The build up to the race was full of more drama than anyone really needed after various GT drivers discovered an unpleasant truth about street races. Get it wrong and it bites - badly, as the Ascari drivers seemed determined to prove.
The build up to the race was full of more drama than anyone really needed after various GT drivers discovered an unpleasant truth about street races. Get it wrong and it bites - badly, as the Ascari drivers seemed determined to prove. With a major delay to the timetable as a result it seemed the organisers were taking no chances with the F3 boys and the announcement was made that the race would start behind the Safety Car. Quite why this was necessary was a matter for some speculation. Yes, there was oil at the second corner, but the first corner was clean enough. And in fact whether it was a good idea or not was anyone's guess.
After all, it would mean a start on cold tyres (with cold brains in some cases), and would also pretty much hand victory to Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) unless he did something really stupid, which seems unlikely to happen this year. After two laps, the lights went out on the Safety Car, it pulled in, and finally they got to go racing - or at least they started. Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport), running 4th behind Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) made a lunge at the Swede, seemingly forgetting that there was a rather sharp corner to negotiate. He scrabbled desperately for purchase and got back on track but it was a close run thing. Meanwhile, Asmer was merrily disappearing into the distance, pulling away from Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport) with no apparent effort. Behind Bird, Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport) and Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) were running in close formation, the latter having to work very hard to fend off a deeply determined Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). Despite the Finn on his rear wing, Engel took a shot at passing Breen but had to back off when he ran out of space. A little further back, National Class leader Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) lost out at the start after tangling with Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), putting himself out of the race and no doubt making the atmosphere back at the team awning somewhat tense. That handed the lead to Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) so at least someone in the team got the benefit. Meanwhile, the front runners were bottled up behind Valerio as far back as Mustonen in 7th. It all helped Asmer, but it wasn't doing much for Engel, or for Hohenthal who was being savaged by Bird. Behind that pack, the next cluster was being led by Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) in a slightly distant 8th. He was soon 9th, because Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) found a way past and set off after Mustonen. What with the Carlin boys scrapping dreadfully and the Double R lads attacking each other, there didn't seem to be a lot of team spirit about this afternoon.
While Asmer set the first of what threatened to be a series of fastest laps, Mustonen was still all over Engel, and Bird started what would turn out to be a fateful move on Hohenthal, forcing the Swede to make a mistake. Hohenthal then spun, slowed as he tried to get back into contention, and was rammed up the gearbox by Mansell. Their two cars were joined nose to tail when Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) piled into them. He was able to extract himself but the other two were stuck. The marshals were able to disentangle the two cars eventually, but meanwhile the red flags had been shown, withdrawn and morphed into yellows and a raft of Safety Car boards. The track was clearly now very messy and clean up operations were likely to take some time.
The order now was Asmer, with Valerio in 2nd, ahead of Bird, Breen, Engel, Mustonen, Jelley, Kennard, Guerrieri (who had managed not to lose a place simply because no one could get through while he got himself free of Mansell and Hohenthal), and Meadows. Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) was 11th from Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), Sergio Perez (T-Sport), John Martin (Alan Docking Racing), Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing), Albert Costa (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Max Chilton (Arena International), Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport) and Alex Waters (Promatecme F3). Struggling round in 21st despite being a Championship Class runner, was Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport), ahead of Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing), "Frankie" Cong Fu Cheng (Performance Racing) and Salman Al Khalifa (Performance Racing).
It took from Lap 6 till Lap 11 to get racing again, and Asmer, who is becoming an expert at this, controlled things nicely. Meanwhile, Mustonen was immediately on the attack again and was all over Engel, but the German simply wouldn't let him through, and now he had Jelley right with him as well.
Meanwhile Bird seemed to have taken to street racing like a duck to water and he was now trying every thing he could think of to get past Valerio, team-mate or no. However, his plans had to be put on hold when the next crash occurred. It started when Cheng made a lunge at Castellacci and bounced off the barriers instead. He careered across the path of Leo Mansell, punting Mansell into the barriers on the other side of the track, and that left Castellacci nowhere to go but straight into the pair of them. For once it wasn't Mansell's own fault, but he was out of the race nonetheless. Just as Valerio had a go at Asmer, having caught up, he had to back off, which was probably just as well from Asmer's point of view. The Safety Car had been scrambled again after just two racing laps. This was beginning to get stupidly repetitive.
The order now was still Asmer, from Valerio, Bird, Breen, Engel, Mustonen, Jelley, Kennard, Guerrieri and Gonzalez. 11th was Moraes, leading National Class leader Meadows, who now had Perez right behind him, then Martin, Al Fardan, Costa, Devaney, Jensen, Garcia and Chilton. 21st was Waters, from Teixeira, Petterson and Al Khalifa. And that was all we had left. In addition to running out of drivers, we were also running out of time. The race was now 14 laps old and there were only 3.5 minutes left to complete what was supposed to be a 24 lap race. It wasn't going to happen. Two laps later the latest restart finally came, with less than three minutes remaining on the clock. It was going to be a two lap sprint to the finish, and given the records of all those involved, it didn't seem like a very good idea.
However, they mostly kept their calm this time, though Guerrieri took advantage of the restart to muscle past Kennard, while Mustonen made yet another desperate attempt to squeeze up the inside of Engel every time a corner presented itself. The German wasn't having any of it, but he was having to work very hard to hang onto his place. And just for good measure, Guerrieri had really got the bit between his teeth now, and he was having a really serious go at Jelley on what would be the final lap. It didn't quite work, but for a man who had been doubtful to race this morning, it was an impressive effort.
However, none of this change the order at the front, Asmer coming home to yet another win, with an extra point for the fastest lap too. Valerio had to settle for 2nd, leading home the Carlin pack of Bird, Breen and Engel. Mustonen was 6th, from team-mate Jelley who held off Guerrieri, and they were followed home by Kennard and Gonzalez. Moraes was 11th, from National Class winner Meadows, Perez, Martin, Al Fardan, Devaney, Costa, Jensen, Chilton and Garcia. 21st was Teixeira, leading Waters, Petterson and Al Khalifa.
The other fastest lap points went to Perez and Chilton.