Weather: Cold, cloudy, dry.
There was a distinct possibility that this was going to turn out to a bit odd, with Nelson Piquet (Piquet Sports) not on pole where he thought he should be (and not even on the front row, having lost out to Alvaro Parente of Carlin Motorsport in the very last seconds of practice), and Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) really wanting to make the most of his hard-earned pole position. On the warm up lap, Piquet was weaving madly in an attempt to get some heat into his tyres. The fact that he was doing this in front of P1's Ernesto Viso wasn't exactly calculated to win him any friends, but what the hell, eh?
When the lights finally turned green for the first time this season, it was clear that Piquet had done the right thing, though it didn't help him as much as he'd hoped, as Carroll made a blinder of a start, leaving Parente trailing in his wake, and under pressure firm Piquet and James Rossiter in the Fortec Motorsport car. Behind them, Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport) seemed to be frozen to the spot, which was a bit awkward for everyone behind him. However, everyone eventually headed down towards the first corner, with Carroll almost a full car's length clear of Parente by the time they got there. It made you stop and wonder just what P1 had been up to over the winter months. Never one to take things like that lying down, Piquet squeezed round the outside of Parente on their way to the Craner curves, in what was probably the move of the race. The Portuguese could find no answer, promptly losing another place to Rossiter, and so the Brazilian was able to set off in hot pursuit of a rapidly disappearing Carroll.
Further down the order, Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) took a trip through the McLeans gravel, tripping up Adam Langley-Kahn (Alan Docking Racing) and slowing himself down significantly in the process. He emerged dead last behind the man from Mango Racing, Ajit Kumar. They may be friends off the track, but Chandhok was none too pleased to find himself staring into the Bollywood actor's exhausts. Parente's rough introduction to Britain, meanwhile, continued when he lost places to both Viso and Dirani as they tried to take him in a pincer movement going three abreast into Redgate. These boys were not playing nicely, but Parente hung on in there.
The top three seemed to be settling in quite nicely by the time they came back into view, with Carroll leading comfortably from Piquet and Rossiter while Parente tried desperately to hold off Viso and the rest, Dirani having lost ground and dropped behind Clivio Piccione (Carlin), and Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing). It was only a matter of time before there was a further reshuffle, when Thompson got it badly sideways and in the resulting bumping and barging Chandhok was able to make up a whole raft of places in an attempt to at least get within sniffing distance of a points finish. It was as well that something was happening in the second half of the field, because it surely wasn't at the front with Carroll simply continuing to power away from the rest of them, Piquet giving game but hopeless chase. At least Parente was now starting to fight back, having finally managed to get some heat into his tyres. Judging by the way he was harassing Rossiter now, he was more than keen to make up for his awful start. The trouble was, he still had Viso on his tail, which was limiting his effectiveness when it came to Rossiter.
And then it was once again all change in the middle when Will Davison (Menu Motorsport), who had been battling with Will Power (Alan Docking Racing), managed to spin and punt Power onto the grass. The rain that had fallen overnight meant that if you got your wheels on the grass there was absolutely no traction. The resulting mayhem served only to have Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) in the Lola-Dome collect Power. That was the end of the line for both of them, and in fact the end of the weekend for Watts, the Lola so badly damaged there was no way it could be fixed in time for the second race of the day. The waved yellows while both cars were dragged to a place of safety at least made things a little calmer for a while, although it didn't stop Kumar from having a spin all on his own at the tail end of the field.
At the front Carroll continued on his magisterial way, making it look oh so easy. Piquet was also now running pretty much alone, while Rossiter was still holding off both Parente and Viso. Piccione was ahead of Dirani, Fairuz Fauzy (Menu Motorsport), Thompson and Marko Asmer (Hitech). The recovering Chandhok was next, with Lucas di Grassi (Hitech) and James Walker (Hitech) just ahead of the Scholarship Class leader Barton Mawer (Performance Racing). He had some protection from Ryan Lewis (T-Sport), who was running second in the class, in the shape of Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec), the Irish youngster not having an easy time of it on his introduction to F3. Behind Lewis was Davison, recovering from his earlier escapade. Langley-Khan was just ahead of Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing), and Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme). Kumar was a lap down and now caught in the middle of the pack after his spin. To be fair to him, he may not look like a racing driver, but he was at least having the common sense and courtesy to let the others past him tidily, moving out of the way whenever necessary.
And then they took the yellow flags back in.
It was all some people needed. Di Grassi made an attempt to get past Chandhok, a move that started a long way back and was clearly never going to work, while at the front Carroll prepared to start lapping the back- markers. Viso, meanwhile, had solved the problem of Parente by nudging the Portuguese into the gravel at Redgate. Parente went through the gravel backwards and emerged again down in 9th, having discovered that Viso can fight dirty at times. The Clerk of the Course thought so too, inviting Ernesto to come and discuss the matter with him afterwards. Immediately afterwards, though, he was too busy with Rossiter to be worried about he consequences. For a brief moment it looked as if that battle was about to turn into a scrap for 2nd, when Piquet, pushing hard to catch Carroll, spun. However, he was able to recover, and was so far ahead of Rossiter that he was still in 2nd place by the time he made his way back onto the track.
The battle between di Grassi and Chandhok finally went the way of di Grassi, the Brazilian barging through on the inside of Redgate, while a little further up Viso was giving Rossiter quite a savaging, the Venezuelan trying everything he could think off to grab that podium place. He had further problems when Dirani caught up with him, after Piccione ran into difficulties, but it didn't stop him wanting to pass Rossiter. A couple of laps later he had another go, but couldn't quite make it stick, no matter how much he wanted to. Piccione, meanwhile, dropped even further back when he managed to get into a spin. This really wasn't good and shouldn't be happening to a man of his experience levels.
At the front, Carroll was now around 17 seconds ahead of Piquet, and still pulling away regardless of anything Piquet could dream up to try and catch him. Rossiter was also having a quieter time of it now that Viso had something else to think about. Dirani was after that 4th place and was determined to take it off him if he could. It wasn't going to be easy, but he seemed determined. Dirani repeatedly attacked Viso, trying to go round the outside, the inside, underneath if necessary! For an entire lap, Dirani tried and tried again, giving Viso no peace at all, but finally he was through. Of course, Viso fought back but it didn't help. He had to give ground, settling for 5th place, just ahead of Thompson.
Carroll came home to a rapturous welcome from his team (giving them their first Championship Class victory) and his Mum, while Piquet settled for 2nd, determined to improve his results in Round 2. Rossiter was a somewhat surprised 3rd, from Dirani, Viso, Thompson, Fauzy, Parente, Asmer and di Grassi. Chandhok finished 11th and thus scored no points at all, while Piccione, Walker and Davison all finished ahead of the Scholarship Class winner, who was not Mawer, despite that fact that the Australian had led from the very first lap. He looked all set to take a victory when Lewis snatched it from him on the very last corner. It was a bitter disappointment to team and driver, but a fine opportunistic move on Lewis's part. Third in class was Langley-Khan, from Calasan and Jelley, with Kumar two laps down.
Unsurprisingly, Piquet set the fastest lap in the Championship Class, while Lewis was quickest in the Scholarship Class.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite