Features - F3000 Report
AUGUST 26, 2000
BY JOE SAWARD
Nicolas Minassian had only a small chance to win the title but he drove like a lion and battled from eighth at the start to finish third, but it was not enough. The title went to Bruno Junqueira.
The final round of the Formula 3000 International Championship was as much about winning as it was about losing. There was the chance of a fight for the title between Junqueira and Minassian but with a seven point gap between them, Minassian needed to win the race with Junqueira fifth. And that was not likely to happen. At the other end of the field however there were several teamed fighting to survive in the formula because only the top 12 get an entry for next year. The battle at the bottom was between three teams: Kid Jensen Racing, Witmeur Team KTR and the World Racing Team. If any of them scored a good result others might be in danger and so the pressure was DAMS and Fortec as well.
In the end there was a bit of a surprise for everyone as Team Astromega, which has not had a very good year, gave everyone a jolt as 19-year-old Fernando Alonso and his rather more experienced Belgian team mate Marc Goossens qualified 1-2 on the grid to give sponsor Telefonica an idea of what success is like in motor racing. Behind the two Astromega cars things were rather more usual. Junqueira was third in his Petrobras Junior Team entry while fellow Brazilian Ricardo Mauricio continued to show well in his Red Bull Junior Team car with fourth place on the grid. Then came local hero David Saelens in his Super Nova entry with Justin Wilson's Coca-Cola Nordic Racing car sixth ahead of Australian Mark Webber (European Arrows), Minassian (SuperNova), Franck Montagny (DAMS) and Enrique Bernoldi (Red Bull Junior Team).
The MySAP.com team, which dominated recently in Hockenheim, was off the pace again with Tomas Enge 13th on the grid and Tomas Scheckter 17th. The team would suffer a further disaster during the recognition laps before the race when Scheckter went off. He did not even get to start.
When the lights went out, Alonso and Goossens did not get away very well but the narrow nature of the track going into La Source meant that Junqueira who did well off the line was bottled up. As the field streamed downhill towards Eau Rouge Alonso saw off Goossens's challenge and went ahead Junqueira was third. On the run up the hill to Les Combes there was something of a sort-out among the frontrunners with Wilson being forced on to the grass at top speed. The result was that Saelens emerged in second ahead of Junqueira, Wilson, Goossens and Webber with Mauricio and Minassian right behind him.
As Alonso began to pull away at the front, there was a collision at the end of lap two down at the Bus Stop chicane where Mario Haberfeld (Fortec) and Darren Manning (Arden Team Russia) hit one another and so a Safety Car had to be despatched. Just before this came out Minassian managed to scuttle ahead of Webber, having previously overtaken Mauricio.
It took a couple of laps for the mess to be cleared away and then the race was on again with Webber immediately getting ahead of Minassian and challenging Wilson, who had been passed by Goossens, only to run into the back of the Yorkshire driver. This meant that Webber's race was effectively over. He pitted and drove quickly but he was so far behind it was irrelevant. It mattered little for the Australian's third place in the championship was not under threat.