Mollekens Keeps His Cool to take Masters

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In the blistering heat at Zandvoort yesterday (4/8/96), Belgian driver Kurt Mollekens kept admirably cool to bring the Marlboro Masters Trophy home to Britain for the 3rd time since the series began six years ago. Somewhat unexpectedly this time the British series contenders were the front runners in this annual contest to find Europe’s top Formula Three driver. In past years the German and Italian series have provided the class of the field but Molleken’s, racing for Alan Docking Racing, was untouchable from day 1, setting a blistering pace that proved impossible for anyone else to match. Of the other fancied runners, Jarno Trulli who currently leads the German series, was unable to manage a better start position than 9th and seemed baffled by his lack of form, while Soheil Ayari (leading the French championship) was just as perplexed.

 

From the beginning Mollekens and ADR were playing it cleverly. Kurt set his time early on and then sat comfortably in the pits, preserving a set of tyres for race day and watching the others trying to match his pace. He was equally unflustered in the race, which was sadly not the case for a number of the other British series runners. As the pack came screaming into Tarzan for the first time the tricky corner took its toll. Someone in the middle was wrongfooted, leaving Brian Smith, the Argentinean TOMS driver, in a tangle. As everyone else tried to avoid him there was chaos, at least half a dozen cars paying impromptu visits to the gravel traps before getting under way again. When the dust cleared there were two retirements, Guy Smith (Fortec) and Brian Cunningham (ADR), while Smith got away last. It was a bad day to be called Brian or Smith.

 

It was a good day to be Kurt Mollekens as he sailed home to a four second win, his progress untroubled by anything. Just behind him though, Johnny Kane and Jarno Trulli were slugging it out for second, a battle settled in favour of the British contender when his opponent left his braking way too late on the last lap and he was out of the race immediately, handing 3rd place to Nick Heidfeld from the German championship, the youngster being rather surprised by this elevation. Even the officials missing the leader when they waved the chequered flag could do nothing to bother Mollekens and he simply continued on his way, completing 33 laps instead of the required 32, not easing off until he was sure he had been shown the flag.

 

He returned home a happy man, probably in need of a new trophy cabinet as he netted the Marcel Albers trophy for fastest lap of the race and a trophy for pole position too, to go with the Masters Trophy where his name joins those of David Coulthard and Jos Verstappen as a star of the future.

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