At Silverstone this afternoon the changing weather conditions played into James Calado's hands, the Carlin driver coming home to a well-deserved win after a thrilling battle with team-mate and series leader Jean-Eric Vergne. 3rd went to early...
At Silverstone this afternoon the changing weather conditions played into James Calado's hands, the Carlin driver coming home to a well-deserved win after a thrilling battle with team-mate and series leader Jean-Eric Vergne. 3rd went to early leader Lucas Foresti, also for Carlin, the Brazilian unable to hold off the more experienced men who would eventually overtake him. The National Class was won by Team West-Tec's Juan Carlos Sistos after a poor tyre call by James Cole (T-Sport) and a spin from Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) which led to a seriously disgruntled looking podium at the end of the 30 minute race. The Invitation Class was won by Carlos Mu?oz (Mucke Motorsport), the only finisher in the category.
The trouble started before the race when the weather took a turn for the unpredictable, clouds looming large and black while the sun was still shining on the pit lane. Even before they lined up to start the race there was a brief shower which would make for a greasy track. The rain stopped but more was threatening so Cole pitted to change from slick tyres to wets, while everyone else remained on slicks. That in effect meant Cole would start from the pits.
At the start Vergne was slow off the mark letting Foresti into the lead. Meanwhile, Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) in 3rd had Calado all over him. It didn't take James long to get the drop on the youngster to go through and set off after the leaders, pulling Adriano Buzaid (Carlin) with him as he went after Svendsen-Cook had a hairy moment and nearly lost it, recovering in time to hang onto 5th. Meanwhile Vergne took advantage of a mistake from Foresti to ease through into the lead. It looked like it was going to be business as usual then. With Jev breaking away from the pack, Calado was soon through into 2nd after getting a run on Foresti at Copse.
In the National Class Idafar was leading by a long way, while at the front Calado was in hot pursuit of the leader though he couldn't quite shake off Foresti as he did so, the Brazilian reluctant to relinquish a potential win quite so easily despite not being in quite the same league as Vergne or Calado. The trouble was he now had Buzaid on his tail and Svendsen-Cook was in 5th and looking threatening, or at least as threatening as a blond teenager ever can. Meanwhile, the gap at the front was already over 1.5 seconds after just two laps, and with a fastest lap already to his credit already Vergne was looking set to romp home to yet another victory. However, it was about to get really interesting With the sun shining on one side of track but heavy rain falling on he other and 14 laps still to run, the face of the race was about to change and there were decisions to be made, mainly whether to stay out on slicks and risk sliding off or come in and change to wet weather tyres with the possibility that it would dry out again and the rubber would start to fall apart rapidly. Cole was the first to come back in, changing back to the wets he had already started on, and dropping himself to last overall as a result. T-port and their driver might have made the right call, but might just as easily have put themselves in a position where they would look pretty idiotic before the race was done. It was a judgment call and not an easy one.
That opened the floodgates though, and while Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) slipped past Svendsen-Cook as the latter struggled to find grip, both Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) and Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) called into the pits for wets. Others would soon also take the same course of action though none of the top ten seemed at all inclined to follow suit. Calado was busy closing on Vergne despite the car snaking as he did so, Vergne having to go very wide at Brooklands to find enough grip to keep the challenger at bay.
Meanwhile, Yann Cunha (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) joined the pit visitors, as did Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3), just as Cole ventured back out on his new wets, the subject of interest from those who still weren't sure. How fast would he be able to go on treaded tyres? Would he be quicker than the slick shod runners straight off? Certainly some of them were struggling out on the increasingly slippery track, including William Buller (Hitech Racing), the youngster having a great deal of difficulty with Oli Webb (Fortec Motorsport) before finally finding a way past into 8th place. From behind them though the rush for a change of rubber continued, with Idafar, Alex Brundle (T-Sport), Mu?oz, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport) and Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) all coming in, the latter somewhat to the surprise of his team. It was mainly those with nothing much to lose who chose to gamble in this manner, and of course Idafar's stop handed the National Class lead to Sistos.
