Jaime Alguersuari took his third win of the 2008 British F3 International Series season to keep his title hopes very much alive.
The Spanish Red Bull Junior driver finished ahead of Oliver Turvey and Brendon Hartley to secure the second 1-2-3 for Carlin Motorsport and he also recorded the teams 150th victory. Stefan Wilson returned to winning ways in the National Class after starting 4th on the grid, overtaking Hywel Lloyd seven laps from home. Jay Bridger finished third after falling back to 4th on the opening lap from pole position.
For the third day in a row the sun beat down on the Romanian capital city, with an air temperature of 37 degrees recorded as the drivers filed out onto the grid for Round 20 of 2008 British F3 International Series. On the green flag lap Henry Arundel stalled forcing him to start at the back of the grid.
Oliver Turvey led the 21 car grid into the first corner but Brendon Hartley got a better getaway from second on the grid to get alongside Turvey into Turn One. The English driver was on the dirty side of the track and started to run wide, forcing the New Zealander to the outside of the track and allowing third placed Jaime Alguersuari to nip through to take the lead. Hartley was also passed by John Martin and Max Chilton and crossed the line for the first time in 5th place.
Esteban Guerrieri, Sam Abay, Sergio Perez and Michael Devaney all made up two places on the opening lap thanks to Walter Grubmuller dropping down the order and Marcus Ericsson stalling on the grid dropping the Swede from 8th to 19th.
In the National Class pole position holder Jay Bridger had another disastrous opening lap dropping three places as he got caught out at the second chicane by slower cars and then being in the wrong gear. The 2008 National Class champion had to battle with Steven Guerrero for the next four laps for third place while Hywel Lloyd and Stefan Wilson headed off into the distance.
Alguersuari held a one second lead over Turvey and Martin as the cars began their second lap with Hartley challenging Chilton and Martin. As the three cars exited the second chicane they were side by side heading into the last corner with Chilton having to take to the escape road and rejoin behind Hartley but ahead of John Martin. Martin dived down the inside of Chilton at the first corner to regain the place but the Australian was now 4th behind the three Carlin Dallaras.
Hartley now set off after Turvey who was three seconds further up the road and this gap soon began to reduce as Hartley used the speed he had ably demonstrated all weekend.
Esteban Guerrieri moved ahead of Max Chilton on lap 3 then the Hitech driver came under pressure from the recovering Sergio Perez, the Mexican trying to climb as many places to keep his championship hopes alive. The two cars were nose to tail for four laps and as they crossed the line to begin lap 8 Perez went to the outside of Chilton and got ahead of the Hitech Dallara as he braked for the corner. Chilton tucked in behind Perez’s T Sport Dallara but then didn’t slow down in time, hitting the back of the Mexican’s car, spinning it and Perez’s championship hopes out of contention. The T Sport Dallara stopped on the outside of the first corner and was collected by the unfortunate Ricardo Teixeira who came around the bend to find Perez stationary on his racing line. Both cars were eliminated on the spot and the safety car was deployed to allow the two cars to be moved out of harms way.
The race went green again on lap 12, with Alguersuari pulling away from Turvey and Hartley before they could react. Chilton was handed a stop-go penalty for causing the Turn One accident, which he came in a lap later to serve dropping him to the back of the field.
Stefan Wilson was challenging Hywel Lloyd for the lead of the National Class and the two cars were nose to tail for the two laps after the restart. On lap 13 Wilson got close enough to challenge the Welshman into the second chicane. Wilson took his chance to take the lead and ended the lap ahead of his rival. At the same time Round 19 winner Salman Al Khalifa was fighting with his T Sport teammate Steven Guerrero for 4th and moved ahead on lap 14.
On lap 15 John Martin’s race came to a halt when the back end of his Double R Dallara stepped out, putting the Australian into the wall at Turn 10. The car was judged to be in a safe enough position to be protected by waved yellow flags and the race continued.
The top three cars continued to circulate but Alguersuari was able to control the race from the front, with Turvey unable to get close enough to the Spanish driver to make an effective challenge. At the flag it was Alguersuari who held both arms aloft to celebrate his third win of the year, finishing 0.6 seconds ahead of Oliver Turvey and another 1.1 seconds ahead of Brendon Hartley. Esteban Guerrieri recorded his second 4th place of the weekend on his return to British F3, finishing 2.1 seconds ahead of his Ultimate Motorsport teammate Michael Devaney.
Oliver Turvey has a 12 point advantage over Jaime Alguersuari with 42 points on offer at the last two races at Donington Park in October. Brendon Hartley moves up to third place ahead of Sergio Perez and 20 points behind Turvey. The Mexican left Bucharest without scoring a single point and is now 29 behind Turvey and while there is a mathematical possibility of him taking the 2008 title he knows that his challenge was effectively ended at Turn One in Bucharest.
For the championship positions following Round 20 click here
To listen to the post race press conference with Jaime Alguersuari, Oliver Turvey, Brendon Hartley, Stefan Wilson, Hywel Lloyd and Jay Bridger click here
Rounds 19 & 20 of the 2008 British F3 International Series will be shown on TV in the UK on Channel 4 and across Europe on Motors TV starting on 31 August. The full British F3 TV schedule is available on the championship website here.
ROUND 20: Result (Provisional)
1 - 4 - I - Jaime ALGUERSUARI - ESP - 30:43.123 - 20laps
2 - 17 - I - Oliver TURVEY - GBR - +0.642s
3 - 3 - I - Brendon HARTLEY - NZL - +1.121s
4 - 11 - I - Esteban GUERRIERI - ARG - +10.113s
5 - 16 - I - Mick DEVANEY - IRL - +12.233s
6 - 2 - I - Walter GRUBMULLER - AUT - +12.891s
7 - 85 - INV - Oliver OAKES - GBR - +19.853s
8 - 18 - I - Sam ABAY - AUS - +21.858s
9 - 51 - N - Stefan WILSON - GBR - +23.258s
10 - 52 - N - Hywel LLOYD - GBR - +23.546s
11 - 50 - N - Jay BRIDGER - GBR - +24.735s
12 - 8 - I - Marcus ERICSSON - SWE - +26.124s
13 - 57 - N - Salman AL KHALIFA - BHR - +36.642s
14 - 53 - N - Steven GUERRERO - COL - +38.568s
15 - 6 - I - Henry ARUNDEL - GBR - +39.163s
16 - 1 - I - Max CHILTON - GBR - +54.934s
24 - I - John MARTIN - AUS - 24:34.916 - 15 - D.N.F.
26 - I - Atte MUSTONEN - FIN - 22:26.600 - 13 - D.N.F.
14 - I - Phillip MAJOR - CAN - 21:57.529 - 12 - D.N.F.
9 - I - Sergio PEREZ - MEX - 09:01.835 - 7 - D.N.F.
12 - I - Ricardo TEIXEIRA - ANG - 09:08.181 - 7 - D.N.F.
3 - I - Brendon HARTLEY - - 01:13.361 - 7 - 93.64mph - NEW LAP RECORD
50 - N - Jay BRIDGER - - 01:14.951 - 7 - 91.65mph
85 - INV - Oliver OAKES - - 01:15.338 - 6 - 91.18mph