - 111.66 - 01:07.562
7 - 1 - C - Stephen JELLEY - GBR - Raikkonen Robertson Racing - 30:23.584 - 24 - 16.376 - 111.62 - 01:07.149
8 - 50 - C - Greg MANSELL - GBR - Fortec Motorsport - 30:26.608 - 24 - 19.4 - 111.44 - 01:07.544
9 - 14 - C - Esteban GUERRIERI - ARG - Ultimate Motorsport - 30:28.269 - 24 - 21.061 - 111.33 - 01:07.714
10 - 22 - C - Alberto VALERIO - BRA - Carlin Motorsport - 30:29.214 - 24 - 22.006 - 111.28 - 01:07.456
11 - 5 - C - Sebastian HOHENTHAL - SWE - Fortec Motorsport - 30:30.031 - 24 - 22.823 - 111.23 - 01:07.584
12 - 2 - C - Jonathan KENNARD - GBR - Raikkonen Robertson Racing - 30:40.094 - 24 - 32.886 - 110.62 - 01:07.998
13 - 31 - N - Sergio PEREZ - MEX - T-Sport - 30:42.096 - 24 - 34.888 - 110.5 - 01:07.991
14 - 77 - N - Salman AL-KHALIFA - BHR - T-Sport - 30:47.229 - 24 - 40.021 - 110.19 - 01:08.536
15 - 10 - C - Ricardo TEIXEIRA - ANG - Performance Racing Europe - 30:48.887 - 24 - 41.679 - 110.09 - 01:08.558
16 - 44 - C - Leo MANSELL - GBR - Fortec Motorsport - 30:58.560 - 24 - 51.352 - 109.52 - 01:08.019
17 - 24 - C - John MARTIN - AUS - Alan Docking Racing - 30:58.858 - 24 - 51.65 - 109.5 - 01:09.062
18 - 38 - N - Hamad AL FARDAN - BHR - Performance Racing Europe - 31:06.617 - 24 - 59.409 - 109.05 - 01:09.162
19 - 37 - N - Viktor JENSEN - ISL - Alan Docking Racing - 31:10.077 - 24 - 01:02.9 - 108.84 - 01:09.231
20 - 33 - N - Juan Pablo GARCIA S. - MEX - Fluid Motorsport Development - 31:15.676 - 23 - 1 laps - 104 - 01:09.254
- - - Not Classified - - - - - - -
DNF - 15 - C - Michael DEVANEY - IRL - Ultimate Motorsport - 22:46.115 - 17 - 7 laps - 105.54 - 01:07.853
DNF - 16 - C - Max CHILTON - GBR - Arena International Motorsport - 20:38.422 - 15 - 9 laps - 102.73 - 01:08.983
DNF - 6 - C - Walter GRUBMULLER - AUT - Hitech Racing - 13:24.290 - 9 - 15 laps - 94.9 - 01:08.105
DNF - 3 - C - Sam BIRD - GBR - Carlin Motorsport - 13:28.196 - 9 - 15 laps - 94.44 - 01:08.745
DNF - 27 - C - Alastair JACKSON - GBR - Raikkonen Robertson Racing - 12:22.231 - 8 - 16 laps - 91.41 - 01:08.831
DNF - 8 - C - Francesco CASTELLACCI - ITA - Alan Docking Racing - 10:08.290 - 6 - 18 laps - 83.65 - 01:09.657
DNF - 39 - N - Cong Fu CHENG - CHN - Performance Racing Europe - 32:09.600 - - - -
DNF - 55 - N - Michael MEADOWS - GBR - Newnet Raikkonen Robertson Racing - 15:50.400 - - - -
- - - Fastest Lap - - - - - - -
- 9 - C - Rodolfo GONZALEZ - VEN - T-Sport - - 9 - - 126.33 - 01:07.137
- 31 - N - Sergio PEREZ - MEX - T-Sport - - 7 - - 124.74 - 01:07.991