TEAM NEWS: Maro Engel and Niall Breen took two podium positions for Carlin Motorsport today, at the Thruxton rounds of the 2007 British F3 championship. The team were unlucky not to take victory in a close and chaotic race one, after both Niall Breen and Sam Bird looked to have the pace to win. Breen’s pace was finally rewarded with a second place in race two, with Engel just missing out on his second podium of the day.
F3 rookie Niall Breen made the most of his third placed grid slot in race one, passing Atte Mustonen to take second on the first lap. The 21 year-old continued his charge, but a move on Sebastian Hohenthal for second place resulted in Breen spinning off on lap three. That elevated team mate Sam Bird to first, the 20 year-old rookie looking good for his third win of the season. By lap four, Bird was leading, with Alberto Valerio eighth and Maro Engel passing Michael Devaney to take ninth from his 15th placed grid slot.
By lap five, Bird was under increasing pressure from second placed man Jonathan Kennard who was just 0.040 seconds behind as they crossed the line. Kennard inevitably took the lead on lap six while Engel passed team mate Valerio for eighth place.
Unwilling to give up the chance of victory, Bird continued to challenge Kennard for the lead, just three tenths behind the Raikkonen Robertson driver on lap nine. A lap later Bird found himself under pressure from Atte Mustonen, a clash between the two on lap 11 putting Bird out of a promising second place and into the barriers.
Maro Engel now led the Carlin squad, the 21 year-old German up to an impressive fifth place. Behind him, Alberto Valerio passed Marko Asmer to take sixth just behind his team mate. A lap later, Engel passed Guerrieri to take fourth. The first safety car of the day appeared on lap 13, and Engel took his opportunity to make up places at the restart to move up to third, with Valerio moving up to fifth, the positions they would hold to the chequered flag. In the closing stages, Niall Breen passed team mate Moraes, the duo finishing 12th and 13th respectively.
Race two was as lightly less eventful affair. Niall Breen made his second great start of the day to take second on the first lap from his sixth placed grid slot while team mate Maro Engel made up one place to slot behind in third. Alberto Valerio also had a good start from ninth to sixth, while Mario Moraes made up two places on lap one to tenth place, just before the second safety car of the day. Moraes made the most of the restart to make up two places on lap six, while Maro Engel was putting pressure on team mate Niall Breen with Marko Asmer close behind.
Sam Bird’s torrid weekend continued, the Carlin team performed a miraculous job to rebuild Bird’s car just in time for race two, but handling problems ended his race on lap nine. The BP Ultimate driver consequently leaves an F3 weekend without points for the first time this season.
Meanwhile Mario Moraes was fighting an on-track battle with Greg Mansell; the Fortec driver finding a way past on lap 11, only for Moraes to reclaim his position two laps later. The 19 year-old Brazilian continued his charge to climb to sixth. Further up the field, despite his best efforts Engel dropped to fourth having been passed by Rodolfo Gonzalez. The order remained the same to the chequered flag, with Breen leading the Carlin squad home in second, followed by Engel fourth, Moraes sixth and Valerio tenth.
Team Principal Trevor Carlin commented, “Mixed results for the team this weekend; we had very good pace, but didn’t really achieve the results that we should have. Sam and Niall were both very quick and had the pace to win the first race. Maro did a great job today and was very professional and calm. He has closed the gap sufficiently to Marko [Asmer] to keep the championship alive for another weekend, and we will keep fighting until the championship is mathematically impossible.”