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Archive for March, 2010

Cassey WatsonPremier Abarth franchise dealer Thames has confirmed 18-year-old female driver Cassey Watson to steer its race entry in this year’s Zing Trofeo Abarth 500 GB race series.

Worcestershire-based Watson, www.casseywatson.co.uk, who has already recorded a string of podium finishes while competing at junior level, was officially unveiled as Thames’ drive-partner at the Abarth GB 500 media day held at Cadwell Park, Lincolnshire, on Wednesday (24 March 2010).

Despite her younger years she will be eager to break through the glass ceiling of what is still a very male dominated sport, when she takes to the wheel of Thames’ 1.4-litre 197bhp Abarth Asetto Corse race car over the Easter weekend at Oulton Park, Cheshire.

The bank holiday weekend also signals the traditional start to the motorsport calendar, with the start of the new Abarth 500 GB (first round) set to showcase alongside the British Formula 3 and the Avon Tyres British GT Championship.

“It’s a great opportunity for me personally – as well as to be part of a Thames’ team who share my vision,” says Watson. “What’s more, the Abarth 500 GB series provides the opportunity to complete in a high-profile race series, yet be on a level playing field – something that has eluded me until now.

“Prior to the media day, I had only driven the Abarth Asetto race car once before, but although Wednesday [media day] wasn’t a dedicated testing day at Cadwell Park, I can see why the car is so popular among consumers. It handles superbly.

“As a driver, it’s not often that you get the opportunity to drive a car that is essentially a road car, but has been modified for the race circuit; as well as this one. The Abarth Asetto Corse is a terrific car – certainly one of the best-converted road cars I’ve come across. I’m looking forward to racing against the likes of Gareth Howell and Ben Winrow,” she added.

Sanjay Sobte, Managing Director for Thames, said: “When we were looking to confirm our position into this year’s competition, Cassey came highly recommended from a number of respected sources within the motorsport arena, which is not only testament to her success at junior level, but her character and competitive nature.

“Cassey was the youngest student ever to be accepted onto the Government’s advanced apprenticeship for sporting excellence [in motorsport], which is quite an accolade in itself. Her hard work will now see that she receives the utmost technical support from Thames’ engineers to enable her to compete fairly against other more established drivers – some of who have had experience at Le Mans and on the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) circuit. All told, the Abarth 500 GB is primed to be a very interesting race series,” added Sobte.

Raed RaffiiAs the Chevrolet Supercar series heads for its final round at the fabulous Zain Reem circuit in Saudi Arabia, Raed and the Meezer Team are hoping to repeat their performance in the previous round there, where Raed qualified on pole for both races. Raed stormed to victory ahead of local driver Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh who is also assisted by the Meezer Team and coach Malcolm.

In race 2 it was again Raed next to Abdulaziz on the grid with the Saudi driver just inching ahead at Turn 1. There then followed a number of lead changes over the next few corners but unfortunately Raed got into a tussle with Fahad Al-Musalam which led to damage on his car making it very difficult to drive but Raed still managed a creditable 5th place.

So, what is expected for this last round. Coach Malcolm was predictably upbeat “Well, Raed and Abdulaziz locked out the front row last time here and won a race each, I expect the race to be between these 2 drivers again. Raed has been the class of the field and Abdulaziz is driving better than at any time in his career.”

With Abdulaziz just 5 points behind Fahad Al-Musalam for the championship (after dropped scores) it will be a tense and exciting event.

Why not follow the action. If you can, please come to Reem for the race. If not, it will be shown on Saudi Sport TV or if neither of these are an option to you, please follow the updates on our facebook and Twitter Pages http://www.facebook.com/MeezerGroup and http://twitter.com/MeezerGroup.

If you have friends interested in Motorsport then please invite them to connect with us on Facebook.

Raed has been blown away by the support of his fans this year and regularly posts on his facebook page http://www.facebook.com/RaedRaffiiOfficialFanPage.

Menasheh IdafarImpressive Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series rookie Menasheh Idafar concluded the 2010 pre-season this morning, Wednesday, 24th March, precisely the way he started it a month ago – by comfortably emerging as the fastest of the National Class competitors.

Marking the final track action for the British F3 runners ahead of Easter Weekend’s championship curtain-raiser at Oulton Park in Cheshire, today’s outing at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit took place in changeable conditions with the track drying progressively throughout the morning.

Posting a best time of 1m42.004 seconds (112.74mph) with his final lap, the T-Sport driver ended the session an excellent 12th quickest overall and 1.5 seconds ahead of nearest National Class runner, team-mate James Cole.

During all seven officially timed test days held throughout the past four weeks, Menasheh has been the fastest National Class driver so heads into his maiden season of Formula 3 action hopeful he can continue that trend.

“I’m really pleased with the outcome today, the track conditions were tricky early on but I was still able to be around the top 10 overall”, said the 18-year-old, “We’ve had a really good pre-season and everything has gone as well as I could have hoped. I can’t wait for the championship to start now!

“At Oulton Park we go straight in to qualifying, there’s no test day, so it’ll be very important to get up to speed quickly. If I can have a consistent weekend with three strong results I’ll be happy, that’s my aim. The main thing will be to score some good points and to learn as much as I can.”

Driving a Mugen-Honda powered, Gulf Computer Services W.L.L-liveried Dallara F307 for his debut season in F3, Menasheh forms part of a three car line-up at Brackley-based T-Sport alongside UK Formula Ford Champion, and fellow National Class runner, Cole and ex-Formula 2 racer Alex Brundle who will campaign a Volkswagen-engined International Class Dallara F310.

The opening three rounds of the 2010 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series will take place next weekend at Oulton Park in Cheshire. Qualifying and the season-opening race will be held on Saturday, 3rd April, while rounds two and three will follow on Easter Monday, 5th April.

Television highlights will be screened on Freeview, cable and digital satellite in the UK through leading commercial station Channel 4 and dedicated pan-European motor racing channel Motors TV.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

T-Sport’s Menasheh Idafar made an excellent start to the final official test of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series pre-season at Silverstone today, Tuesday, 23rd March – the category rookie leading the National Class times by some 1.8 seconds.

Continuing his near-perfect start to 2010, the former Formula Renault UK racer lapped the 3.2-mile Grand Prix Circuit with a best time of 1m42.117 seconds (112.61mph) during the second of today’s four sessions. Placing him a tremendous seventh fastest overall at that point, the time was also good enough to end the day a very competitive 11th overall on combined times.

Session one took place on a wet track and, as such, times were around 10 seconds outside the eventual pace of the day. During the opening run, Menasheh was seventh quickest with a time of 1m53.450 seconds (101.36mph).

After posting his best effort of the day in session two, the British-born Bahraini was 13th quickest overall in the third period with a time of 1m42.823 seconds (111.84mph) in damp conditions, again the fastest of the National Class competitors by some margin.

Unfortunately in the rain-affected fourth and final session, Menasheh was unable to benefit from the drier track towards the end when the appearance of red flags interfered with his planned run on slick tyres. Nonetheless, the F3 graduate was very happy with his overall performance.

He said: “I’m very pleased to be on the edge of the top 10 overall today, it’s a great start to the final test and it was also good to have some more experience in wet and dry conditions again. I had hoped to be faster in the last session when the track dried out but red flags were shown before I had chance to go on slicks. Overall it’s been a very good day.”

Day two of the final officially timed test of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series pre-season will take place at Silverstone in Northamptonshire tomorrow, Wednesday, 24th March.

meezerThe V8 Championship returned to its home at the Bahrain International Circuit for the 6th Round of the Championship which supported the inaugural F1 Grand Prix of the 2010 season.

Despite the huge disappointment of the last round at Yas Marina the team and Raed had high hopes for this round. Coach Malcolm said “Raed is very quick here, if his car works well he will win, I have no doubts”. Qualifying proved Malcolm was correct, Raed has set the 2 fastest laps and was therefore on pole position for both races.

meezer_2RACE 1
Things didn’t go quite to plan however as Raed, in defending from the always fast-starting Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh had allowed Fahad Al-Musalam to sneak by on the inside of Turn 1. Raed was staying close to Fahad but Abdulaziz was also close behind and small mistake towards the end of the lap saw the Saudi driver sneak by. Raed was now 3rd but soon settled into a good rhythm and was keeping a good pace. Coach Malcolm said “I wasn’t too worried as both Abdulaziz and Fahad were leaning heavily on their tyres, Raed’s generally a bit easier on his and I felt he could still retake the lead”.

As it turned out Raed did take the lead but only after a coming together between Al-Yaeesh and Al-Musalam which saw both drivers leave the circuit. Coach Malcolm said “Fahad was struggling with lock ups and made a mistake into Turn 3. They raced side-by-side through Turn 4, Fahad had the line for Turn 5 but seemed to want to force Abdulaziz off the track, unfortunately this was wheel to wheel which you can’t do in the SC09s”. Abdulaziz’s’ wheel shattered and not being able to turn went straight on, along with Fahad. It was a real shame as it had been a good clean fight up to that point”.

It was then just a question of Raed looking after the car and bringing it home. It turned out he did have major problems with vibration and couldn’t push as hard as he would have liked.

RACE 2
With better tyres and some words from coach Malcolm on better turn 1 strategy Raed was set for a 2nd win in race 2. Things started perfectly and Raed did exactly as he’d planned and managed to stay ahead at Turn 1 and through Turn 2. Coach Malcolm said “To be honest, when I saw him exiting Turn 2 with a few car lengths advantage I thought we’d sail home with the win, once he’s out in front he’s unstoppable”. Unfortunately that thought had hardly had time to register when Raed slowed and pulled off onto the side of the circuit.

meezer_3No-one in the Meezer Team knew what had happened and faces that where filled with joy suddenly registered that familiar look of disappointment and disbelief. As it turned out the throttle cable had snapped, a part that cost peanuts to buy but costs so much when it fails.

So, another weekend of highs and lows for Raed and the Meezer Team. Coach Malcolm was philosophical “Well, at least it was a High & Low weekend and not a Low & Low weekend, we’ve had too many of those. Raed has been by far the unluckiest driver this season, he’s clearly the fastest but fast doesn’t win Championships, you need luck and I haven’t found a way of teaching that yet”.

The final round of the Championship is at the Zain Reem circuit in Saudi Arabia on 1st April. The last time the V8s ran there, Raed was again on pole for both races and won the first, let hope for more of the same to round off the season.

Bahrain’s Ezra Idafar upheld local honour during the penultimate event of the 2009/2010 Chevrolet Supercars ME Championship in Sakhir on Sunday, 14th March, by taking his sixth class podium of the campaign on his last appearance of the season.

Competing as part of the support package to the opening race of the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix, 17-year-old Ezra battled car problems throughout the weekend but still managed to secure a pair of good results – fifth position in the SC06 class during round 11 on Saturday, 13th March, and a fine second place on Sunday morning.

Although the practice session on Friday, 12th March, was compromised for the Gulf Computer Services-supported driver due to an array of problems, namely a broken fan-belt and braking issues, he hit back well at his home circuit during qualifying to set the third fastest time in class.

Running well during the first seven-lap encounter on Saturday, Ezra’s progress was hampered once more by recurring brake problems but he fought-back well to finish fifth in class. Fellow Bahraini Isa Kooheji took second in the SC06 Development Class but because he was entered as a guest driver, and therefore ineligible to score, Ezra took the championship points for fourth position.

Before Sunday’s race had even reached mid-distance, Ezra experienced yet more braking issues with his 6.0-litre Lumina. Holding second place in class at the time, rather than push-on to catch the SC06 leader, Ezra opted to reduce his pace in order to conserve the car as much as possible. In doing so he managed to reach the finish without further problems to claim his sixth Chevrolet Supercars podium.

Although there is one event remaining in the 2009/2010 Chevrolet Supercars ME Championship, this weekend’s action marked the last of the campaign for Ezra as he will not participate in the final two races in Saudi Arabia just over a fortnight from now.

“Finishing my last race of the season on the podium is a great way for my championship to end, especially at home in Bahrain”, he said, We had a lot of problems with the brakes again all weekend and although I was pretty disappointed after Saturday’s race, the podium in race two made up for it.

“I did have to back off to make sure we finished in second place as the brakes started to go again from about lap three. In the end it was ok and I was able to get the car to the finish. I’ve enjoyed the racing and it was great to be part of a Formula One race weekend once again.”

Provisional 2009 Chevrolet Supercars ME Championship ‘Development Class’ Points:
1st Faisal Raffii, 86pts; 2nd Alqassim Hamidaddin, 50pts; 3rd Husam Al-Saleh, 42pts;
4th Ezra Idafar, 38pts

Raed and the Meezer team are poised and ready for one of the biggest Race Weekends in the Chevrolet V8 Supercar Championship. This weekend sees the V8s back at their home circuit in Bahrain supporting what is one of the most eagerly awaited Formula 1 races ever. Schumacher is back, Button and Hamilton in the same team, Alonso in a Ferrari and a host of new teams and drivers on the grid.

But of more interest to readers of this newsletter are the 2 races of the penultimate round of the V8 Championship and there is all to play for at the head of the table. As regular readers will know, Raed has been plagued by bad luck this season and whilst mathematically possible for him to win the Championship it relies on other drivers having DNFs, not impossible but realistically the Championship is likely to be between Fahad Al Musalam, Tarek El Gammal and Abdulaziz Al-Yaeesh.

You can bet Raed will still be there fighting for pole positions, fastest laps and race wins to prove that, when his equipment works he is the class of the field.

It’s an interesting race as all this weekend’s races will be on a new circuit layout, only ever used before for the short-lived Bahrain 24hr race. Of the V8 drivers, only Fahad Al Musalam has driven this circuit layout before as he competed in that race. Coach Malcolm said “The new section is very important, it’s going to add about 30 seconds to the laptime and the driver who gets this right will be right up the front”.

In preparation for this weekend Raed has been driving an F1 Simulator based in downtown Bahrain which just a couple of days ago was setup with the new circuit layout. Raed said “It is very technical, really tough to get right. I was 2nd fastest but still a good couple of seconds behind the sim test driver, I was losing all that time in the new section”.

Thankfully the drivers will get a 30 minute practice session early on Friday morning to try and master this section. Qualifying for the V8 race will be at 12:50 Bahrain time on Friday with Race 1 scheduled for 17:25 Saturday and Race 2 at 09:40 Sunday.

A final word from coach Malcolm “Raed is very fast here, he dominated the last race on the old GP layout and providing he does a half decent job of the new section I see no reason why he won’t be right up the front and given a clean race, on the top step of the podium at the end”.

For latest updates stay connected at
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Oulton Park in Cheshire hosted the latest officially timed test of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series today, Wednesday, 10th March, with National Class pace-setter Menasheh Idafar once again delivering a top rate performance.

Marking his first experience of the venue’s 2.69-mile International Circuit configuration at the wheel of an F3 car, the 18-year-old headed the National Class in all three of the day’s sessions and ended the test a very competitive 10th overall on combined times.

Producing a best lap of 1m28.776 seconds (109.16mph), Menasheh concluded this week’s outing just 1.3 seconds shy of the outright pace and, more importantly, some 1.5 seconds clear of chief class rival, and T-Sport team-mate, James Cole at the track which will host the first three races of the season over Easter Weekend, 3rd/4th/5th April.

“I’m really pleased to have been in the top 10 overall today, our pace was good throughout the test which is obviously really good preparation for the first round of the season at Oulton”, commented Menasheh, “The cornering here is so much faster in an F3 car than in the Formula Renault I raced last year but I adapted to that without any problems. All in all it’s been another great day.”

During the two-hour morning session, Menasheh steered his Gulf Computer Services W.L.L liveried car to a time of 1m29.923 seconds (107.77mph) on his final lap of the run to secure 13th position overall on the timesheets and the top National Class placing by some 1.1 seconds.

The first session of the afternoon was by far the most impressive for the F3 rookie as he set the eighth quickest time overall with his lap of 1m28.776 seconds, outpacing nine International Class drivers. In the third and final session, Menasheh lapped in 1m30.064 seconds (107.60mph).

Next on the official FOTA test schedule for the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series runners will be a two-day outing at Silverstone in Northamptonshire on Tuesday, 23rd March, and Wednesday, 24th March – the latter also including the 2010 championship Media Day.

Menasheh Idafar rounded out this week’s official Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series test at Rockingham with yet another National Class-leading performance today, Tuesday, 2nd March, and also concluded the outing just 0.027 seconds shy of the overall top 10.

Experiencing the Northamptonshire venue’s International Super Sports Car Circuit for the first time in an F3 car yesterday, the T-Sport rookie took no time at all to adapt. Today, he improved by seven 10ths of a second and produced a quickest lap of 1m11.844 seconds (97.20mph) this morning.

Good enough to place him 11th overall on combined times for the day, the 18-year-old was just 0.874 seconds outside Jean-Eric Vergne’s outright International Class best – an impressive performance which also meant Menasheh was six 10ths of a second faster than his closest National Class rival.

Looking to focus on some longer distance runs this afternoon, Menasheh’s plans were hindered due to some red flag interruptions. Even so, he was still able to steer his Gulf Computer Services W.L.L liveried Dallara F307 to another strong time of 1m12.150 seconds (96.79mph). Placing him eighth fastest overall for the session, he was also the quickest National Class driver by 0.7 seconds.

“Today has been really good, we’ve done plenty of work and were quick again in both sessions so I’m very happy”, said Menasheh, “Rockingham is probably the toughest track on the British F3 calendar in terms of fitness so I’m pleased with how things have gone. I’m enjoying working with all of the guys at T-Sport, it’s a fantastic team. Things are going better than I could have hoped so far.”

Over the four officially timed test days held so far during the pre-season, Menasheh has emerged as the quickest National Class driver on each occasion. He is now looking forward to the resumption of the British F3 pre-season at Oulton Park in Cheshire – the venue for the opening three rounds of the 30-race 2010 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series – next Wednesday, 10th March.

National Class Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series newcomer Menasheh Idafar continued his strong start to the pre-season at Rockingham today, Monday, 1st March, by once again heading the times during the first of two days’ testing at the Northamptonshire venue.

Following on from a terrific officially timed debut at Snetterton in Norfolk last week, the 18-year-old did another great job today at Rockingham’s 1.94-mile International Super Sports Car Circuit to set the National Class pace with a best time of 1m12.560 seconds (96.25mph).

Placing him 14th overall on combined timings, Menasheh’s quickest lap was 0.232 seconds faster than the best managed by nearest National Class competitor Ryo Haryanto – the 2009 Formula BMW Pacific Champion – and just 1.3 seconds shy of the outright International Class pace.

Lapping with a time of 1m12.810 seconds (95.92mph) in bright and dry conditions this morning, his first ever experience of Rockingham at the wheel of an F3 car, Menasheh improved by three 10ths of a second in session two at the wheel of his T-Sport run Dallara F307 Mugen-Honda.

“I’m happy with the start we made today, it’s been another positive test and I’m obviously really pleased to be the fastest National Class driver again”, he commented, “We need to keep working hard, and I need to find more time during tomorrow’s test, but we didn’t use brand new tyres today so I’m happy with my times. It’s been a good start for my first time at Rockingham in an F3 car.”

Rockingham’s International Super Sports Car Circuit will host the second day of this week’s official FOTA test tomorrow, Tuesday, 2nd March. Live timing can be followed at www.tsl-timing.com.