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Archive for April, 2010

Menasheh IdafarMenasheh Idafar got the second race weekend of his Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series career off to a great start at Silverstone’s Arena Grand Prix Circuit today, Friday, 30th April, after emerging as the quickest National Class runner by some margin.

During the second of today’s pair of sessions at the Northamptonshire track, easily the quicker of the two outings, the T-Sport racer lapped with a best time of 1m55.127 seconds to head new National Class entry – and Virgin Racing F1 Team test driver – Luiz Razia by 1.4 seconds. Current National Class Championship points leader James Cole was a further half a second shy.

In session one, Menasheh made a solid start to the day with a best time of 1m57.109 seconds which at that point placed him as the top National Class competitor by four 10ths of a second. Improving very strongly this afternoon, the British-born Bahraini was delighted with his progress.

The 19-year-old commented: “It’s not been a bad start to the weekend at all and we should have been quicker really as I lost about half a second on my fastest lap. The wind this afternoon caused some understeer but overall I’m happy with how everything has gone. It’s always good to be fastest in class, hopefully we can go as well over the next two days!”

Qualifying for rounds four, five and six of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series will take place at Silverstone tomorrow, Saturday, 1st May, at 10.00 with the first of the weekend’s races following at 13.15. Rounds five and six will be held on Sunday, 2nd May, at 10.30 and 16.45.

2010 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series ‘National Class’ standings:
1st James Cole, 36pts; 2nd Menasheh Idafar, 33pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography

Menasheh IdafarSilverstone’s brand new Arena Grand Prix Circuit configuration proved to be a very happy hunting ground for Formula 3 rookie Menasheh Idafar today, Wednesday, 21st April – the rapid National Class runner ending the official test an impressive seventh fastest overall on combined times.

Performing consistently well throughout the three sessions on the 3.67-mile track, the T-Sport racer recorded a best lap of 1m54.239 seconds (115.52mph) during the final period to conclude the outing some 2.5 seconds ahead of National Class points leader James Cole. In addition, Menasheh was within just 0.9 seconds of Daisuke Nakajima’s outright International Class pace.

Starting the day very well indeed with a time of 1m55.857 seconds (113.91mph) to go 10th fastest overall, the 19-year-old improved by six 10ths of a second in session two with a lap of 1m55.245 seconds (114.52mph).

As high as third quickest on the timesheets during the final period, where with 14 laps he completed the fewest of any of the competitors in session three, Menasheh ended the run a highly creditable sixth fastest. Rounding out the day seventh overall, he certainly prepared well for the next three Cooper Tires British F3 International Series races with a dominant National Class showing.

“I’m really happy with today’s performance, the whole test went well and to finish the last session in the top six overall was really good”, said the British-born Bahraini, “It was important to have a good test before the Silverstone races but to be as strong as we have today was great. It was good to drive the new Arena track for the first time, I like it and I hope we can have some success there.”

Silverstone will host rounds four, five and six of the 2010 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series just over a week from now, 1st/2nd May, with the category running in support of the UK round of the FIA GT1 World Championship.

2010 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series ‘National Class’ standings:
1st James Cole, 36pts; 2nd Menasheh Idafar, 33pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography

Cassey WatsonOver the Easter weekend Evesham’s Thames’ backed female driver Cassey Watson helped make history at Oulton Park, when she took part in the first ever Abarth 500 race series in Great Britain.

Cassey had only driven her car in wet conditions prior to the race meeting and with heavy rain forecast for the entire weekend she was feeling very confident. However the forecast couldn’t have been more wrong and the circuit remained dry for the entire time turning the event into a learning experience for the team.

Problems with the timing transponder in qualifying meant Cassey had to pit to fix it which left her in 10th on the grid.

Despite Watson’s limited testing in the Abarth, she was quick to demonstrate her driver-talent early on in the first race (round 1) after managing to claw back six places to take up fourth position during the third lap. However with the track temperature rising the lack of dry testing started to have an effect and she eventually finished eighth, with clear signs that both driver and car have more to give, which bodes well for the season.

“When you look at the drivers who have registered for the GB series, it’s clear to see just how competitive this series will be,” explained Watson.

“Overall, I thought there were a lot of positives to take from Saturday’s race, particularly as it’s only the fourth time I have been out in the car, and the first real opportunity I have been able to drive in dry conditions.”

“I’m pleased that I managed to record a best time of 200.320, which is over a second faster than my best qualifying lap time. But I know that I have more to give and, with a bit more testing and tweaking to the car, I feel that there’s good scope to make up the additional couple of seconds over the course of the next race meeting at Silverstone (17/18 April) to place me in sight of the leading pack,” added Watson.

On Monday, a tyre failure caused by the hard chicanes at Oulton Park forced Watson to limp the car back to finish in 10th place – despite once again managing to break into the top 5 for some of the race and taking another second off her laptimes, after starting 8th on the grid.