At the front though, it was all still to play for, with Calado closing up on Vergne and seeming better able to find the necessary grip. It wasn't long before they were nose-to-tail through Brooklands before they found themselves caught up in traffic at Luffield. Calado moved to go up the inside at Copse, but Vergne wasn't giving an inch. If James really wanted the win, then he was going to have to work hard for it. As they crossed the line again Vergne was hanging on by two car lengths and Calado was hanging back and having a bit of a think about what to do next. What he did next was tear into the Vale and pull alongside, but again Vergne was having none of it and again Calado had to drop back.
Elsewhere in the pack Dias, on wets, was now lapping around 3 seconds a lap faster than Calado, but as he was still a long way back and the rain was starting to ease again, it looked as if the leaders had made the correct choice to stay out. They still had to survive what might some tricky moments, but it looked like the best option. With the leading duo locked in furious combat Foresti was now going quicker than they were and was starting to close the gap to them, but they were only interested in each other. Calado thought he saw an opportunity at Beckets and had another go, running side-by-side with Vergne. They were still alongside at Stowe and Calado dived for the inside at the end of the Vale but once more had to give way as Vergne once more pulled back ahead. A lap later and it finally resolved itself when Vergne again went wide at Brooklands, this time running out of track temporarily, thus allowing Calado through and into the lead and bringing their heated squabble to a safe end. Any chance of coming back for Vergne was ended by Cunha going off at Copse and causing a display of yellow flags, and by then he had Foresti breathing down his neck and was having to fight to hold onto 2nd now. After a bit of a moment at Stowe he almost dropped another place but was able to catch the car before it got away completely. And that was all Calado needed to put some distance between himself and his pursuer.
With the track starting to dry again, back in the pack Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) had taken 7th from Buller, who was now having car problems, his engine sounding increasingly rough as the race wore on. Just ahead of them, Nasr was right on Buzaid for 4th and the two of them were also catching Foresti, making rather too many Brazilians in rather too little space. It had the potential to get more than a bit messy out there. However, the main attention was still on the front, with the slicks-shod runners now faster again. Vergne was some way back but we still had around 10 minutes left to run, and the Frenchman has proved more than once this season that he cannot be considered out of the running until the chequered flag falls at end the race. Could he do anything? Or was Calado so determined not to cede the title battle to Vergne until he was absolutely forced to. Certainly he was still well ahead, leaving the top ten to rearrange themselves a number of times before the race ended. There was a brief yellow flag zone after Cole spun off but was able to get going again. Foresti, on the other hand, was still hanging on to 3rd overall for dear life, with Nasr looking for a way through on Buzaid at Club, and Buzaid looking quite determined to find a way past Foresti into Copse. When that didn't work, Foresti was able to ease ahead slightly, though he couldn't relax, at least not yet. A little further back, by contrast, Buller's woes were becoming more pronounced, and as the car became ever sicker. Oli Webb (Fortec Motorsport) went through to claim 9th. That left Buller under pressure from Dias, but then Dias lost 10th to Nakajima, and it didn't take the Japanese long to get past the stricken Dallara. It was turning into a day to forget for Buller and he wasn't alone.
As it started to rain heavily again, and Calado motored round to victory, with Vergne now in splendid isolation behind him, Foresti was again having to resist the pressure from Buzaid, the two of them going very wide at Stowe on the last lap. The end result was the two of them stayed were they were though they were lucky Nasr wasn't close enough to come through. In the National Class life was getting interesting too, as Idafar spun out of contention, handing 2nd place to Cole, something that didn't seem to cheer Cole up any.
And so Calado came home to his 4th victory of the season, utterly delighted with himself and with the closeness of the racing against a fellow driver whom he knew he could trust, and who he felt had been absolutely fair during the course of their battle. Foresti was 3rd and happy with his first podium of the season, having held off the more experienced Buzaid and Nasr. 6th was Svendsen-Cook, from Huertas, McKenzie, Webb and Nakajima. Dias was 11th, just out of the points, ahead of Jaafar, Snegirev, Lloyd, Mu?oz, Brundle, Sistos, Bridger, Cole and Cunha. Idafar was 21st and the last classified runner.
Fastest laps went to Vergne, Idafar and Mu?oz.
Weather: Damp, cool, changeable.