DRIVER NEWS: Podium finish, but Croft debut sees mixed weekend for Al Khalifa
DRIVER NEWS: Bahraini racing driver Salman Al Khalifa admitted to having mixed emotions at the weekend, after his first ever visit to the Yorkshire circuit Croft. The 2005 Formula BMW Asia champion secured his third National Class podium of the 2007 British F3 International Series season in race one, but a spin in race two cost him the chance of a second top-three finish.
Having qualified fourth in class for both races, Al Khalifa made a good start to race one on Sunday morning. After passing Michael Meadows in the opening laps to run third he then inheriting second place when T-Sport team mate Sergio Perez ran wide after a coming together with Ali Jackson. A spin at the final hairpin allowed Perez to retake second, but Salman rejoined and finished the race strongly to claim third.
Al Khalifa made an even better start to race two, leapfrogging both Meadows and Frankie Cheng to run second by the end of the first lap. With Cheng applying intense pressure, the Chinese driver nipped past midway through the race to demote Salman to third, and with 12 laps to go a spin in the complex towards the end of the lap dropped him way down the order. He did recover to finish sixth at the flag, but couldn’t hide his disappointment at the end of the race.
“I should have had another podium but I made a mistake and threw it away,” Salman admitted. “I was carrying too much speed and just spun on my own. I can’t forgive myself for that. We scored points for sixth, but really that’s little consolation because I am targeting podiums in every race now. I guess this is part of the learning process and I need to make sure I concentrate all the way to the chequered flag.
“Race one was really positive though. I made a good start and passed Meadows, and even though I had a small spin which allowed Sergio past, I was happy with the way I reacted. I kept the engine running and quickly regained my composure to finish third. Our pace is beginning to show now and all the potential that we had earlier in the season is being realised. Everything is coming together and we are getting results and I am really happy about that.”
T-Sport Team Principal Russell Eacott admitted that he was also encouraged by Al Khalifa’s performance in Saturday’s qualifying sessions. He said: “The positive thing from the weekend for me is that Salman produced two really strong qualifying performances. He was actually a little frustrated not to be higher up the grid for race two and that shows how far he’s come, because he would have happily taken two fourths a couple of races ago. He now needs to work on his speed and consistency so we can finish on a high at Rockingham.”
Hour long highlights of the two races at Croft, as well as a feature on Salman, can be seen on Motors TV (Sky Channel 413, Virgin Media 545) on Saturday 22 September at 3pm. Visit www.motorstv.com for full listings.