Geoff Uhrhane - MonzaDouble R Racing endured a challenging visit to Monza in Italy over the weekend, 14th/15th April, for the second event of the 2012 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series – although there was plenty of cheer for first time National Class winner Duvashen Padayachee in round five.

The poor conditions wreaked havoc during the three races with the opening encounter, round four, bizarrely starting from pitlane while rounds five and six both began behind the Safety Car due to the persistent rainfall.

Malaysian driver Fahmi Ilyas had been the quickest of the Woking squad’s drivers in both the wet and dry free practice sessions on Friday, 13th April, but during qualifying on Saturday, 14th April, Geoff Uhrhane turned the tables to lap quicker than his team-mate to post the 11th fastest time.

Ilyas was unable to show his true pace after an unfortunate excursion into the gravel at Ascari on his 10th lap of the session, ending the run with the 12th quickest time, while Duvashen Padayachee was second fastest in the National Class.

Nobody could have predicted the incredibly odd start to the first race – with the cars lined-up on the grid ahead of the formation lap, light rain turned into something more intense and officials opted to declare a wet race.

With all of the slick-shod cars duty-bound to proceed onto the green flag lap, rather than forming back up for the race start at the end of the lap everyone dived into the pits so the encounter actually ended-up starting from the pitlane.

Double R did a fantastic job to get Ilyas’ Dallara-Mercedes onto treaded rubber and away to line-up second in the queue while Padayachee was 13th, just behind National Class rival Spike Goddard. For the unfortunate Uhrhane, a stuck rear wheel cost the Australian a lot of time stranded in the pit-box but the team did manage to eventually free the offending rim.

Ilyas managed to hold on to second place for the first four laps in the slippery conditions but he then began to slide down the order to an eventual finish of ninth. Uhrhane had a huge amount of work in front of him to recover anything at all but he did record a finish in 13th overall, three laps down.

Padayachee ran second in the National Class for almost the entire race with his best performance yet in his first year of Formula 3 action. Keeping class points leader Goddard under pressure, the Double R man seized his chance on the final lap to momentarily grab the lead but an attempted go at re-taking the position by Goddard resulted in contact and an enforced retirement for Padayachee.

“Race one was pretty bizarre to say the least”, said team principal Anthony ‘Boyo’ Hieatt, “The boys did a great job to get Fahmi’s car turned around and onto the wets in second place but his lack of running in the wet meant he fell back unfortunately after a few laps – it’s all experience though.

“Duvashen had a great drive, no question, but he and Spike [Goddard] had a coming together after Duvashen had taken the class lead and that was that. We were all desperately disappointed for Geoff, there were big problems getting the rear wheel off in the pits and that ended his chances.”

First National win for Padayachee…
For Sunday morning’s fifth round, the Safety Car led the field away due to treacherously bad conditions with Ilyas second on the ‘reverse grid’, Uhrhane in 12th position and Padayachee in 13th place. Racing proper began on lap three but Ilyas unfortunately tumbled down the order after a moment and eventually finished in 10th position.

Uhrhane, meanwhile, took a steady 11th place finish with compatriot Padayachee driving well once again to this time claim his maiden National Class victory. Dealing admirably with the rain-soaked track, he finished the 20-minute encounter just nine seconds shy of team-mate Uhrhane.

Round six, the ‘feature race’, also started under Safety Car conditions with Uhrhane leading Ilyas in the fight for 11th place. Running very close together for the first few laps, on the seventh tour it became a little too close for comfort when Ilyas mistakenly hit the rear of the sister Dallara.

Uhrhane was forced into a disappointing retirement while Ilyas was subsequently handed a drive-through penalty for his part in the incident. Even so, the Malaysian managed to finish in 10th place to secure his third top 10 of the weekend while Padayachee notched-up another finish in 12th position.

“It’s not been a great weekend, obviously, but Geoff did as good a job as he could have with the very limited experience he’s got in F3”, added Hieatt, “Fahmi didn’t have his best weekend unfortunately, the race three incident wasn’t what any of us wanted to see but he’ll learn from it.

“The high-point was Duvashen winning the National Class for the first time, he did a good job in such difficult conditions and that should give him more confidence. We’re looking forward to the break in the calendar now – we can crack on with some proper development of the new car and also get out there for some proper testing to get the guys more up to speed.”

With the first two back-to-back weekends of British F3 racing concluded, there is now a four week break in the 2012 calendar with Pau street circuit in France set to host the third event of the year, the Grand Prix of Pau, over the weekend 12th/13th May.

2012 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series Driver Standings (after Rd6):
11th Fahmi Ilyas, 13pts; 12th Geoff Uhrhane, 3pts

2012 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series ‘National Class’ Standings (after Rd6):
2nd Duvashen Padayachee, 82pts

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography.