By Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
- Christodoulou nabs 2nd race victory
- Hitech team mates take 1, 2 in Oulton
- Weather: Sunny, dry, cool.
Race Report - Round 5 (Race 2)
This morning's sprint race at Oulton Park produced a slightly unusual result for the season so far with not a Carlin driver to be seen anywhere on the podium. Instead, victory went to Hitech Racing's Riki Christodoulou, who led home his team-mate Pietro Fantin, while Fortec Motorsport's Harry Tincknell was 3rd. The Rookie Class went, as it has done four times already this year, to Bart Hylkema (T-Sport).
In bright sunshine the race got underway a little later than planned, but still seemingly too soon for Kevin Magnussen (Carlin). Sitting on pole, the Dane stalled his VW engine at the start and but the time he was able get going, after being narrowly missed by most of the pack, he was last and his hopes of a first win had evaporated along with the morning mist. In effect, this handed the lead to Christodoulou, who was properly grateful and more than happy not to let it go to anyone else. Behind him Fantin was doing his best to keep pace with the leader, while Tincknell was having to worry about the fact that he had Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) and Felipe Nasr (Carlin) looming large in his mirrors. Given the panic-stricken swarm if mechanics all over Nasr's car just before the start, maybe he wouldn't pose much of a threat.
After a bit more of a reshuffle in the pack, Magnussen was a distant 16th, helped slightly by Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) going off at Shell Oils on the first lap, the Bahraini seeming oddly fascinated by barriers this weekend. At the front, meanwhile, Christodoulou was staying calm and trying to open up a gap to his pursuers. Eventually, Fantin found himself alone, but that at least enabled him to set the fastest lap of the race. He certainly wasn't much threatened by Tincknell, who was far too busy making sure that Jaafar didn't get handed an opportunity to get past.
In the middle of the pack the two Sino Vision Racing cars of Hywel Lloyd and Adderly Fong were creating something of a roadblock, at least until Fong dropped back, leaving Lloyd to try and fight his way past Jack Harvey (Carlin) and into the points. Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) was in the middle of the points scorers, but nearly threw it away after he made a mistake at the Chicane. He was lucky to hold onto 8th, especially as Scott Pye (Double R Racing) wasn't that far off and would capitalise on any mistake from the Carlin man. Just ahead of Svendsen-Cook, Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) was having to work hard to hold back Carlos Huertas (Carlin), the latter trying very hard today. Hylkema, meanwhile, was leading the Rookie Class by a very large margin from Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing), and that margin increased when the Japanese span while running all alone at the back of the pack.
While Christodoulou continued to push on at the front, things settled down to a steady procession enlivened only by Lloyd's insistent harrying of Harvey, and a spin from Fong, which dropped the Hong Kong-based Chinese to 18th and last. It seemed the tyres were either not warming up properly in the early cool conditions or they might simply be worn out. Whatever the case, the more successful drivers didn't seem to be having too much trouble, especially if Fantin's speed was anything to judge it by, the Brazilian setting what would be the first of a series of fastest laps. The only other interest came from watching Magnussen trying to salvage something from the wreckage of his missed opportunity; he was all over William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) for 13th now, but wasn't being helped by the fact that Pipo Derani (Double R Racing) would not be shaken loose from his rear wing no matter what the young Dane tried.
At the front Fantin was still trying everything he could think off to catch Christodoulou and would close on him, only to see Riki respond and open up the gap again. It was not particularly exciting stuff and short of someone making a mistake, the order wasn't going to change now. With three laps to go, it was clear that although Fantin was quick, Christodoulou had experience on his side and could make use of that to take his first win of the year. Certainly he knows his way round Oulton Park far better than Fantin does.
There were two last minute developments, but nothing to trouble the leaders, Magnussen suddenly appeared in the pits only to go straight out again in an attempt to give himself some clear air and try for the fastest lap, but he'd left it too late for that to be an effective strategy. Perhaps if he'd done it a couple of laps earlier it might have worked. As it was, it just looked a mite pointless. Meanwhile, right at the back, on the penultimate lap, Sakurai went off yet again, this time terminally, parallel parking the Dallara at Shell, right next to Idafar's car.
The winner, therefore, was Christodoulou, who hopes that this might provoke someone into sponsoring him and thus ensuring he can finish the season. Fantin was just over 2 seconds adrift for the runner up slot, and Tincknell held off Jaafar and Nasr right to the flag. 6th was Huertas, from Foresti, Svendsen-Cook, Pye and Harvey. Lloyd hung on to 11th all the way to the flag, with Yann Cunha (T-Sport) trailing him over the line despite what looked like a smoky engine, and 13th was Buller, from Derani, Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport), Fong, Hylkema and Magnussen.
Fastest laps went to Fantin and Hylkema.