Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series racer Menasheh Idafar had a frustrating start to his weekend’s racing at Silverstone’s ‘Bridge’ Grand Prix Circuit this afternoon, Saturday, 14th August, when a late-race tangle cost him the chance of a potential National Class victory.
Clearly the class pace-setter by some margin during this morning’s qualifying session, the T-Sport driver comfortably secured pole position for rounds 22 and 24 in damp yet drying conditions and in doing so also earned a position on the sixth row of the grid overall – a tremendous effort.
Lapping with a best time of 1m49.582 seconds (104.94mph) on his final lap of the session to secure 12th spot for the third of the weekend’s races, which will take place tomorrow afternoon, the 19-year-old also achieved the same starting slot for today’s encounter with his second best lap.
Light rain ahead of round 22 did raise the possibility of drivers considering the option of starting the race on treaded wet-weather tyres but in the end only National Class points leader James Cole chose to do so – a decision he soon reversed by pitting at the end of the first of two formation laps.
Although declared a wet race, the entire field therefore started on slicks and as the lights went out Menasheh made a fantastic getaway to hold 12th place and soon after got ahead of International Class runner Alex Brundle.
With a total of 13 positions between himself and Cole in 24th, and with class newcomer Juan Carlos Sistos in 22nd place, Menasheh set about making the most of his opportunity to close down Cole’s 10-point series lead. Tyre choice and the weather would largely determine the outcome though.
On lap three rain started to fall once more but Menasheh waited until the end of the fifth tour before changing to wet tyres. He rejoined the track in 17th place overall, second in the National Class, and importantly for the title battle still ahead of Cole who pitted for treaded rubber on lap three.
Sistos, who was still on slicks, inherited the class lead after Menasheh pitted and he then chose to remain on dry tyres for the duration as the rain ceased yet again. Determined to catch the Mexican though, Menasheh reeled him in with a string of much faster laps – up to 10 seconds per lap quicker – and by lap 13 only four seconds and two other drivers separated the pair.
But on the 14th tour his fantastic progress came to an abrupt end when contact with Invitation Class driver Carlos Munoz, while dicing at Club Chicane, resulted in a spin for both and a subsequent stall for Menasheh.
Fortunately he managed to fire his Mugen-Honda engine back up and although bitterly disappointed to drop to third in class, he still managed to take 12 points from the race and the additional bonus point for setting the quickest National Class lap – a time of 1m43.784 seconds (110.80mph). This has helped him limit the damage in terms of the standings with Cole’s lead only increasing to 12 points.
Speaking after the race, Menasheh said: “I’m really disappointed, I was catching (Juan Carlos) Sistos really quickly and we had a good chance to try and win the class today. Qualifying went well for us, it was important to take the two poles, and in the race the car felt really good. It’s a real shame there was the contact with (Carlos) Munoz but I need to put that behind me and focus on tomorrow.”
Round 23 of the 2010 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series will commence at 11.15 tomorrow, Sunday, 15th August, with round 24 set to follow at approximately 15.45. Menasheh will line up 21st on the grid for the first encounter – by virtue of his finishing position today – while for the 40-minute ‘feature’ race he’ll start in 12th place overall, the National Class pole position.