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UNOFFICIAL F3000 INFORMATION

 FIA International F3000 Round 1: Imola (I), 9th April 2000

Qualifying: Qualifying for round one at Imola demonstrated how competitive the series has become; all 26 qualifiers were separated by just 1.265 seconds. Bruno Junqueira, denied a Williams F1 seat, emerged as the polesitter right at the end of the second 45-minute qualifying session. The Petrobras Junior driver, one of only a few to improve in the slower second session, eclipsed Super Nova's Nicolas Minassian who held on for second on the grid. Both drivers became race winners last season and an exciting battle looked likely. The second row was made up of two impressive rookies. Mark Webber, returning to single-seaters for the first time since 1997, set third best time for the European Arrows team while Junqueira's teammate Jaime Melo Jr. qualified fourth to make it a good day for Petrobras Junior.

Enrique Bernoldi (Red Bull Junior) would start 5th, prepared to put last season's difficulties behind him. Alongside on the third row qualified Fabrice Walfisch (Astromega) who surprised here last year. Surprisingly the fastest McLaren junior driver was Tomas Enge in 7th, champion elect Stephane Sarrazin languishing in 18th place. Behind Enge started Sebastien Bourdais (Gauloises Formula), the French F3 champion living up to his pre-season promise. Another impressive first-timer was Fernando Alonso, the Formula Nissan champion placing his Telefonica liveried Astromega car 11th. It was not a good session for the British contingent, Justin Wilson (Nordic) the highest placed in 16th, ahead of Kevin McGarrity (Nordic) 17th and rookie Darren Manning (Arden) 19th. Such was the level of competetion that a difference of a few tenths would put you well down the grid. The four who failed to qualify were Benetton test driver Hidetoshi Misusada (WRT), Yves Olivier (Witmeur KTR), Viktor Maslov (Arden) and Andreas Scheld (Fortec).

Race: FIRST BLOOD TO MINASSIAN

Nicolas Minassian took victory in the first International F3000 race of the new millennium, a race that was sewn up by the first corner. The Frenchman took his silver D2 Playlife Super Nova Lola into the lead past polesitter Junqueira as they accelerated off the grid. Although the top 3 remained together throughout much of the race, there were to be no passing manouvres due to the nature of the modern Imola track. The following day's Grand Prix was a similar story, but at least the big boys had pitstops as an opportunity to gain track position.

In the early stages of the race Junqueira followed Minassian closely, with rookie Mark Webber matching their pace just behind in third. Gradually Minassian then began to pull away from his pursuers, Junqueira developing painful blisters on his hands and coming under attack from Webber in the closing stages. The Australian made a few fruitless attempts to pass before settling for third, an incredible achievement after a season of no racing and two demoralising somersaults at Le Mans.

Behind the close procession at the front, which promised much but delivered little, there was plenty of interest behind. Junqueira's teammate Jaime Melo Jr., a rookie straight out of SudAm F3, kept his head and produced a stunning debut performance to finish in his grid position of fourth. He had to contend with the spectacular Tomas Enge who ensured the McLaren junior team's weekend was not a total disaster but fighting into fifth place. Behind him Fabrizio Gollin clinched a point for the perennial Coloni team, a reward for the veteran's progress last season. Gollin benefitted from a spin into retirement by Fabrice Walfisch on lap 6. Before that Enrique Bernoldi had lost the opportunity for his highest ever finish by retiring from fourth with gearbox trouble on lap 3.

French rookie Sebastien Bourdais became the victim of an ill-judged passing manouvre by Super Nova's David Saelens on lap 23, the Belgian slamming into the Prost junior driver at Rivazza in a repeat of the Heidfeld-Wilson incident a year earlier. Bas Leinders was thus promoted into seventh, a position he threw away in the closing stages by spinning to the back of the pack. Stephane Sarrazin, out of contention after his disastrous qualifying, benefitted and inherited seventh place. He must have rued what might have been after setting the fastest lap of the race.

Soheil Ayari eventually finished 14th after a typically spectacular day. The Coloni driver, who will also race in Indy Lights this year, spun in the middle of the pack approaching Tamburello on the first lap. This caused Darren Manning to make contact with Andre Couto. British rookie Manning, the All Japan F3 champion, suffered a bent front wishbone to add to the misery of being baulked by the stalled Kevin McGarrity. Ulsterman McGarrity was eventually push-started by the marshals but was out of contention, despite setting a good pace in the early stages. Justin Wilson was the highest placed Brit in eighth with a solid drive. Behind him finished yet another impressive rookie, the Spaniard Fernando Alonso having surprised in pre-season testing despite his inexperience.

Tenth went to Mario Haberfeld, this race not living up to pre-season expectations for him. After enduring a nightmare season with McLaren in 1999, the former British F3 champion had high hopes with Fortec. He battled with Sarrazin, Wilson and Alonso for much of the race but also suffered some high speed rallycrossing moments off the track. Franck Montagny retired on lap 1 with gearbox trouble, his rookie DAMS teammate Kristian Kolby settling for a sensible 11th. Mark Webber's Arrows teammate Christijan Albers, the German F3 champion, went off after his drinks bottle came loose, while others to crash or spin out included Couto, Ananda Mikola and Ricardo Mauricio.

