Menasheh Idafar delivered one of his best performances of the season at Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit this afternoon, Saturday, 24th September, during round 25 of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series – although a deserved top seven finish became 11th post-race due to a penalty.
Making a sensational start to the first of the weekend’s three races, the T-Sport driver got away from his eighth row starting slot brilliantly and by the end of the first lap he had climbed from 16th place to the fringe of the top 10.
On lap two, contact between recently crowned 2011 Champion Felipe Nasr and his team-mate Kevin Magnussen at Melbourne Hairpin dropped the former down into 10th place and at the next corner, Goddards, Menasheh saw his chance and sliced up the inside of the Brazilian to take the position.
Magnussen then pitted on the following tour, thus hoisting Menasheh into ninth place, as the 20-year-old set about pressuring Pipo Derani. Driving well and producing competitive lap times, the British-born Bahraini held a gap of roughly 0.7 seconds to Derani for the next half dozen laps before a mistake for Will Buller promoted both.
Now running in the top eight, Menasheh continued to push hard as he sought to keep Derani under pressure but with overtaking opportunities seriously limited the battle enabled Harry Tincknell and the recovering Buller to close in.
Handling the pressure impressively, while maintaining his challenge for seventh, the opportunity Menasheh had been waiting for presented itself on lap 18. Getting terrific drive out of the Fogarty Esses and closing right-up behind Derani, he went for the inside into the hairpin but as the two cars reached the apex there was contact which resulted in the South American losing several places.
After repelling an attempted pass by Tincknell at Redgate Corner on the following lap, Menasheh was able to get back into his rhythm and seventh place was secured – which also meant he sealed a front-row starting slot for Sunday morning’s race by virtue of the top eight finishers being ‘reversed’ to determine the first four rows of the round 26 grid.
Disappointingly, the Dallara-Volkswagen driver was deemed culpable for the contact on lap 18 with Derani and championship officials served Menasheh with an unfortunate 3.5 second penalty to drop him to 11th in the final classification. Therefore, he starts round 26 tomorrow from 11th place.
“We had a really great race today, really good, so to lose the seventh place is frustrating”, Menasheh commented, “It’s one of those things though, you can’t do anything about it. The start was great and the first lap went really well so it’s a big shame to lose the result. I’m pleased with our performance though, we’ll be trying as hard as ever tomorrow.”
Round 26 of the 2011 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series will get underway at 10.15 tomorrow, Sunday, 25th September, with round 27 – which Menasheh will begin from 14th on the grid – following at 13.40. Live timing for both races can be viewed online at www.tsl-timing.com