Brit Martin Plowman faced a challenging debut in the Formula 3 Euro Series at Hockenheim, on 12&13 April, with RC Motorsport powered by Volkswagen. Despite tyre selection issues putting pay to his qualifying chances, Plowman put in an encouraging performance and showed promise for the 2008 season.
Thanks to the heavy down pour on Friday night, Plowman faced a damp track but blue skies as his first Formula 3 Euro Series qualifying session approached. With Hockenheim renowned for being a fast-drying track, the team took the decision to send Plowman out on slicks.
After 10 minutes a few dry patches began to appear but the majority of the track was still water logged. Rather than loose valuable time changing tyres, Plowman was instructed to stay out in the hope that the track would dry rapidly towards the end of the session. But it didn’t so Plowman continued to battle on slicks, putting him ten seconds off the pace and 29th on the grid for race one.
Undaunted by starting on the last row of the gird, the BRDC Rising Star made a solid start and gained five places on the opening lap. With the car performing well Plowman made good progress, passing Niall Breen (IRL), Basil Shaaban (LIB) and Kazuya Oshima (JPN) in quick succession.
The safety car came out following fellow Brit Jon Lancaster’s accident mid-way through the race. Plowman was ready at the restart six laps later and proceeded to set personal best sector times to close in on RC Motorsport team-mate Jens Klingmann (GER). Plowman made his move to out brake Klingmann on the inside of the Mercedes Corner, allowing the 20-year-old to find a comfortable gap in the field to nurse the car home with worn tyres to finish 17th.
As race two beckoned, Plowman mastered the F3 clutch and managed a rapid getaway from 17th on the grid, to leapfrog the eighth row of cars. By the end of lap one, the British rookie was up to 14th when the safety car was once again deployed, this time to sort the start-line pile up.
At the restart Plowman tried in vein to stay in contention of the leading pack but it was apparent that he was significantly lacking top-speed due to an undiagnosed problem. Dropping back through the field to 26th, Plowman continued to loose places lap after lap on the run down to the hairpin. It was there that Stefano Coletti (MON) made an ambitious move to pass, catching Plowman’s rear wheel and launching the car into the air, breaking the rear suspension as the car landed and bringing a premature end to Plowman’s race.
Plowman commented: “It was great to get my first Formula 3 Euro Series race under my belt but unfortunately Hockenheim didn’t deliver the results we were looking for. Although I am a little disappointed, there are a lot of positives to draw upon from this weekend.
“Our pace in the wet free practice was really encouraging, as I was running within the top eight in tricky conditions. I was also pleased with the Volkswagen engine, as it gave me the chance to be competitive and I know that once we have sorted out some small minor details, we will be consistently running at the front. Despite a problem in race two, when we compared our team data it was evident that I was significantly quicker through the corners. Although we can’t re-run this first round, at least we know that the car and I have the potential to do better.”