Release No: 21
Date: November 17, 2002
MACAU F3 GRAND PRIX
LEGS ONE AND TWO
GOMMENDY TAKES VICTORY IN MACAU GRAND PRIX
French Formula 3 champion Tristan Gommendy left it until four laps from the chequered flag to grab the lead and take victory in Sunday's Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix. The Frenchman overtook heat two leader Heikki Kovalainen at Lisboa on lap 12 out of 15 following the restart from a Safety Car period to move to the front and eventually finished 2.104 seconds clear.
"It's simply fantastic," he said afterwards. "It's fantastic for me and the team, because a lot of work has gone into this and I would just like to say congratulations to them. I have won the French championship this year and now I have won Macau - this is just fantastic."
Gommendy's charge to victory was assisted by heat one winner Paolo Montin almost stalling on the grid at the start of leg two and dropping well down the field. Montin had been dominant earlier in the day, despite briefly losing out to Gommendy at the start.
By the time the pair had arrived at Lisboa on lap one Montin had the speed to overtake around the outside and from then on he never looked back. Behind him, Gommendy initially lost second place to Kousuke Matsuura after making contact with Kovalainen on the straight after Lisboa, but retook the position on lap five. He stayed there until the end, coming home 0.811 seconds behind Montin. Narain Karthikeyan grabbed third in that heat after a charge through the field, with Kovailanen fourth.
At the start of the second heat, Montin got his start all wrong and was slow away, allowing Kovalainen to roar into the lead, with Yuji Ide grabbing second ahead of Gommendy. Karthikeyan initially ran in third position, briefly challenging for second, but brushed the barriers at Lisboa on lap four and then crashed at the top of the hill.
On lap eight Gommendy got past Ide at Mandarin, while a lap later Ide had to fight off intense pressure from Matsuura. The pair nearly collided on the run down to Lisboa, but Ide had left his braking too late and ran down the escape road. Matsuura then spun at Dona Maria bend, allowing a recovering Montin up to third and bringing out the Safety Car.
Gommendy knew he had to seize his chance at the restart and dived past Kovalainen at Lisboa on lap 12. Behind the leading pair there was chaos, however, as Japanese F3 champion Takashi Kogure tipped Montin into a spin at Lisboa. The Italian's TOM'S was then collected by Ide. Kogure eventually went on to finish third.
The day was full of incidents as Macau's demanding nature caught out several leading stars. On the first lap of the opening heat Frenchman Olivier Pla crashed into the barriers on the exit of Mandarin and caused a multi-car pile-up. James Courtney, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Jo Merszei were among those forced out with badly damaged cars. British F3 champion Robbie Kerr was caught up in a crash at Lisboa on the first lap of the second heat, after Bruce Jouanny hit the wall and bounced back into the track.
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