The Belgian Grand Prix circuit of Spa-Francorchamps more than lived up to its reputation for changeable weather conditions today as the competitors in the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series and the FIA Formula 3 International Trophy made their final preparations for the weekend’s trio of races.
The morning free practice session was conducted on a drying track but this afternoon torrential rain made the 4.3-mile circuit an altogether more challenging and tricky prospect.
Undeterred by his disappointments at the recent Nürburgring and Paul Ricard rounds, Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen bounced back in the dry this morning to set a best time of 2m 14.299s, better than a tenth inside last year’s pole position time. Kevin’s Carlin/Volkswagen team-mate, championship leader Felipe Nasr, was second fastest, adrift by 0.6s.
The leading Invitation class and FIA Formula 3 International Trophy challenger was Mercedes-powered Prema Powerteam runner Robert Merhi, third overall and just seven-thousandths behind Nasr. Spa F3 first-timer Jack Harvey was an excellent fourth overall in the Racing Steps Foundation Carlin-Dallara.
Rupert Svendsen-Cook emerged unscathed from an early-session spin at Fagnes to go eighth quickest. Prema’s Daniel Juncadella was less fortunate, the Spaniard hitting the tyre wall at Les Combes with sufficient force to necessitate a halt to the session while his car was retrieved.
The afternoon downpour favoured the brave and those with extensive track knowledge. Spain’s Mehri set the best time in the wet: 2m 40.491s, which was a second-and-a-half clear of his closest challenger, the Signature team’s Belgian pilot Laurens Vanthoor. Dutch driver Hannes van Asseldonk was third fastest for Van Amersfoort Racing, with Magnussen the best placed of the British F3 runners in fourth, just ahead of plucky Sino Vision racing man Adderly Fong.
The session was ended a few minutes early by a red flag after Jazeman Jaafar went off at Fagnes. The Malaysian Carlin driver hurt a leg in the impact and was taken to hospital for precautionary checks.
British Formula 3 enjoys the headlining support of Cooper Tires and is additionally backed by Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Oil Company and OAMPS.
Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series
Official testing, Spa-Francorchamps BEL / 28/7/2011
International & Invitation classes (AM/PM times)
1 INT Kevin MAGNUSSEN / DEN, Carlin Dallara-VW 2m 14.299s / 2m 43.925s
2 INT Felipe NASR / BRA, Carlin Dallara-VW 2m 14.942s / 2m 45.099s
3 INV Robert MERHI / ESP, Prema Dallara-Mercedes 2m 14.949s / 2m 40.491s
4 INT Jack HARVEY / GBR, Carlin Dallara-VW 2m 15.264s / 2m 48.835s
5 INV Raffaele MARCIELLO / ITA, Prema Dallara-Mercedes 2m 15.438s / 2m 49.723s
6 INT Jazeman JAAFAR / MAS, Carlin Dallara-VW 2m 15.443s / 2m 50.064s
7 INT Carlos HUERTAS / COL, Carlin Dallara-VW 2m 15.517s / 2m 58.236s
8 INT Rupert SVENDSEN-COOK / GBR, Carlin Dallara-VW 2m 15.916s / 2m 50.702s
9 INV Laurens VANTHOOR / BEL, Signature Dallara-VW 2m 15.924s / 2m 42.028s
10 INV Carlos MUNOZ / COL, Signature Dallara-VW 2m 15.938s / 2m 49.244s
11 INV Marko ASMER / EST, Double R Dallara-Mercedes 2m 15.938s / no time
12 INT Pietro FANTIN / BRA, Hitech Dallara-VW 2m 16.016s / no time
13 INV Marco WITTMANN / GER, Signature Dallara-VW 2m 16.184s / 2m 49.990s
14 INV Hannes van ASSELDONK / NED, Van Amersfoort D-VW 2m 16.399s / 2m 43.612s
15 INT Menasheh IDAFAR / GBR, T-Sport Dallara-VW 2m 16.431s / 3m 06.728s etc
1 Kotaro SAKURAI / JPN, Hitech Dallara-Mugen Honda 2m 19.358s / 3m 03.891s
Full timesheets http://bit.ly/oJQaiF