Grubmuller ends famine in Germany
7 June 2009
Walter Grubmüller, the most experienced competitor in the Cooper Tyres British F3 International Series, finally broke his duck with a maiden win at Hockenheim, leading the championship's eighth round from pole to flag and giving the Hitech team a 1-2 result.
Despite treacherously damp track conditions, Austrian Grubmüller did not put a wheel wrong in his Dallara-Mercedes, crossing the line a second clear of team-mate Renger van der Zande, with championship debutant Robert Wickens a close third in the best of the Carlin Motorsport entries.
"It's excellent," admitted Grubmuller, who moves into second place in the championship thanks to his victory, "This was a real team effort after all the misery we went through last year. We knew we would be quick here. I'm really happy, and the team really deserves it."
Heavy rain in the hours before the off made the circuit an unpredictable prospect for the 20-car field, all of whom still opted to race on slick tyres. Not unexpectedly, there were several spinners in the early laps, and quite a few more who found their cars less than suited to the conditions.
Not so the Hitech cars, however, as Grubmüller blasted into the lead, ahead of Saturday race-winner Marcus Ericsson's Raikkonen Robertson Dallara. The Swede had made a devastatingly quick get-away from fifth on the grid to overhaul both van der Zande and Max Chilton, and clung to Grubmüller's tail for five laps, before falling back as the track dried.
After van der Zande pushed past Ericsson for second, he latched on to his team-mate's tail, and the pair circulated as one for the remaining twelve laps. As on Saturday, however, the Dutchman could not find a way through to victory.
"I started on the wet line, so I had a bit of a disadvantage there, but I managed to hold on to third at the first corner," van der Zande commented, "I waited for three laps to see where I was quicker than Ericsson, then I passed him, but stayed behind Walter because I did not want to take a big risk in the conditions. It was a good race and I'm so happy for the team because they worked so hard."
The battle for third provided the highlight of a thrilling race, as cars fought and collided in the bid to join the Hitech boys on the podium. Chilton ran third for several laps until Wickens - who had got the better of an entertaining duel with his Red Bull/Carlin colleague and championship leader Daniel Ricciardo a lap previously - nabbed the position from the teenager with an audacious move up his inside through the Sachs Kurve.
Worse was to come for Chilton, too, as, on the next lap, he tangled with Wayne Boyd and Ricciardo at the hairpin. All three spun down the order, with Boyd - who was enjoying a good run and had held fourth at one point - being forced into retirement with a damaged rear wing. Chilton had to pit with a broken wheel, but Ricciardo lost only three places and continued to eighth at the flag.
Nick Tandy and his JTR Mygale were promoted to fourth by the incident, and the Briton was right on the leading trio's tail for three laps before spinning away his chances of victory.
"I was trying too hard to win," said a Tandy, "and I spun right around."
The Rockingham winner lost four places as a result, and it was Ericsson who inherited fourth, the Swede finishing well ahead of top British finisher Riki Christodoulou. Tandy picked off Ricciardo and Adriano Buzaid on the final lap to slot into sixth, with Henry Arundel completing the top nine.
An excellent tenth overall, and leading National Class contender, was Fortec's Daniel McKenzie. With his usual sparring partner Gabriel Dias running very worn tyres as a consequence of his Saturday accident, and thus in no shape to attack, McKenzie was able to win as he pleased.
"It was a great race," the Briton enthused, bouncing back from the collision that took both National Class contenders out on Saturday, "I think Gabriel ended up about 45s behind me, but it wasn't easy. I needed to keep my nose clean and the conditions were extremely hard. But the car was fantastic and I was keeping well up with the International runners."
Daisuke Nakajima collected the final international class point with eleventh overall.