Birds Maiden F3 Euroseries Points
Manor Motorsport’s Sam Bird achieved his first Formula 3 Euroseries points finish during only his second race in the category at Hockenheim in Germany Sunday, 13th April, the highlight of an otherwise trying weekend for the Dinnington based team.The recently named British Racing Drivers’ Club (BRDC) ‘Superstar’ was certainly Manor’s stand-out performer during the season opening event and having finished 10th during round one on Saturday, 12th April, he went on to race strongly to a sixth place finish in the second encounter, securing in the process his first championship point. Qualifying proved to be key to the outcome of the weekend and, very unfortunately, all four Manor drivers experienced nothing but bad luck. Scheduled to take place on Friday afternoon, 11th April, the session was postponed until Saturday due to heavy rain.When qualifying did finally take place, it was on a rapidly drying track and those drivers taking the chequered flag at the end of the session were always going to be quickest.With just a few minutes remaining the team had three cars inside the top 10 but the problem came on each runner’s final lap – slower cars on slick tyres baulking the Manor drivers as they pushed for fast times and resulting in the quartet being much further down the grid than their genuine pace would have allowed.Toyota Development Programme-backed Kazuya Oshima qualified in 20th position for round one, Honda Racing supported Koudai Tsukakoshi was 22nd, Bird was classified 23rd and Irishman Niall Breen qualified 24th.Obviously a very difficult situation for the Manor team, the races at least did offer some good news with Bird and Tsukakoshi both running strongly to finish in 10th and 13th positions respectively. Breen ended the race in 19th while Oshima was forced to retire on the fifth lap of 23.For race two, Bird raced well to his top six result and was actually held up by fifth placed Yann Clairay for a number of laps, taking the chequered flag just half a second behind the Frenchman. Tsukakoshi climbed from 13th on the grid to finish in ninth position, just four seconds shy of the points, while Breen and Oshima ended round two in 19th and 20th. The finishing positions actually belied their pace, Breens’s best lap of 1m 34.596 seconds comparable with team-mate Bird’s quickest time of 1m 34.569 seconds.Likewise, Oshima’s fastest race lap in round two was just 0.39 seconds slower than that managed by Tsukakoshi a full 11 places further up the order. Without the misfortune of the qualifying session, the team would have undoubtedly scored more points. Looking back on what can only be described as a trying weekend, Manor Motorsport team owner John Booth said: “Qualifying was a real problem, none of our guys could get a clear lap right at the end and they lost huge amounts of time. It was a fast drying track, whoever was there at the end with quick laps was always going to be at the sharp end.“We know for sure Sam would have been fourth quickest without the traffic but all of our lads had problems. When they came up behind the slower cars on their fast laps they were completely snookered, nothing they could do.”Booth added: “Nonetheless, they all fought hard and the race pace was actually very good, certainly a match for the guys running at the front. If qualifying had been a different story we’d have been in with a strong chance of some very good results. There are certainly far more positives than negatives to take from the weekend.“It’s unfortunate but we’re focusing instead on the next two races at Mugello. We won there last year so I see no reason why our guys can’t be on top form again to challenge for podiums. We’ll go testing before then but we haven’t decided where just yet, it’ll be within the next couple of weeks though.”Coverage of the opening two rounds of the 2008 F3 Euroseries will be replayed as live on digital satellite and cable channel Motors TV this evening, Monday, 14th April, at 19.00 and then again on Wednesday, 16th April, at 05.00. For further details of additional broadcasts please check listings.Rounds three and four of the championship will take place three weeks from now on 3rd/4th May at Mugello in Italy.