Ex BTCC driver Gareth Howell won both inaugural rounds of the Zing Trofeo Abarth 500 GB to currently top the driver championship.

Dani DomitDani Domit had his first race meeting this weekend – of any kind – and came away with a podium and a fastest lap!

The Mexican driver is a novice and had no car or karting experience before early last summer when he decided to become a racing driver! While studying engineering at the University of Florida, he signed up for a two day Skip Barber school course and followed that with a three day one in August.

All fired up, he bought himself a shifter kart and hit the local track for open lapping sessions and some fun racing. The feedback he got from his Skip Barber coaches gave Dani the confidence he needed to sign up for Grand Prix Shootout and history was made!

With a late deal made with JTR to do the MSA British Formula Ford championship, Dani had done no testing at all prior to arriving at Oulton Park for the race weekend.

A test was planned for the Wednesday which saw very little running due to rain, sleet and hailstones! The test on Friday was a bit better. Dani got some dry sessions in the morning and two wet ones in the afternoon.It wasn’t much but better than nothing and he looked forward to first qualifying session the next day.

Dani qualified second, third and third in the scholarship class only about three tenths off the pace.

In race one Dani ran very well and came second in the Scholarship class and so visited the podium for the first time! Race two was a bit disappointing as Dani found out how tough racing is. He spun on the second lap and another car hit him on the side damaging his radiator.

Race three was a mix of emotions. Dani was getting into his stride and feeling more comfortable when he clipped the tyres at the Knickerbrook chicane. His race was over but not before he had set the fastest lap in his class.

It was a very difficult way to start a racing career. Dani had to start as a novice from zero with a new car, team and circuit. Oulton Park is one of the most difficult tracks in the UK and can be very intimidating to newcomers – especially if they are novices!

However, Dani was lapping at the pace that the other Grand Prix Shootout winner, Tio Ellinas, was doing three weeks earlier on his first trip to Oulton Park. Tio was very impressive at the weekend and everyone hopes that Dani will too very soon.

Raed Raffii - Meezer TeamThe final round of the Chevrolet Supercars Middle East at the Zain Reem circuit in Saudi Arabia could not have started better for Raed Raffii and the Meezer Team. Free Practice saw Raed at the top of the timesheets and in qualifying, where it really counts he again secured the top spot, not just for race 1 but for race 2 also.

The weekend was poised for a very exciting battle between the 3 top drivers in the Championship, Fahad AlMusalam, Tarek ElGammal and Abdulaziz AlYaeesh. Sadly Raed was not battling for the championship owing to the level of mechanical failure he had endured during the season but he was determined to prove, as he has done all season, that he is the fastest driver in the series.

After qualifying coach Malcolm commented “I had no doubt Raed would secure pole here, he just needs his car to run well and there is no reason why he can’t end the season with 2 more wins”

Race 1
Unfortunately, a slight misjudgement at the start cost Raed 1st position going into T1, Raed explains “I was just going a little too fast for the gear I was in and when the lights went green I hit the rev-limiter”. Championship contender Tarek ElGammal then led the train of cars through turn 1. A battle then ensued between Raed and AlMusalam which saw AlMusalam make an audacious pass into Turn 1 to take 2nd place. There then followed a titanic battle between Raed, AlMusalam and ElGammal which is all captured in great detail in the video linked below. Raed briefly passed both ElGammal and AlMusalam at the hairpin as they battled for position but this left all 3 cars going side by side into the tricky double-left. Raed sensibly left room on the inside, just as well as a sideways AlMusalam came by in a full 4-wheel drift which would have scored highly in any Drift Competition. Unfortunately Raed’s generosity in leaving space let ElGammal back in! to the lead. Raed chased hard and was many times alongside the green and chrome car but ElGammal retained his lead until the flag with Raed finishing in 2nd.

Raed said later “My car and my tyres were awesome, if I’d kept the lead at turn 1 I would have been able to pull away and win the race easily”. Coach Malcolm explains “This is a very tough track to overtake on, you really need to drive in front to make a mistake and Tarek didn’t”.

Race 2
Raed Raffii - Meezer TeamRaed again started on pole-position and after some words from Coach Malcolm Raed managed to defend his position into Turn 1 and almost immediately pulled out a substantial gap. Raed was never threatened and was cruising to another dominant victory. Coach Malcolm said “If Raed exits turn 1 in the lead and his car works then everyone else is racing for 2nd place, he is untouchable”.

