F3 Basil Shaaban sets new milestone for Arab motor sport in Germany
2009 FORMULA 3 EURO SERIES
Hockenheim Baden-Württemberg, rounds 1 and 2 - May 16th-17th
For immediate release
Monday, May 18th 2009
LEBANON’S BASIL SHAABAN SETS NEW MILESTONE FOR
ARAB MOTORSPORT IN F3 EURO SERIES OPENER IN GERMANY
· Shaaban qualifies sixth but is shunted back into 23rd in first Hockenheim race
· Shell-backed driver stages fight back from 23rd to 13th position in second race
HOCKENHEIM (Germany): The Arab world's leading Formula 3 racing driver, Basil Shaaban, raised Arab single-seater racing to a new level by qualifying in a superb sixth place for the opening race of the new season at the Hockenheim Baden-Württemberg circuit in Germany on Saturday.
The feat marked the best qualification position of the Shell-backed driver’s F3 career and included setting the fastest first sector-time of qualifying along the way. But he was hit from behind on the second corner of the first of 16 laps in the actual race and his Prema Motorsport-run Dallara Mercedes-Benz F308/309 was launched into the air and sustained minor damage, dropping Shaaban to the rear of the field.
Shaaban staged a dramatic fight-back over the following laps but, when he caught the slower car of Venezuelan Johnny Cecotto, Basil braked hard into the turn-four hairpin and hadn’t bargained for the HBR Motorsport car in front braking early. Shaaban’s Dallara duly collided with the back of Cecotto’s.
“I was not expecting such a braking point from a slower car,” said Shaaban. “I was braking on the limit and there was nothing I could do to avoid it. On the positive side, at least, it was the first time in two years that I was running much quicker than the car in front!”
“Qualifying sixth in the world’s top F3 championship is a great result and has proudly set a new milestone for Arab motor sport,” enthused Shaaban. “We have been working hard throughout the winter months on many areas, like fine-tuning my driving and reducing my body weight. This result was an early reward for our hard work and shows the improvements that we have made. While this is a very difficult championship, with a team of Prema’s calibre I am still learning and improving and we are confident that there is plenty more potential to extract.”
The Lebanese was eventually classified in 23rd position. Victory in the opening 16-lap race of the season fell to Shaaban’s 20-year-old team mate Stefano Coletti in his Prema Powerteam Dallara Mercedes-Benz F308/9.
The Monagesque overtook Britain’s pole position winner Sam Bird in the first corner at the 4.574km circuit and went on to claim his maiden F3 Euro Series win. Spaniard Roberto Merhi claimed second position for Manor Motorsport, with Bird in third. Prema Powerteam colleague Matteo Chinosi was ninth.
The Lebanese star began Sunday afternoon’s second race from 23rd position and climbed through the field to seize 13th overall – his second best finish in the gruelling F3 Euro Series at the start of his third campaign.
Only 17 of the 28 drivers who started the race were classified as finishers, after a first-lap collision saw six cars sidelined and Shaaban just able to avoid contact with the debris.
“I started race two from 23rd position and was lucky to avoid the melee that took out six cars,” added the Shell-backed driver. “I managed to finish 13th and that is my second best finish so far in the F3 Euro Series. But, after our performance this weekend, I am more motivated than ever to finish much higher in the subsequent races.”
Coletti finished the race in fifth position and holds the overall championship lead after two of 20 rounds, with Jean-Karl Vernay of the Signature team taking victory in race two.
Sam Bird had been the fastest driver in the first official practice of the new season on Friday morning, the British driver clocking a tour of 1m 36.328s at an average speed of 170.941km/h. Coletti was 10th and Shaaban was encouraged with the 13th fastest time.
“I knew that our team was strong and I was very pleased to be just 1.1 seconds behind the fastest car in dry conditions in the first practice,” said Shaaban. “It gave me great confidence for the qualifying session, where I reduced the gap to pole position down to just 0.6 seconds.”
Shaaban can now look ahead to the third and fourth races of the season at the Lauzitsring in Germany in two weeks time (May 29th-31st) with renewed confidence.
“This is just the start of the season and I have qualified for a race in sixth place and taken my second best F3 Euro Series finish. We have to build on this momentum as there is definitely more to come.”
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