Date posted on January 14, 2008 · Published by Mark Goddard
Team Goddard’s drivers, Frederic Vervisch and Rafael Suzuki, wrapped up the front row of the Asian Formula Three event held at the challenging Batangas Race Circuit in the Philippines on January 12-13th. Vervisch went on to take three wins and a second place from the four races. He was disqualified from one race for reversing before the start and this race result is now under appeal. Vervisch leads the points race as he has his sights on the Force India F1 Prize for the champion.
Brazilian Rafael Suzuki put in two fantastic laps to take pole position from Vervisch, Niall Quinn, Hamad Al Fardan and Matt Howson. AF3 is currently incredibly competitive and any of these drivers are capable of winning.
Qualifying took place in dry conditions on Friday, Rafael setting a fantastic 1.26.962 over a second under the circuit lap record. Saturday dawned extremely wet, albeit this being the dry season in this part of the Philippines, and the race start was postponed several times before the officials felt it was safe to start. Frederic stormed into an early lead but at the turn three hairpin on lap two Hamad’s front wheel touched Frederic’s rear wheel causing him to spin down the field eventually finishing third. Rafael made a good start but almost lost in a puddle on the run into the first turn and dropped down the field. He spent the rest of the race playing catch up finishing in fourth place. It was his first wet race “I am learning so much each time I get in the car” reported Rafael.
The officials felt Hamad’s move was a racing incident although Frederic was not happy with that view!
Race two was also wet and this time Hamad and Frederic put on a great display of racing with no untoward tactics. Frederic hounded Hamad for many laps, often getting alongside his rival but not able to make the move stick. He finally made it by at the turn three hairpin on lap 9 of 12. “It was clean move, close but we did not touch” said Vervisch. Rafael finished fourth after dropping to fifth at the start. Once past Niall Quinn he homed in on Matt Howson but just failed to take the final podium position.
Sunday dawned dry and the first race of the day was to prove controversial. Vervisch arrived on the grid after the warm up lap and overshot his starting “box”. He selected reverse and drove back to take the correct position. Hamad made the best start to lead but Frederic was soon past at turn one on the third lap and pulled away to take an easy win. Behind it was much closer as Rafael, Howson and Quinn all battled for third spot. It all came to a head on lap 5 when the three touched and spun at turn one. Rafael suffered a puncture and suspension damage and was forced to retire from the race.
After the race the Stewards excluded Vervisch for reversing on the grid, a decision that has been appealed. This put Frederic near the back of the field for the start of the final race and he had a fantastic first lap getting up to third place. He was soon on the gearbox of Niall Quinn and it took four laps before he was able to find a way past. He then started to hound down race leader, Al Fardan, and it looked like he would catch him with a lap to go. However with two laps to go Hamad’s engine went onto three cylinders and Frederic was able to sweep by into the lead. Rafael just failed to take the final podium position from Matt Howson, missing out by just four tenths of a second at the line.
Next round is at the same circuit on February 16-17th and Vervisch is determined to consolidate his lead as he chases the Force India F1 prize drive. Rafael has demonstrated he has the speed to win and he is determined to turn that speed into a race win.