Bahraini racing driver Salman Al Khalifa bounced back from a difficult weekend at Monza, with a race 1 National Class podium at round 7 of the British Formula 3 International Series at Rockingham, but saw his hopes of a strong weekend’s points haul ended by an overheating engine in round 8.
Two DNFs at Monza after a meeting plagued by problems, including visa issues which forced him to arrive late and miss practice, left the 2005 Formula BMW Asia champion determined to bounce back at the Northamptonshire circuit and things went well in the first race of the weekend.
Having qualified third in class in a wet qualifying session for race 1, the T-Sport driver made a strong start, passing Jay Bridger on the first lap and immediately closing the gap to the class leader Andy Meyrick. Unfortunately, a gaggle of Championship class cars were between the two and when Meyrick made a slight mistake and dropped one position overall, Al Khalifa wasn’t able to capitalise. With all the cars on slicks, the rain began to fall halfway through the race, making conditions treacherous, and Salman made the decision to drive within the limits of the car for a strong second place finish.
“I let championship class runner Philip Major past early in the race as I had an incident with him at Monza and didn’t want a repeat,” Salman revealed. “If I hadn’t then I would have been right with Andy when he made his mistake. When the rain fell though, I took the decision to drive a little more conservatively and settled for second. We’ve had a rough season so far and I knew how important it was to bank some solid points.”
Salman started race 2 from seventh in class, despite his ideal lap time in wet qualifying being good enough for second.
In wet conditions Salman made a fine start to leapfrog Hywel Lloyd off the line but was struggling with excessive understeer in the difficult conditions. A grassy moment at the hairpin lost some ground and a drive through penalty for overshooting the chicane saw him fall further down the field. Unfortunately, with five laps remaining, his engine temperature began to soar due to grass blocking the radiators forcing Al Khalifa into retirement and ending his hopes of more points.
“My engineer spotted the problem as I came down the pit lane for my penalty,” he said. “We had no option but to retire from the race which was a shame because the team had done a great job with the set up in changeable conditions.
“It’s been another mixed weekend, but it was nice to be on the podium again and I’m looking forward to the next round at Snetterton with renewed confidence. I like the circuit and it’s very challenging, a mix of two long straights, high-speed S-Bends and a tight chicane should produce some close racing!”