Menasheh Idafar increased his 2010 tally of race wins to 15 at Snetterton in Norfolk today, Monday, 30th August, to not only completely dominate the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series National Class but also move into the points lead ahead of next month’s all-important season finale.
In supreme form throughout the Bank Holiday weekend in East Anglia, the rookie F3 competitor was in a league of his own in terms of his National Class rivals. Added to his comfortable win during round 25 on Sunday, today’s pair of victories mean the 19-year-old has sealed a weekend hat-trick for the first time at an F3 event.
Arriving at Snetterton nine points behind chief rival, and team-mate, James Cole, Menasheh overturned the deficit with a stunning performance – especially during this afternoon’s 40 minute ‘feature’ race – to move back into the championship lead with a four point cushion.
“It’s fantastic to finally win all three races on a weekend, I’ve been wanting to do that all year so I’m really happy”, said the British-born Bahraini, “This weekend was a really important one for the championship. I needed to make sure I finished all three races but to win each one is amazing.”
Expecting to start rounds 26 and 27 ahead of Cole on the grid, Menasheh was surprised to be served with a five place grid penalty for the 40-minute feature race which came as a result of a protest from his fellow T-Sport driver in relation to a perceived on track incident during Sunday’s encounter.
Placing Menasheh 21st and last on the grid for round 27, the penalty did threaten to undermine his sparkling weekend but he shrugged it off superbly well. Making a great start, he passed several cars on the run through Riches and Sear and after closing on Cole on the run down Revett Straight, he took the outside line into the Esses to produce a brilliant pass for the class lead.
Fully committed for the move with a brave piece of driving, Menasheh was squeezed onto the grass by Cole at the exit of the Esses but the former Formula Renault UK racer kept his foot planted on the accelerator and made it through cleanly. By the end of lap one he had risen from 21st to 16th overall, three places ahead of Cole.
Running exactly the same pace as the quartet of International Class cars immediately ahead, Menasheh cruised to his third win of the weekend in style. By lap 26 he had opened up a huge 20 second margin over Cole and at the chequered flag on lap 38, the difference was over half a minute as he soundly defeated his arch rival. He also set the fastest class lap of 1m01.200 seconds.
The day’s opening race took place on a drying track after earlier rain and at the start there was a lot of debate up and down the pitlane over which tyres would prove to be the correct choice. As with the vast majority of drivers Menasheh headed out to the grid with treaded rubber on his Dallara Mugen-Honda but, like most of the others too, he opted to change to slicks on the grid.
Initially, the going was difficult for those not on wet-weather tyres as the track retained a lot of moisture for a number of laps. Even so, Menasheh handled the conditions well and moved up one place from his starting slot of 15th on lap one. Sensibly choosing not to fight the quicker International Class cars too hard, he maintained the National lead throughout.
As the surface began to dry from mid-distance, Menasheh pressed home more of an advantage over Cole and by lap 15 his lead was an impressive seven seconds as he stretched further and further away during the closing stages.
Bearing in mind how crucial a single point could be at the end of the year in terms of the destination of the title, Menasheh then purposely backed off on the penultimate tour in order to push for the fastest National Class lap of the race which he achieved.
Just three races now remain in the 2010 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series and the fight for the National Class title is as tight as ever. Brands Hatch Grand Prix Circuit in Kent hosts the championship finale four weeks from now over the weekend 25th/26th September.