Sadly for Raed, the Meezer Team and all his many thousand fans his car did not work for the whole race. Towards the end of the race with a huge lead coming out of the final turn there was a catastrophic failure of the rear suspension which almost resulted in a very big crash. Thankfully Raed’s supreme skill at the wheel brought the car under control and he managed to drive it off the circuit to safety. So, yet again mechanical failure had cruely robbed him of a win, coach Malcolm summarised “Well, it’s been the story of Raed’s season, it started off with mechanic! al issues at Yas Marina back in November and it finishes the same way. These cars are brand new and still being developed, the guys at the BIC have worked very hard over the season and made real improvements but Raed’s had it particularly bad. I think he has proved to those who follow the series that he is the fastest driver, he just doesn’t have the trophies to prove it”

So, the season has ended, Fahad AlMusalam was again crowned Champion. Raed and the Meezer Team started planning for the 2010/2011 season. Fahad Hizam, Meezer CEO says “next season will be different, the cars are better now and many changes are being made for next season, we will be running two cars with a full racing team.”.

The Meezer Team will continue to keep fans updated on our plans and progress throughout the off-season and we thank you all for following us, we really appreciate your support.

Visit Raed Raffi‘s profile page at Driver Database.

Tio EllinasTio Ellinas has very quickly established himself and JTR as title contenders for the 2010 MSA Formula Ford Championship and has already got a lot of people talking about him since his race début at Oulton Park at the weekend.

Tio had just five outings in a racing car before the Easter weekend meeting though most of his running was affected by poor weather and red flags. Despite this, Tio was quickest by up to two seconds in the two wet test sessions on the Friday before the first race.

On Saturday morning, Tio was still getting up to speed in the dry during qualifying. With seven minutes to go he set the quickest time ahead of the experienced Josh Hill, Scott Malvern and Daniel Cammish all in their second year of Formula Ford. However, with three minutes to go, Australian driver Scott Pye pipped Tio for first place and so Tio had to start race 1 from second on the grid. It was a shame because if he had held on to that first place, he would have been the first driver to get pole position for a British Formula Ford race in his race début since Ayrton Senna thirty seasons ago!

Race 1: Tio held his grid position and was running second behind Scott Pye but a pedal problem caused his foot to apply 30% throttle while braking. This caused his brake pedal to go “soft”. His telemetry showed that this cost him 0.4 seconds per lap which prevented any challenge to Scott Pye and forced him back towards Malvern, Hill and Cammish. The pressure from Malvern and the “soft” pedal caused him to lose two places but he still managed to pressurise Hill into a spin. He finished fourth, his first ever car race. Tio, Malvern, Hill and Cammish’s fastest laps were separated by 0.02 of a second!

Having spent Easter Sunday fixing the pedal problem, Tio and the excellent JTR team were looking forward to Monday’s two races where Tio would start 7th and 6th.

Race 2: Unfortunately, Tio stalled his engine as the cars were going out on the green flag lap. He had to wait in the pit lane while the rest of the field did two laps of the slightly damp track. In the race, Tio stormed through the field from a distant 25th place to challenge Jake Cook for 6th on the last lap. He made an error attacking Cook that lost him one place. He set the fastest lap and was the only driver to get under 1:41:00. Team boss, Nick Tandy: “A lot of drivers would have over-driven and made mistakes. Tio put his head down and drove a very fast race and overtook a lot of people. It was an amazingly mature performance!”

Race 3: Tio started 6th on the grid. The result was that he found himself in 6th place in the race behind Daniel Cammish but obviously quicker. He made a move down the inside of Cammish at Turn 1 and unfortunately ran out of room. He went over the top of Cammish’s rear wheel and his race was over! The team felt that if he had sat behind Cammish for eight laps nobody would have been happy and it was best to have a go. Tio has learnt a valuable lesson!

The only driver to have outpaced Tio all weekend was Jamun driver Scott Pye in the dry. Title favourite Pye had already competed in over 80 Formula Ford and Formula Toyota races before this year and had tested a lot with Jamun before the first race. Jamun have won the British Formula Ford title for the last five years and, with four drivers, have a lot of testing data to call on to aid performance. They use a new 2010 spec car where JTR are still using last years chassis.

All of the team are extremely impressed by Tio’s performance.

Stuart Prior, JTR’s coach, said he was flabbergasted by Tio’s performance all weekend and that Tio drives a Formula Ford as well as anyone he has ever seen…already!

Guy McCullough, Tio’s race engineer, said that Tio basically has almost nothing to learn from the data of JTR’s previous drivers and now has to forge ahead with development of the car to go faster. Guy says that when you tell Tio to do something, he does it perfectly from then on and that he is great to work with.

Nick Tandy, JTR team principal, said that he was “blown away” by Tio’s performance and that he is very proud Tio is driving his car. Nick has won the Formula Ford Festival and was a race winner in British F3 but when he saw Tio through Lodge Corner in the wet he said “I couldn’t do that!”

