Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) was a reluctant non-starter for Round 10 after his huge accident in the morning's race. Clipping Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing) in the rear suspension, the Brazilian was launched into the air,...
Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) was a reluctant non-starter for Round 10 after his huge accident in the morning's race. Clipping Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing) in the rear suspension, the Brazilian was launched into the air, and hit the bridge. The accident was incredibly violent and the car was too far gone to be rebuilt, even had the tub not been cracked. It looked more like an aircraft crash than a racing accident. Incredibly, Bruno was fine, though he wasn't very happy about it.
Even without Senna, this looked like it might have the makings of a great race. For once one of the Raikkonen Robertson Racing cars wasn't on pole this year. Instead it was Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport). After his first F3 win at Mondello Park three weeks ago, it was clear that Jarvis wanted that feeling again, and as the local specialist there seemed to be a real possibility that he might just get it. Certainly all the way from the start/finish line to the first corner it looked like he might have the power to stop Mike Conway (Double R) from making it a clean sweep for the Mercedes engined cars. Jarvis held the lead into the first corner, with Conway settling in behind, but then he pushed his way past before the race was even half a lap old. Behind them, Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport) made a charge for places, barging past James Jakes (Hitech Racing) and then banging wheels with Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), leaving the Dane with bent suspension. As it was, Buurman has to tuck in behind Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), while Jelley was stuck behind Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), the German being slightly cautious about his teammate ahead, not wanting a repeat of his morning's embarrassment (when he put Bakkerud out of the race).
Interestingly, while Conway had managed to get ahead, he was having real problems breaking away, and Jarvis simply tucked in behind him, looking threatening. He was certainly trying to come back and would continue to do so for as long as he could. As they crossed the start/finish line a lap later, they were nose-to-tail as Jarvis looked to make his move. Conway was able to hold him off, while Engel was clinging to 3rd ahead of Jelley and Buurman, both of whom wanted to take it from him if they could. In the National Class, Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) was leading for a change, and at least temporarily had a cushion between himself and Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) in the shape of Championship Class runner, Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing). It might not last long, but he was going to enjoy it while he could.
Jarvis, meanwhile, was busy setting some very fast laps, including the fastest lap of the race so far. But no matter what he did, he still had Conway to contend with. Into Russell under braking he was able to catch up, but actually being able to make the challenge stick was another matter altogether, though it certainly wasn't for want of trying on Jarvis' part. Further back, Reindler got clear of Morgado, which left the South African driver with Gonzalez on his tail once again. However, Gonzalez had problems of his own for a change, and was driving an evil handling Dallara. The suspension was broken, which he reckoned made it dangerous to drive. He wasn't about to come in to the pits though, and so he pressed on, making the best of a bad job.
In contrast, right at the back, Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport) was busy aggravating Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing). The issue is that she is in a Championship Class car, and Ricardo is in the National Class, but although she tends to be significantly slower than the National Class runners, she keeps blocking them. And because she's in a newer car with a more powerful engine, they catch her into the corners only to see her power away out of the corners. And it keeps on happening to Ricardo in particular. He certainly wasn't pleased to see her just in front of him yet again.
At the front, the pressure from Jarvis was keeping Conway very focused, and prompted him to up the pace, setting a new fastest race lap in his efforts to get ahead. He still couldn't shake the Carlin driver off though, Jarvis responding with a faster lap time of his own. He just wouldn't let go, it seemed! He still had Engel acting as rear gunner, which must have helped, and was just as well considering what was going on further back. Jelley was holding off Buurman and Jakes, while Bakkerud now had a train on his tail. James Walker (Hitech Racing), Stuart Hall (Fortec Motorsport), Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), Duran and Alberto Valerio (Cesario Formula UK) were stuck together as if connected by invisible chains. It looked as if it might all end in tears. And on lap 7 it did. Coming into the Esses Valerio attempted to tow past Duran, but instead clipped the Mexican's rear suspension. Valerio limped round to the pits and retired with broken left front suspension parts, while Duran was stranded out in the boonies. It was tempting to say "he who lives by the sword." although not anywhere in earshot of Duran.
It was no great surprise when the Safety Car was made ready to take over the field, though at least this time it was achieved in a much more measured way than it had been to effect Senna's rescue, it being obvious that Duran was fine.
The order was Conway, from Jarvis, Engel, Jelley, Buurman, Jakes, Bakkerud, Walker, Hall, Kennard, Reindler, Morgado, Gonzalez, Juho Annala (Performance Racing), Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3), Martin Kudzak (Fluid Motorsport), Ihara, Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing) and Teixeira, who had lost out to his teammate as a result of being stuck behind Ihara.
Oddly, given the fact that the accident was not especially severe, the Safety Car was out for a very long time. And when its lights did go out, signaling that it was about to pull off, Conway again slowed everything down to an extreme level, before speeding up again, causing a certain amount of malcontented muttering as a result. It also meant he controlled the restart neatly, despite Jarvis trying to go round the outside of his adversary. Conway responded by blocking the Carlin man, and that allowed Engel to have a look and see if he could get past. He couldn't, and he fell back into Jelley's clutches as a result. Jelley tried to squeeze through, got pushed wide, and Buurman saw an opportunity where perhaps none existed. Whatever the reality of the situation, the result was that they were three abreast towards Russell, with Engel the filling in the sandwich. It was great stuff for the spectators! Engel managed to hold onto his third place, despite the best efforts of the other two, and Jelley slammed the door hard on Buurman to make the Dutchman back off. That let Jakes through as well, the Yorkshire lad slotting into 5th place on what has been his best weekend of the season so far. It also left Buurman with Bakkerud wondering if he could get by. The answer was no, not with suspension damage like that, but he couldn't be blamed for looking!
Right at the front, Jarvis was still looking for a way past Conway, and was still not finding it, though he did reduce the gap considerably. Meanwhile, in the National Class, there was now a bit of a shuffle, with Ihara pitting with a puncture and thus being out of the way (Teixeira hit her), while Kudzak fell back, as did Morgado. That put Gonzalez into the lead, from Annala, who was all over the leader now. That shuffle was reflected at the front by Hall slipping out of contention and down to 11th place. Gonzalez then lost ground after it all went wrong at Russell, while Morgado also slipped a place after a cross-country moment. What all this meant was that Annala now led from Khateeb. Of course Gonzalez set about trying to recover and was soon all over Avila as a result. Despite the car now looking very nasty, he was through as they came up the pit straight, and he then set about Khateeb for 3rd place. Annala was fairly safe as he was quite a way ahead, but everyone else was nervous now. It didn't take long for Khateeb to lose his podium place to Gonzalez, but that was as far as the T-Sport driver was able to get; time simply ran out for him.
At the front, Jarvis was still harassing Conway, which led to them trading fastest laps, Jarvis eventually getting the better of the Double R Racing driver with a time of 1:02.811, but he still couldn't find a way past, no matter what he tried. Every time he closed the gap, Conway would open it up again. And so it went, all the way to the flag. Conway again won, with Jarvis' second place on the road moving him up to second place in the Championship too. Engel hung on to 3rd, with Jelley, Jakes, Buurman, Bakkerud, Walker, Kennard and Hall completing the top ten. Reindler was 11th, from a delighted National Class winner, Annala, while Morgado, Gonzalez, Khateeb, Avila and Kudzak rounded out the Class. Ihara was last, a couple of laps down after her pit stop.
Fastest laps went to Jarvis and Morgado.
Next Race Meeting: Rounds 11 & 12, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, July 28th/30th.