- First Victory of the Season to Buller
- Chaos after aborted start wipes out Double R Racing
- Nasr scores despite spin
False start with confusion aided Fortec's Buller to his first win of the season
This morning’s sprint race at the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track proved to be considerably shorter than expected and extremely messy when a false start and confusion over the lights caused mayhem on the grid. The upshot when the race restarted was a fine first win of the season for William Buller (Fortec Motorsport), though he was chased the short distance to the flag by Rupert Svendsen-Cook, while Antonio Felix da Costa (Hitech Racing) snatched yet another podium from under the noses of the rest of the pack, the newcomer showing very strongly since he joined the series last time out at the Nürburgring. Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) won the Rookie Class by virtue of being the only driver in the class.
Before the start Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) and Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) were both penalised for their actions in yesterday’s race, and were sent to the back of grid for the start of this race. In Idafar’s case all it did was move him from one side of the line he was already due to start on to the other. For Jaafar it was more serious, dropping him from 8th to 19th.
As 10:00 am rolled around, the 20 cars duly lined up to take the start, which was when the trouble started. Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing) has his arm in the air to indicate he had a problem, so the organisers opted to abort the start. To indicate as much, they turned the yellow gantry lights on. This caused confusion in the drivers, Svendsen-Cook assuming the start had been given. He set off, Buller hesitated, and in the pack Pipo Derani (Double R Racing) clipped Lloyd, bounced across into the path of Scott Pye (Double R Racing), and was out on the spot. Pye staggered a little further before coasting to a halt on the side of the track. Meanwhile, Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) was also clipped by something, and launched into the air. It wasn’t a proper flying lesson but it was enough to heavily damage the suspension and put the Dutchman out of the race as well. The Safety Car was scrambled to pick up the pack, and then shortly afterwards the race was red-flagged.
After some time it was announced that the race would restart and run over 15 minutes (or 7 laps), but when the cleanup took longer than expected that was reduced to 13 minutes or 6 laps, whichever came first. At least this time the start went smoothly, with Buller getting away in the lead ahead of Svendsen-Cook, while da Costa got a superb getaway from 6th to be 3rd at the end of the first lap. In the pack there was a great deal of bumping and barging, with Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) looking for the answer to da Costa’s speed, while Felipe Nasr (Carlin) also tried to find way through to the front, battling for position with Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport). Meanwhile Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport) had gone off after clashing with Jack Harvey (Carlin), who’d been given a hefty shove by Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing).
It wasn’t long before the Foresti/Nasr battle resolved itself, when Foresti fought back against Nasr’s latest attempt to go past, and Nasr ended up spinning and losing 3 places, leaving Harvey to have a go at Foresti instead. Clear of all the fighting, Buller continued on towards the flag, towing Svendsen-Cook with him, while da Costa set a new fastest lap.
Just outside the top 10, Idafar was now locked in battle with Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) as he tried to relieve the Chinese driver of 11th place, while ahead of them Nasr was bottled up behind Lloyd and trying to find a way through. At the same time Harvey was now having a real go at Foresti, and was finally able to get through. As Idafar bundled Fong out of the way, Nasr got the drop on Lloyd, giving the Welshman a bit of a nudge. Lloyd ran wide and Nasr went through, Lloyd only just able to stop Jaafar going past as well.
With two laps to go, meanwhile, Tincknell was awarded a drive through penalty for “abusing track limits at the start” which took him completely out of contention. In the closing stages Lloyd had to work very hard to hold off Jaafar, especially as Idafar and Fong were also backed up behind the pair of them. Jaafar was looking very keen on the idea of moving up a place and when the opportunity presented itself he didn’t hesitate to take it, even if it did mean running way over the white lines to do it. He was through and there wasn’t enough of the race left for Lloyd to come back at him.
And so, with the fastest race lap to his credit as well, Buller came home to his first win of the season, from Svendsen-Cook, da Costa, Magnussen, Huertas, Foresti, Fantin, Nasr and Jaafar. 11th was Lloyd, holding off Idafar and Fong all the way home, then came Yann Cunha (T-Sport), Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport), Rookie Class winner Sakurai and Tincknell.
The fastest laps were set by Buller and Sakurai.
Weather: Overcast, humid.