Alexander Sims earned himself official rain-master status in this morning's fifth round of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series, the young Englishman storming from 11th on the grid to win by an eight-second margin at the wheel of his ART Grand Prix-prepared Dallara
Brazilian driver Gabriel Dias finished second after starting from the pole; the Hitech Racing man had to cede the lead to Sims mid-race.
It was by any standards a bravura performance from 22-year-old Sims, who struggled in qualifying and yesterday's dry first race to come to grips with the new track and the experience of running on Cooper tyres for the first time. But the rain levelled the playing field and Sims rocketed past six cars on the opening lap and another three next time around to latch on to the tail of Dias.
Sims pounced for the lead on lap five, driving around Dias' outside at Copse only to make an error a couple of corners later which handed top spot back to the Brazilian. Sims recovered his composure though to re-pass conclusively at Vale before the lap's end. His victory was the first this season for a Mercedes-powered car, and Sims was the fourth different driver to claim a win in five races. For good measure he set the fastest lap by an almost one-second margin.
“The conditions were perfect for us,” said the MSA Team UK driver. “It was a big ask to come here and get on the pace with everyone in just two 30-minute test sessions, but this morning it was a level playing field for everyone and I had the perfect opportunity to take advantage. Maybe the others were a little more apprehensive of the conditions or perhaps their cars were not set up quite as well as mine. I was able to drive with a big smile on my face.”
Because Sims entry was in the Invitation class, Dias takes the maximum 10 points: “Our aim here was to make points, and we made the most we could so I am pleased. Sims was just too quick for me,” said Gabriel.
As he did yesterday, Raikkonen Robertson racer Daisuke Nakajima made a great start to romp up the order. From sixth on the grid on the opening lap he muscled past championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne, his team-mate Carlos Huertas, Jazeman Jaafar and, around the outside at Brooklands, the car of Esteban Gutierrez to slot into second. Nakajima had no answer to Sims's pace, however, and had to settle for third on the road. Gutierrez tried race long to displace Nakajima from third but the Mexican ART man was unable to achieve the feat.
Vergne spent much of his race squabbling with his Carlin team-mates Jaafar and Saturday victor James Calado. Calado held fifth before spinning and handing the position to Vergne, with Adriano Buzaid pushing Jaafar back to seventh four laps from the end. Huertas claimed eighth, ahead of Calado and Felipe Nasr, the Brazilian claiming his first championship points with a good drive from the very back of the grid following his Saturday startline shunt.
Alex Brundle and Daniel McKenzie sandwiched the third ART Grand Prix driver, Frenchman Jim Pla, for 11th and 13th and the last of the championship points.
Meanwhile Menasheh Idafar, who yesterday failed to make the start after colliding with the back of Nasr's car – a misdemeanour which earned the T-Sport driver a £1000 fine – went a little way towards making up for his disappointment by claiming National class victory ahead of class points leader James Cole and Luiz Razia.