F3000 REPORT

Closing up the championship

The International Formula 3000 title race is between three men: the two Coca Cola Nordic Racing team mates Justin Wilson and Tomas Enge and Super Nova Racing's Mark Webber. At the Nurburgring, title leader Wilson went out early with a mechanical problem and so Enge and Webber made up ground. The top three are now covered by just five points with six races gone and six races still to come.

Qualifying resulted in Enge and Webber sharing the front row, separated by just 0.067secs with Ricardo Sperafico (Petrobras Junior Team) only 0.004s behind Webber. There was then a massive tenth of a second back to the fourth fastest qualifier, David Saelens in his European Minardi entry. Behind the Belgian it was tighter than tight with four drivers covered by a tenth of a second. The quickest was Sebastien Bourdais (DAMS) ahead of Darren Manning (Arden Team Russia), Wilson and Antonio Pizzonia (Petrobras Junior Team). The top 10 was completed by Ricardo Mauricio in his Red Bull Junior Team car and Giorgio Pantano (Team Astromega).

At the start of the race Enge got away neatly while Webber was slower and had to drive defensively to hold on to his position as the field headed into the first corner. Sperafico and Saelens followed while Mauricio and Pizzonia made good starts to move to fifth and sixth. Wilson made a poor start and dropped back to eighth. At the chicane Pantano again blew his chances of a good result by colliding with another car and being forced to pit for repairs. Very little happened in the first few laps aside from Prost Junior Team new boy Zsolt Baumgartner (the first Hungarian to race in Formula 3000) having a spin.

On lap five things became more interesting when championship leader Wilson spun off. He rejoined in 19th but on the next lap he spun again and the handling of the car suggested that something was obviously wrong with the suspension. On lap 8 Wilson headed for the pits and retired for the first time this year. The way was open for hi challengers Enge and Webber to make up ground. The pair were running first and second at the front but it did not look as though Webber could do much to challenge the Czech.

There was little change from then on. Various of the midfield spun or ran across the chicane. After 28 of 33 laps Webber too was obviously having trouble as he took a ride across the chicane but he maintained his second place.

On lap 30 the battle for 15th place between Dino Morelli (Team Astromega) and Mario Haberfeld (Super Nova Racing) produced the only real incident of the race. The two men collided and both retired.

Apart from Wilson's spin there were no changes in the top 10 all afternoon - which is surely not a great advertisement for the championship.

Enge duly won his second victory of the year, equalling the score of Webber and Wilson. The difference between the three men is thus down to minor results and Wilson has done better than his rivals and so leads the title race with 31 points to Enge's 28. Webber has 26.

Sperafico's third place was confirmation that the Brazilian youngster is fast emerging as the rookie of the year, although his Petrobras Junior Team partner Pizzonia has collected more points to date.

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