After incredibly healthy grids at Monza and Silverstone, we are down two drivers, with Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) and Ben Clucas (Fluid Motorsport) both missing this round. The Angolan is apparently still suffering from the back injury he collected at Silverstone (though there were suggestions of money issues too), while Clucas simply does not have enough budget left to travel as well as race.
As usual Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was the first one out onto the track. It never does him any good, but they repeatedly do it anyway. While a number of the competitors opted to sit in the pit lane for the opening minutes, Lewis went charging round the Eifel Mountains looking for that elusive pole position. Someone else who wasn't hanging around in the pits was Steven Kane, but then the Promatecme F3 driver was struck down with a severe misfire in the morning test session and hadn't actually completed a lap in his Lola yet. It really is beginning to look as if any bad luck in the paddock ends up going his way these days. If there's such a thing as the luck of the Irish (well at any rate the Northern Irish) then Steve has the complete opposite of it. However, it wasn't long before he was back in the pits, so maybe they still haven't cured the problem.
With Lewis enjoying a temporary sojourn at the top of the order, he was quickly joined in battle by Dan Clarke (Double R Racing) and Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport). Clarke edged ahead, and Conway sandwiched him, only for James Walker (Hitech Racing) to leap up to 2nd as well. Bruno Senna (Double R Racing) was another early shower, in 4th, but it didn't look as if any of them would be staying up there for too long, especially as the Carlin boys hadn't gone out to play. The first to emerge was Alvaro Parente, the series leader seeming very relaxed right now. He didn't seem in any hurry to get on track, and as the session developed it seemed he may well have been adopting the right attitude. While he was busy warming up his tyres, Lewis was busy at the front, leaping back up the order to 2nd place, only to be pushed straight back down a place by Senna.
In the National Class, Josh Fisher was heading the order in his Team SWR car, so maybe him uncharacteristically shaving before a race makes you quicker. Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport) would undoubtedly have something to say about it, but at present the West Countryman was enjoying being on top of the pile. Back at the front - as it were - things were not running according to plan, because all of the Carlin cars were outside the top ten, with Christian Bakkerud being highest up in an unaccustomed 13th, with Charlie Kimball languishing in 17th and Parente 19th. You had to wonder if Trevor Carlin had some sort of cunning plan, because if he did now was the time to unveil it. It looked a little more promising a lap later when Bakkerud shot up to 7th, but then it all went quite again. While Walker was still trying to trouble the top 3, the two distant Carlin boys finally appeared in the top ten, with Parente claiming a provisional 3rd, and Kimball grabbing 5th. Meanwhile, Conway was on pole, but he wasn't going to be allowed to keep it for long. Less than two minutes later Parente was back and pole was his by a quarter of a second. And no one would be able to take it off him.
Dirani was trying to get on terms with the Portuguese, and was now 2nd, but again he didn't get to stay there. Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) was looking very keen to salvage something from this season, and he was next to move into 2nd place. To no one's particular surprise, Parente promptly went even faster, and edged away from the Estonian.
At the halfway mark the order was Parente, from Asmer, Dirani, Conway, Clarke, Walker, Kimball, Senna, Lewis and Duran. Bakkerud was 11th, from a seriously dispirited Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing). Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) was ahead of Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport), Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing), Kane who had just emerged from the pits, and Fisher. Barton Mawer (T-Sport) was 20th, from Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing), Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport) Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing), Nick Jones (Team SWR) and Michael Herck (Junior Racing Team), the Invitation Class Belgian having been delayed with an engine problem, and thus having not actually set a flying lap time yet.
Apart from progress from Kane and Herck, that was close to being the end of a fairly pedestrian session. Senna did manage to demote Kimball, while nearly everyone else dived from the pits, including Parente, who collected a flat tyre during his later pole-securing effort. He wasn't showing much of an inclination to go back out, and he wasn't the only one. Kimball pitted for quite a long time, though he at least did go back out. Sadly it didn't help him any, and even with no one else in the top ten still out there, he couldn't squeeze any more speed out of his Avons. Not only that, but he couldn't quite get the car balanced to his liking, so it seemed that anything more in the way of progress was simply not possible. He would have to settle for 8th, though no doubt he still believes he can go racing from there.
Apart from the American's efforts, the only real interest now was watching to see if Herck could set a time faster than 13 minutes (!), which he quickly did. He was up to 16th after his very first flying lap, and was able to gain four more places before the session ended. Kane, on the other hand, wasn't having anywhere near as good a late session run. He was up as far as 15th, but Herck's final effort (which put the Belgian 12th) pushed him back to 15th by the end of the session. By the time the chequered flag came out there was hardly anyone left on the track. This was a bit awkward, as they were all supposed to return to park ferme via the last turn, but most of them were sitting in the pitlane and so had to be pushed away and sent round the long way.
Anyway, once the dust settled Parente was on pole for the 10th time this year, with Asmer, Dirani, Conway, Clarke, Walker, Senna, Kimball, Lewis and Championship Class pole man Duran. In 11th was Bakkerud, who seems to be being troubled with the same misfire he had at Silverstone, from Herck, Bridgman, O'Mahony, Kane, Hollings, Jelley, Kennard, Mawer and Reindler. Fisher was unusually low in the order in 21st, from a frustrated Annala, and what sounds like the Hong Kong firm of solicitors, Ihara, Cheong and Jones.