Changes: Craig Reiff (Nexa Racing) is still missing, and there is no sign of Terminal 7 (the Ultimate Motorsport awning), presumably because if they'd put that up in the Thruxton pit area no one else would have been able to get in! Also missing is...
Changes: Craig Reiff (Nexa Racing) is still missing, and there is no sign of Terminal 7 (the Ultimate Motorsport awning), presumably because if they'd put that up in the Thruxton pit area no one else would have been able to get in! Also missing is Callum Macleod (Litespeed F3) but he wasn't expected so that's no real surprise.
At Thruxton today Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport) claimed yet another pole position and led something of a Carlin whitewash, as his team- mates Brendon Hartley and Oliver Turvey ended up 2nd and 3rd respectively, at the end of what was a slightly strange - and oddly dull - session. In the National Class Andy Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport) was back to his normal form and was on pole (10th overall), a long way ahead of Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) and his team-mate Stefan Wilson.
At Thruxton, tyre wear is always an issue, and with a very warm track it was even worse. As a result most people opted to do an exploratory lap or two on wet weather tyres just to see what conditions were like. Certainly no one was planning on doing the full 30 minutes of the session, at least not if they wanted to have any rubber left for Sunday's race. As a result there wasn't what you'd describe as a massive rush for the track - rather there was a general rush for the pits that left a handful of National Class runners out on track. Which was why, when the times started to register, Bridger was on overall pole from Wilson, with Turvey just behind him! OK so it's Thruxton, but this was more than a bit odd.especially as Bridger was 1.747 seconds quicker than Wilson. It got stranger when they were joined at the top of the order by Hywel Lloyd (CF Motorsport) and Jordan Williams (Team Loctite), the two of them occupying the second row, at least until the International Class boys deigned to come out to play. They were all too busy it seemed. Pretty much everyone else had now come in for "proper" tyres, slicks being the order of the day. The first man to get back on it was Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing) who moved up to 5th, just ahead of Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport), while Turvey was just behind them. You didn't have to have a name beginning with T, necessarily, but there was a pleasing symmetry about it. Mind you, Teixeira shouldn't be that far up, but with 23 minutes left of the session there still seemed to be a marked reluctance to go out on the part of many of the teams. You couldn't help feeling that they really ought to start getting their act together or there'd be traffic and no one would get a clear run.
Tandy improved again to go 3rd while Teixeira moved up to 5th but then Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) finally decided to stop messing about and start lapping at speed. The result was that he moved to 2nd. Bridger was still on pole both for the National Class overall, with Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) now 5th overall, thus proving that things were still weird. Teixeira setting a time fast enough for 4th was further proof.
Then things began to normalise. Sergio Perez (T-Sport) shot to pole on his first flying lap, while Meyrick was now on National Class pole (and 2nd overall). Tandy edged into 2nd behind the Mexican, just 0.009 seconds off Perez's time. Perez then dug a little deeper and improved a little, but not much. Hohenthal also went faster but stayed 4th. And then there was another general rush for the pits, which seemed a little premature frankly - it only needed a stoppage and some people were going to be left with egg on their faces.
Among them could well have been Mick Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) who finally ventured out with 18 minutes of the session left. Even worse was the Fortec pair of Marcus Ericsson and Philip Major. While nothing is expected of Major, Ericsson is quick, and must have been champing at the bit to get out there.
Someone who didn't look at all enthusiastic about being out there was Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing), who seemed to be having one of his off days. As he's the lap record holder here, better might have been expected but at this point he was stuck in 23rd, just behind Ericsson. The difference was that Mustonen had already done a number of supposedly flying laps. A lap later Hohenthal went 2nd and Martin moved to 5th ahead of Turvey, while Meyrick was still 4th overall. A round of changes now broke out, with Turvey claiming 2nd, which pushed everyone back a place, including Tandy who was back in the pits (though he remained 4th). Oddly, given that Double R Racing seem to have lost the plot this year, John Martin was showing very well, with a time of 1.07.666, that moved him to 2nd. His team-mate Mustonen finally got an improvement as well, but it was only enough to move the Finn to 14th. The faster Scandinavians were from Sweden today, as Ericsson shot into 2nd, at least temporarily.
The series leader was finally on the move now, and Alguersuari was now 7th. This pushed Meyrick back to 8th, and he was now being threatened from behind by Devaney too, the Irishman grabbing 9th on his first effort. Meanwhile Martin was back up to 2nd.
There were 10 minutes left and the order was Perez from Martin, Ericsson, Turvey and Hohenthal. However, it didn't stay that way. First off Turvey claimed pole, while Devaney moved up again for 3rd. Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport) was also now in the top 10 (in 7th), while Meyrick was still holding the National Class pole in 10th overall. A lap later and Alguersuari was on pole, while Martin was still showing well in 3rd. Perhaps he feels more at home here than he does at most circuits - it's one of the few places where you can throw the car around as you might a Formula Ford so perhaps that's why he's showing so well of a sudden. There's no other explanation that seems likely. He was bounced back when first Hartley and then Turvey both improved to go 2nd and 3rd respectively, making it a Carlin 1-2-3. The only question was whether they could hold onto it. Meyrick certainly looked as if he was going to have no trouble holding the National Class lead, because he was currently 9th, while Bridger and Wilson, who were 2nd and 3rd in class, were both well back.
Abay was clearly keen to make it a Carlin 1-2-3-4 but was now 6th, but a further reshuffle came from Ericsson who finally got down to it to go 5th. Perez improved at the same time but he stayed 6th, while Mustonen also went faster but was still only 12th.
The pits were full of people having wing changes, taking as much off as possible by the looks of it, but it didn't seem to help. With less than 10 minutes left the pits started to fill up again. Certainly the top six (Alguersuari, Hartley, Turvey, Martin, Ericsson and Perez) were all in the pit lane at this point, and the rest of the top ten (Abay, Devaney, Meyrick and Hohenthal) seemed to be about to join them. In the closing minutes, despite having an almost clear track, the best Max Chilton (Hitech Racing) could manage was 16th. For real change you would have to look elsewhere. With only a handful of cars still running (and Alguersuari out of his car and watching from the pitwall) Ericsson went back out for another go. It proved to be well worth the effort - he was able to snatch 4th as a result.
Tandy was also still circulating but there was little left in the tyres. He managed a one place improvement to go 9th, but as the man he'd demoted was Meyrick, it wasn't really much help. And that was about it. With three and a half minutes left an eerie silence prevailed apart from the sound of Chilton getting his final improvement to end up in front of Teixeira rather than behind him. The whole Hitech situation is very strange. How they can be so fast in testing but then seemingly fall apart at race weekends is a complete mystery and not one they seem even close to solving.
The final order was Alguersuari, from Hartley, Turvey, Ericsson, Martin, Perez, Abay, Devaney, Tandy and Meyrick (on National Class pole). 11th place went to Hohenthal, ahead of Mustonen, Henry Arundel (Double R Racing), Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), Bridger, Chilton, Teixeira, Alistair Jackson (Ultimate Motorsport), Wilson and Major. 21st was Steven Guerrero (T-Sport), ahead of Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing), Al Khalifa, Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport), Lloyd and Williams.
Weather: Windy, warm, overcast.