F3000 REPORT

Wilson wins as Webber is taken out

The Formula 3000 series has been struggling a lot this year and the first signs of that came in Austria where Kid Jensen Racing (the entry having been taken over from the British team by Monaco Motorsport) failed to appear, reducing the entry to just 12 teams. The need for better performance had led to the disappearance of Indonesia's Ananda Mikola from Team Astromega and his replacement by Dino Morelli, an Ulsterman with an Italian name.

Qualifying was a scrappy affair with a rainstorm disrupting the action and so the grid was rather less conventional than normal. Pole position went in the end to France's Sebastien Bourdais in his DAMs car, a few hundredths quicker than local hero Patrick Friesacher (Red Bull Junior Team). Behind these two was Bas Leinders (KTR) and championship leader Justin Wilson (Coca-Cola Nordic Racing) and his team mate Tomas Enge. Their challenger for title honors Mark Webber was next in his Super Nova Racing entry ahead of Antonio Pizzonia (Petrobras Junior Team), Fabrizio Gollin (Coloni Motorsport), Spain's Antonio Garcia (Red Bull Junior Team) and Giorgio Pantano (Astromega). Those to suffer in the conditions were Darren Manning (Arden Team Russia) in 11th, Mario Haberfeld (Super Nova Racing) 13th and David Saelens (European Minardi) in 15th.

The first corner in Austria is always critical and this year was no exception. Friesacher made a good start but braked way too late and took Bourdais off with him into the sandtrap. Enge had to take avoiding action and behind them there was a chain-reaction of accidents as everyone tried to stay out of trouble. The crashes took out nine drivers, including both Super Nova cars, Manning, Garcia and most of the midfield. Pantano went into the pits and lost three laps.

It was a huge blow for Webber's title ambitions because as he climbed from his car, his two title rivals Wilson and Enge were still going. Leinders who took advantage of the chaos to snatch the lead from Wilson. The Safety Car was sent out and when the dust began to clear Leinders led Wilson, Pizzonia, Enge, Saelens (up from 15th) and Jaime Melo (Durango).

At the restart Wilson dived into the lead at Turn Two while Enge pulled off a similar maneuver on Pizzonia. The order was then set for several laps until Saelens began to suffer from engine problems and slipped behind Melo, Dino Morelli and Russia's Viktor Maslov (Arden Team Russia). Saelens then let his European Minardi team mate Andrea Piccini ahead as well and after Maslov ran wide on lap 12 and Piccini overtook Morelli on lap 20, Piccini moved to sixth.

On lap 24 Leinders challenged for the lead and got ahead going into the second corner but Wilson get better traction out of the corner and retook the position on the run down to the Boschkurve. Enge then took a look at passing Leinders but was given a warning chop. The three men, who had run together from the start, then fell back into station and finished nose-to-tail. Pizzonia was fourth after a lonely race with Melo fifth and Piccini sixth. The result gives Coca-Cola Nordic a massive 29-point lead in the Teams' Championship while Wilson's win pulls him seven points clear of Enge and 15 ahead of Webber, who was pushed back to fourth in the title race behind Leinders.

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