Junqueira spins to win
20 May 2000
Brazilian Bruno Junqueira made the most of his good fortune to add a second successive F3000 win at the Nurburgring this afternoon.
Although the 45-lap race began in dry conditions, it was hit halfway through by the sort of rainstorm that blights the German circuit but, despite several cars departing the fray in difficult conditions, they only added to those already lost in a first corner melee and a handful of individual excursions.
Junqueira shared the front row with Belgian David Saelens but, as is becoming customary in F3000 this season, neither made it to the first corner in front. Instead, as the D2 Playlife Super Nova Lola of Saelens staggered away from the line, fourth-placed Enrique Bernoldi scrambled around the outside of both cars ahead of him to lead through the Castrol-S.
In his wake, Saelens tried too hard to atone for his initial error, only to compound his mistake by making another. Running wide into the first turn, he succeeded only in ploughing through the gravel trap and spinning in front of the pack. Unsurprisingly, the attempts at avoidance caused more chaos than they avoided, and several races ended almost before they had begun.
Saelens was out on the spot, and was joined on the sidelines by the luckless Kevin McGarrity, erstwhile championship leader Mark Webber, series veterans Soheil Ayari and Jeffrey van Hooydonk, while Spanish teenager Fernando Alonso exited stage right with his Telefonica car perched precariously atop Ricardo Mauricio's Red Bull version.
With the Safety Car scrambled, the field was able to close and gather its thoughts, with Mauricio's team-mate Bernoldi still holding the advantage from Junqueira. Behind them Tomas Enge remained in touch with third placed Franck Montagny. Others, including many from the tail of the field survived the carnage courtesy of their poor qualifying performances, while Britons Darren Manning and Jamie Davies both sought refuge by cutting directly across the gravel trap.
The Safety Car disappeared only briefly, and thereafter made sporadic appearances as the junior F1 pack found it hard to stay on the track and difficult to park their stricken cars far enough away to allow racing to continue unabated. Shortly after the first lap debris had been cleared, Bas Leinders spun in front of Saelens team-mate Nicolas Minassian, rendering them both hors de combat and requiring the field to be bunched up once more.
Not long after it had been withdrawn for a second time, Bernoldi skated out of the race with a suspension failure at the Veedol Chicane, leaving Junqueira out in front and seemingly cruising to a second win in a row.
Then the rain arrived.
With everyone still on slicks, the road was narrow at the best of times, but when Justin Wilson contrived to spin his Nordic Lola almost in front of the pack, Franck Montagny was left with nowhere to go in avoidance and ploughed into the Briton in an incident frighteningly reminiscent of that which injured Mario Haberfeld last time out. Fortunately, on this occasion, neither driver was hurt.
The Safety Car was scrambled again, however, and most of the field opted to pit for wets while the rest trundled around in search of dry lines and a break in the clouds. The rash of pit-stops left Enge out in front, from Gauloises' Andre Couto and Sebastien Bourdais, Stephane Sarrazin and European Arrows' Christjan Albers.
The mix of rubber remaining in the field then caused some heart-stopping moments, as those on wets closed rapidly on the slick-shod runners. The grooved option didn't always prove to be the best, however, as Manning, Davies and Yves Olivier all spun at the Castrol-S on the next restart, and Frenchman Fabrice Walfisch showed the dangers of catching struggling rivals at speed.
Shortly after 23rd-place starter - and perennial backmarker - Andreas Scheld has blasted past the typically tail-happy Enge, Walfisch slammed into the back of the Czech, launching his Astromega car high over the top of the McLaren Junior example and into instant retirement, fortunately with no injury to its occupant.
Enge was propelled along and across the circuit at a greater rate of knots than he had managed under his own steam, and caused the approaching Junqueira to take avoiding action as his sleigh ride ended with him slewed across the road. Junqueira, his car already unsettled by having to swerve around the Czech's abandoned rear wing, then took a wild, sideways, ride of his own across the grass before rejoining, unscathed, at the Veedol chicane.
Uninvolved by all the action behind him, Scheld ploughed on up front, but was quickly reeled in by a commendably calm Junqueira. A couple of circumspect laps in the German's wake were followed by a decisive move into the lead, and the Brazilian was not troubled thereafter, save for having to stand on the brakes as KJR's Andrea Piccini rotated in front of him while being lapped.
Scheld held on to a remarkable second, and would be joined on the podium by the equally unexpected form of Italian Fabrizio Gollin. Another to start further down the grid, and not always likely to make the cut this season, the Coloni man put in a solid wet-weather performance to capture his best result in the formula.
Fourth and fifth fell to the consistent Gauloises twins, Couto ahead of Bourdais despite a trip through the first corner gravel as his slicks continued to look for grip on a track which maintained a split personality. Behind Bourdais, another Frenchman scooped the final point, as a mightily relieved Sarrazin survived a couple of slick-shod spins to take his first top six finish of the year.
The place should have fallen to Junqueira's team-mate Jaime Melo Jr, but the Brazilian fell foul of two stop-go penalties and was overhauled by the flying Sarrazin in the closing stages. Albers fell by the wayside - as he did at Silverstone - when points beckoned, while the remaining stragglers - Olivier, Davies and Piccini - were too far removed to challenge for points.
Junqueira certainly made hay while the sun shone in Germany - and wasn't too shabby when the rain fell either. With championship rivals Minassian and Webber sidelined, the Brazilian has opened a healthy twelve point advantage in the championship, and has taken the first big strides towards earning a place in the top flight alongside friend and rival Jenson Button.