First-year Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series racer Menasheh Idafar secured his seventh National Class win of the year during round 14 at Rockingham today, Sunday, 18th July, before overcoming significant damage in round 15 to record an impressive top eight placing overall.
The National Class points lead changed twice during today’s highly-charged, incident packed races at the 1.94-mile track. First, Menasheh took a slender two point advantage following his victory in the 20-minute ‘pit-stop’ encounter but then rival James Cole moved back ahead after the second race.
At the precise halfway point of the 2010 campaign, the title battle is as finely poised as ever with just five points separating the T-Sport team-mates. Realistically, Menasheh was on course to make it a hat-trick of wins this weekend but damage sustained on the opening lap of this afternoon’s final race resulted in a loss of performance from his car.
Lining up 16th on the grid, after posting the quickest National Class time in qualifying on Saturday, the 19-year-old made a fantastic getaway and gained half a dozen places as he headed into Deene Hairpin for the first time.
As he prepared to round the turn though, an incident in the lead group of International Class cars ahead resulted in a blocked track. With nowhere to go, the cars bottled up and additional contact was inevitable – Menasheh unfortunately catching the rear of Gabriel Dias’ car which led to a hole being punctured into the nose cone of the British-born Bahraini’s Dallara.
With a number of front-runners in trouble, Menasheh managed to recover in 11th position – second in the National Class – and although the hole caused problems with a lack of speed on the straights and through the fast corners, the T-Sport racer did a fantastic job to lap competitively.
Remaining out of trouble for the remainder of the 40-minute race, he finished in an excellent eighth place overall within just 0.6 seconds of class winner Cole. Equally impressive was the fact Menasheh posted a best lap time of 1m15.477 seconds, just a few 100ths of a second shy of Cole’s best.
He commented: “The start to the second race was a bit crazy, I made the best start I ever have and got up to 10th but the accident at the hairpin slowed everyone and there was a lot of contact. I had nowhere to go and just caught the back of (Gabriel) Dias’ car which left a hole in my nose cone. I lost a lot of speed on the straights after that, it really hurt us but at least we finished and scored points.”
In this morning’s 14th round Menasheh had to cope with car damage again, this time as a result of contact from Cole at Deene on lap two as the pair diced over the class lead. In 14th place overall at the time, Menasheh sustained a left-rear puncture and bent suspension. Returning slowly to the pits, he lost a huge amount of time but after replacing the tyre he headed back out.
With Cole also requiring repairs, Menasheh managed to get back on track in the lead of the National Class which he held to the chequered flag on lap 16 for his seventh victory of the year. Impressively, even though sporting bent rear suspension, the F3 rookie lapped with a quickest time of 1m14.668 seconds (93.53mph) – matching the pace of overall British F3 points leader Jean-Eric Vergne.
“The first race tough with the tyre change and the suspension problem but my pace was still good so I was really pleased”, added Menasheh, “Taking two wins this weekend was great and the important thing is that it’s still really close in the championship between me and James (Cole).”
The next installment of the 2010 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series takes place a fortnight from now on Friday, 30th July, and Saturday, 31st July, at the home of the Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps. Before then, Menasheh will be back on track in his Mugen-Honda engined Dallara F307 during official testing at Snetterton, Norfolk, this coming Tuesday, 20th July.