Bird takes second F3 Euro podium
OF 2008 AT LE MANSSam Bird continued his impressive run of recent form during round 17 of the Formula 3 Euroseries at the Le Mans Bugatti Circuit in France on Saturday, 4th October – the Manor Motorsport driver taking his second podium result in as many race meetings.Having secured his maiden category rostrum during race one of the previous event at Barcelona in Spain a fortnight ago, the British star provided Dinnington-based Manor with another terrific finish after climbing from fourth on the grid to second place in the first of the weekend’s races at Le Mans.Starting Saturday afternoon’s encounter from the second row of the grid after producing a time of 1m 32.023 seconds (163.720 km/h) during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session, Bird immediately passed third placed starter – and soon to be crowned 2008 champion – Nico Hulkenberg after the German stalled on the grid.Forced onto the grass by front-row starter Stefano Coletti early on, Bird made his way into second place after his rival had a spin on lap three and then comfortably remained in the runner-up spot all the way to the chequered flag on lap 27. Speaking after the race, the 21-year-old commented: “After the start, Stefano Coletti pushed me onto the grass so I was only in third place over the first few metres. After he spun out, I moved up into second. Jules Bianchi (pole sitter and race winner) was in a league of his own, I had no chance to follow him.”Manor team-mate Koudai Tsukakoshi, who lined up fifth on the grid thanks to a best lap of 1m 32.068 seconds (163.640 km/h), also benefited from Hulkenberg’s stall and ran very competitively in fourth place, tantalisingly close to another podium just 0.5 seconds shy of Finnish driver Mika Maki in third.Kazuya Oshima took the third Manor car to 22nd position from 25th on the grid. After the race though, he gained a further place at the expense of French driver Franck Mailleux who was handed a 30 second time penalty.The grid for the 18th round of the campaign today, Sunday, 5th October, saw Tsukakoshi and Bird start in fifth and seventh positions respectively – due to the reversal of the top eight finishers from the opening encounter of the weekend – with Oshima in 21st place.Dark clouds gathered above Le Mans prior to today’s encounter and no sooner had the race got underway than the rain started to fall. With all drivers on slick tyres conditions proved tricky but, even so, Japanese star Tsukakoshi moved into the top four while Bird climbed as high as fifth before being nudged back to seventh.Unfortunately, Bird then had a spin when challenging for sixth place at the final corner on lap one and he rejoined all the way down in 23rd position. While other drivers fell by the wayside, Oshima ran well and by lap five he was into 13th place.On lap six, with rain continuing to fall, red flags were shown after Jon Lancaster crashed out of the race when duelling with Tsukakoshi. Just prior to the stoppage, Tsukakoshi was fifth, Bird had recovered into 14th place and Oshima was 16th.Following a delay of around 20 minutes, the race re-started with the majority of drivers on wet tyres and a handful electing to gamble on slicks. However, the length of the break resulted in a re-start over just eight minutes or so which began behind the Safety Car.On the first flying lap, Brendan Hartley had a spin which allowed Tsukakoshi to move back into fourth place and that’s where the Honda Racing backed sensation would remain to the chequered flag at the end of the fourth lap. Bird climbed three places into 11th with Toyota Development Programme star Oshima close behind in 12th place.Due to the fact less than 75 per cent of the scheduled race distance was covered after the interruption part way through, only half points were scored today. Added to the previous totals, this means Tsukakoshi is Manor’s best placed driver in eighth position in the championship standings.In the team standings, Manor Motorsport is fourth overall and just 10 points shy of the top three with one event remaining in the 2008 F3 Euroseries. This will take place three weeks from now over the weekend 25th/26th October at Hockenheim in Germany.