At Snetterton this morning poleman Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) held his nerve and his position to win the 20 minute sprint race from a determined Adriano Buzaid (Carlin) and William Buller (Hitech Racing), the later after a charge through the field on slick tyres when most of the other drivers were on wet weather tyres. The National Class went to Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport), from rival and team-mate James Cole, while youngster Juan Carlos Sistos (Team West-Tec) was 3rd.
It could all have been very different though. Yesterday's race winner Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) was back in 6th for this race, having drawn his position from the hat at the end of Sunday's race. He and the team looked long and hard at the weather after a short sharp shower about 20 minutes before the scheduled start time, and opted to put the Frenchman on slicks before they even left the pit lane. The team hauled a set of wets out onto the grid, but chose not to mount them. This seemed to cause an element of panic in certain quarters, as Fortec Motorsport personnel realised what Vergne was doing and immediately opted to change Oli Webb's car to slicks too, managing to drop it off the jacks in the process. James Calado was also on slicks, as was Buller, as already mentioned, Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3), Lucas Foresti (Carlin) and Idafar. No one else seemed inclined to join them, so this had the potential to be interesting to say the least.
Not unsurprisingly the guys on slicks made pretty poor starts, which allowed Dias to get away into the lead on his wets. The one driver not to get away at all was Adderley Fong (Sino Vision Racing), who was still sitting there was everyone else pulled away from the grid. He managed to get going just as a gaggle of burly marshals started to run towards him. Meanwhile, behind the leader Buzaid was on the move, in pursuit of second placed Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) and Calado was attacking Vergne. Resistance from the Frenchman was strong and Calado settled in to wait.
A lap later and it was starting to look as if going with slicks was not the best choice. Nakajima set the first of the race's fastest laps, while the slick shod runners were waiting for the track to dry out. Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) was up to 4th and had Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) hunting him down. Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) was 6th and holding off Buller, Vergne and Calado. As Calado lost a place to Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), and then Vergne also couldn't hold back the Colombian, the sun came out and the track started to dry ever faster.
It soon became apparent that the men on wets were having to seek out the damper parts of the track. It was just a question of whether the weather would hold or whether the clouds in the distance were going to open up and dump rain all over the track again. At the front Dias was now being hunted down by Nakajima as the slicks start to speed up nicely, and Nakajima set a new fastest lap. While that was going on, there were yellow flags at the Esses as a Fortec car went skating off...it turned out to be Webb, and although he was able to get going again, he was now a long way distant.
With the fastest laps being exchanged between the top three, Idafar was leading the National Class, making the most of the increased grip that his slicks were starting to deliver. Meanwhile, Dias was responding to the threat from behind and attempting to open up a gap at the front. Certainly he started to pull away from Nakajima, who then made a mistake that handed 2nd to a very grateful Buzaid. That didn't help Dias because it soon became obvious that the 2nd placed man had the legs on the leader. Meanwhile, Calado was on the tail of Vergne and the slick speeds were starting to really pick up with slightly more than half distance to go. Buller was the man to benefit most from this, getting the drop on Jaafar for 6th and setting a new fastest lap. The balance had shifted. It was now down to timing - was there enough time left for the slick runners to get back into contention or not? While Buzaid was catching Dias at speed, Vergne was right on the tail of Huertas. However, it didn't quite pan out as Vergne hoped. His attempt to get past failed and the resultant loss of momentum was enough for Calado to come through and take his place. Now Huertas tends not to be an easy man to pass but Calado had a go nonetheless and was through to claim 8th. Vergne tried to follow through but ended up having to wait a lap to find his way through. That pushed Huertas down to 10th and just to make his misery complete he now had Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport) breathing down his neck, the Russian within snatching distance of his first point in 26 races.
Buller was still charging on, though, and was now the fastest of all the drivers, only to have Calado take the fastest lap off him, though Buller promptly reclaimed it again a lap later. It was no surprise to see that Buller was now gaining on McKenzie, catching the Fortec driver hand over fist. Calado, meanwhile, was all over Jaafar now catching and passing him at Riches to claim 7th. A lap later and Vergne did the same, which is no way to treat your team-mate really. The track was now almost completely dry which also made it easy for Buller to squeeze up the inside of McKenzie at Coram for 5th, just as Calado set another new FL.
With less than two minutes (and therefore two laps left), Buller claimed his next victim and deposed Nasr, pushing the teenager back to 5th, which was where he'd started from. As a result McKenzie was also able to close on Nasr but there just weren't enough minutes left for him to push past. There was, however. time for Buller to get on podium, which he duly did, barging past Nakajima for 3rd and starting to close on Buzaid. Buzaid on the other hand was far too busy to worry about what was happening behind him, making a bid to snatch the lead at Russell on the very last lap. He almost made it but didn't have enough momentum, and ended up 0.393 seconds behind the winner as they crossed the start/finish line. Dias was a delighted winner, from Buzaid and Buller, with Nakajima left to rue what might have been in 4th. 5th was Nasr, holding off McKenzie, Calado, Vergne, Jaafar and Snegirev. 11th was Alex Brundle (T-Sport), Foresti, Bridger, Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin), Webb, Fong, Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport), Idafar, Huertas (who had clashed with Foresti on the final lap and self-destructed) - "We don't talk about Carlos," was all Team Manager Anthony Hieatt would say - with Cole and Sistos completing the order.
Fastest laps went to Calado and Idafar.
Weather: Changeable, track wet but drying.