The teams now move on to Silverstone, the scene of Minassian's first victory last year. With bad weather a distinct possibility predicting the outcome will not be easy. Whatever happens, Stephane Sarrazin will be looking to begin his championship challenge and respond to Bruno Junqueira's solid start, while the rest of the field know that getting the most out of qualifying will be crucial to their chances in the race.

 

QUALIFYING:

Pos

Driver

Team

Time

1

Bruno Junqueira (BR)

Petrobras Junior

1m 38.038s

2

Nicolas Minassian (F)

Super Nova

1:38.271

3

Mark Webber (AUS)

European Formula (Arrows junior)

1:38.272

4

Jaime Melo Jr. (BR)

Petrobras Junior

1:38.375

5

Enrique Bernoldi (BR)

Red Bull Junior

1:38.378

6

Fabrice Walfisch (F)

Astromega

1:38.523

7

Tomas Enge (CZ)

mySAP.com Team (McLaren junior)

1:38.523

8

Sebastien Bourdais (F)

Gauloises Formula (Prost junior)

1:38.534

9

Fabrizio Gollin (I)

Coloni

1:38.536

10

Mario Haberfeld (BR)

Fortec

1:38.598

11

Fernando Alonso (E)

Astromega

1:38.618

12

Andrea Piccini (I)

Kid Jensen Racing

1:38.626

13

Ricardo Mauricio (BR)

Red Bull Junior

1:38.694

14

David Saelens (B)

Super Nova

1:38.694

15

Bas Leinders (B)

Kid Jensen Racing

1:38.730

16

Justin Wilson (GB)

Nordic

1:38.757

17

Kevin McGarrity (GB)

Nordic

1:38.777

18

Darren Manning (GB)

Arden

1:38.847

19

Christijan Albers (NL)

European Formula (Arrows junior)

1:38.990

20

Kristian Kolby (DK)

DAMS

1:39.043

21

Jeffrey van Hooydonk (B)

Witmeur KTR

1:39.047

22

Soheil Ayari (F)

Coloni

1:39.049

23

Franck Montagny (F)

DAMS

1:39.075

24

Andre Couto (MAC)

Gauloises Formula (Prost junior)

1:39.152

25

Christijan Albers (NL)

European Formula (Arrows junior)

1:39.196

26

Ananda Mikola (RI)

WRT

1:39.300

DNQ

Hidetoshi Mitsusada (J)

WRT

1:39.733

DNQ

Yves Olivier (B)

Witmeur KTR

1:39.886

DNQ

Viktor Maslov (RUS)

Arden

1:39.971

DNQ

Andreas Scheld (D)

Fortec

1:40.372

(All cars Lola B99/50-Zytek)

 

RACE RESULT:

Pos

Driver

Team

Time/laps

1

Nicolas Minassian (F)

Super Nova

1h 11m 06.106s

2

Bruno Junqueira (BR)

Petrobras Junior

1h 11m 08.404s

3

Mark Webber (AUS)

European Formula (Arrows junior)

1h 11m 08.838s

4

Jaime Melo Jr. (BR)

Petrobras Junior

1h 11m 11.038s

5

Tomas Enge (CZ)

mySAP.com Team (McLaren junior)

1h 11m 12.004s

6

Fabrizio Gollin (I)

Coloni

1h 11m 22.271s

7

Stephane Sarrazin (F)

mySAP.com Team (McLaren junior)

1h 11m 23.031s

8

Justin Wilson (GB)

Nordic

1h 11m 25.388s

9

Fernando Alonso (E)

Astromega

1h 11m 30.212s

10

Mario Haberfeld (BR)

Fortec

1h 11m 40.624s

11

Kristian Kolby (DK)

DAMS

1h 11m 43.039s

12

Darren Manning (GB)

Arden

1h 11m 46.426s

13

Jeffrey van Hooydonk (B)

Witmeur KTR

1h 11m 50.220s

14

Soheil Ayari (F)

Coloni

1h 11m 53.910s

15

Kevin McGarrity (GB)

Nordic

1h 12m 01.341s

16

Bas Leinders (B)

Kid Jensen Racing

1h 12m 11.004s

R

Andre Couto (MAC)

Gauloises Formula (Prost junior)

29 laps - accident

R

Andrea Piccini (I)

Kid Jensen Racing

28 laps - oil pressure

R

Christijan Albers (NL)

European Formula (Arrows junior)

24 laps - accident

R

Sebastien Bourdais (F)

Gauloises Formula (Prost junior)

23 laps - accident

R

David Saelens (B)

Super Nova

23 laps - accident

R

Ananda Mikola (RI)

WRT

15 laps - accident

R

Ricardo Mauricio (BR)

Red Bull Junior

7 laps - accident

R

Fabrice Walfisch (F)

Astromega

5 laps - accident

R

Enrique Bernoldi (BR)

Red Bull Junior

3 laps - gearbox

R

Franck Montagny (F)

DAMS

0 laps - gearbox

 

Fastest lap: Sarrazin (mySAP.com Team) 1:40.429

(All cars Lola B99/50-Zytek)

Scoring: 10-6-4-3-2-1.

Championship positions after Round 1 of 10: (1) Minassian, 10pts; (2) Junqueira, 6pts; (3) Webber, 4pts; (4) Melo Jr., 3pts; (5) Enge, 2pts; (6) Gollin, 1pt.

 

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