Menasheh IdafarCooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series racer Menasheh Idafar secured his second class victory in as many races at Oulton Park today, Easter Monday, 5th April, but hopes of a hat-trick of successes were dashed due to an enforced retirement from round three.

After a relaxing day away from the track on Sunday, 4th April, the teams and drivers were back in action at the Cheshire venue’s 2.69-mile International Circuit this morning where the 19-year-old aimed to build on Saturday’s round one win.

Starting the 20-minute ‘Sprint’ race from 11th on the grid, as per his overall finishing position from round one, Menasheh did lose a couple of places to International Class runners Alex Brundle and Jay Bridger but coped well with the tricky, damp conditions to post a highly creditable 13th place result.

Leading the National Class throughout, the F3 rookie’s bid was helped further at mid-distance when rival, and T-Sport team-mate, James Cole retired following a spin on lap five. Impressively too, his fastest lap of 1m31.037 seconds (106.45mph) was just eight 10ths of a seconds shy of outright race winner Rupert Svendson-Cook’s best.

For the longer distance 40-minute third round, Menasheh started in 15th position but his hopes of more success disappeared on lap one after he was hit from behind as he rounded Shell Oils Hairpin on the outside line. The damage to the right-rear quarter of his car was sufficient to result in an immediate retirement.

“I’m disappointed to have been forced out of the third race but to take two class wins on my debut is great, said Menasheh, “I’ve really enjoyed the racing this weekend, it’s been a lot of fun and I’ve learned a lot too. The damp conditions were tricky in the sprint race but it was good experience for me. Overall it’s been a very positive weekend with some good racing.”

There is now a four-week break in action for the British F3 competitors with rounds four, five and six of the 2010 season taking place at Silverstone Grand Prix Circuit in Northamptonshire on 1st/2nd May.

Television highlights of the opening weekend of the year at Oulton Park will be screened in the UK on Channel 4 at 07.30 next Sunday, 11th April, with digital satellite and cable channel Motors TV broadcasting its first showing later in the day at 20.45. Replays will be shown throughout the week on Motors TV – please check listings for details.

2010 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series ‘National Class’ standings (after Rd3):
1st James Cole, 36pts; 2nd Menasheh Idafar, 33pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.

Menasheh IdafarMenasheh Idafar made the perfect start to his Formula 3 career at Oulton Park in Cheshire today, Saturday, 3rd April, by taking National Class victory during the opening round of the 2010 Cooper Tires British F3 International Championship.

Speaking after the race, the 19-year-old commented: “I’m really pleased to have started the season well with a class win, it was tough but I really enjoyed it and can’t wait to be back in the car on Monday now for rounds two and three. To win on my F3 debut is a great feeling.”

Having led the way in the National Class throughout official pre-season testing, the T-Sport rookie continued that form by lapping fastest in class at the wheel of his Mugen-Honda engined Dallara F307 during this morning’s qualifying session with a time of 1m31.277 seconds (106.17mph).

Under the 2010 rules for British F3, each driver’s best lap in qualifying determines their starting position for the third race of each weekend. For the opening race at each event, the second best lap times determine grid order and Menasheh’s next best time, 1m31.388 seconds, was good enough for the round one National Class pole and 14th place overall.

Holding on to the class lead at the start after some tense action, he ran in 13th position until lap four when he gained two spots at the expense of International Class competitors James Calado and Hywel Lloyd who collided.

At that point, the British-born Bahraini had a lead of more than two seconds over closest National Class rival, and T-Sport team-mate, James Cole but the Safety Car was then deployed on lap six to enable recovery of Calado’s stricken Dallara-Volkswagen. When racing resumed, Menasheh held on to his position but slipped behind International Class runner William Buller on lap 11.

Still well clear of Cole and continuing to build the gap over his chief rival, Menasheh gained a further place on the penultimate lap when Jay Bridger ran off the circuit and so took the chequered flag on lap 19 in 11th place overall, winning the National Class by 7.5 seconds. He also posted the fastest National Class lap of 1m30.564 seconds (107.01mph).

Reflecting on Menasheh’s competitive F3 debut, T-Sport team principal Russell Eacott added: “He did what he had to do today, took the class pole, had a decent start and managed to overcome some early drama to put a solid race together. Overall we’re happy with Menasheh’s performance, he still has a lot to learn but he’s made a good start to his F3 career and coped well with the pressure.”

Menasheh now has a day’s rest ahead of the second and third rounds of the 2010 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 Championship which will take place at Oulton Park on Easter Monday, 5th April, at 10.05 and 14.50 respectively. The T-Sport racer will line-up 11th on the grid for the 20-minute second round while for the 40-minute third round he will start in 15th position.

2010 Cooper Tires British F3 International Series ‘National Class’ standings (after Rd1):
1st Menasheh Idafar, 21pts; 2nd James Cole, 15pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.