Formula 3 Euro Series, rounds 7&8, Norisring, Germany
Tamworth’s Martin Plowman faced his most challenging weekend yet in round seven and eight of the Formula 3 Euro Series at the Norisring, Germany, on 28 & 29 June 2008. Despite a blinding opening lap round seven performance from 20th to 11th, Plowman’s luck ran short forcing a retirement. Hopeful of a good recovery for round eight on Sunday, Plowman was taken out of the race on the first lap of the re-start, bringing his weekend to a premature end.
Facing the challenge of the fast, sweeping, Norisring for the first time, Plowman made the most of Friday practice to learn the track in preparation for qualifying late that afternoon. Over heating brakes, however, were hampering the team but Plowman qualified 20th, top of the RC Motorsport drivers, with one second covering the entire field.
A monumental effort for round seven on Saturday saw Plowman blast around the outside of the Boschkurve to take an impressive nine places and finish lap one in 11th. Conceding one place to the flying Christian Vietoris (GER) on lap four, who then passed Henkie Waldschmidt (NED), Plowman closed to within one second of Waldschmidt by lap 12, while staving off the advances of Renger van der Zande (NED).
Plowman slashed the Dutchman’s advantage to three tenths of a second by lap 15 and started lap 17 in 11th to pull alongside on the pit straight. The Brit held the inside line under breaking but Waldschmidt moved to the inside and closed the door at the last minute, forcing Plowman onto the marbles and straight on at the Boschkurve.
Recovering swiftly from the resulting 180 degree spin, Plowman rejoined the fray down in 21st place and pushed hard to within two seconds of Cong Fu Cheng (CHN) by lap 21, with Daniel Campos-Hull (SPA) and Niall Breen (IRL) completing the three-car train ahead. Easily lapping on par with the front runners, Plowman was just four tenths adrift on lap 29 when Cheng took Campos-Hull. Barely a tenth off of the Spaniard, Plowman swooped alongside down the pit straight to take 18th in to the Boschkurve on lap 32.
With Cheng once again his target, Plowman reduced the gap by over a second to under three tenths the following lap to challenge for 17th in to the Boschkurve. But despite his efforts Plowman’s tyres were past their best and he was unable to take the place and took avoiding action. Cheng then passed Breen and although Plowman stayed within two tenths of Breen for a further lap, a problem with a right-rear wishbone forced the 20-year-old to retire on lap 40.
Starting from 23rd on the grid for round eight on Sunday, Plowman was confident of repeating Saturday’s lap one performance to put him back in the frame to score some championship points. A multi-car pile up at the Boschkurve on lap one, however, caused the race to be red flagged.
Due to stalling on the grid, round seven-winner Nico Hülkenberg (GER) was to re-start from the back of the grid, with the field behind the safety car. As the safety car peeled off into the pits, Plowman was following the single-file train of traffic in to the Boschkurve when Hülkenberg came surging through, collecting an innocent Plowman. Suffering rear suspension failure and a broken rear wing, Plowman’s race was run and he limped back to the pits to retire.
“This has been a really frustrating weekend of events beyond our control that have prevented us from showing our true potential,” said Plowman. “The first lap of Saturday’s race was awesome and we have definitely moved forward in terms of pace and just keep getting stronger. We will put this one down to experience and stay calm and positive for the next rounds at Zandvoort where we will be aiming for some championship points.”
The Formula 3 Euro Series will head to Zandvoort, Netherlands, for rounds nine and ten on 12 & 13 July.