With the titles in both the Championship Class and the National Class decided already, the 2007 champions, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) and Sergio Perez (T-Sport) were both able to relax and simply race. Behind them, things were rather...
With the titles in both the Championship Class and the National Class decided already, the 2007 champions, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) and Sergio Perez (T-Sport) were both able to relax and simply race. Behind them, things were rather more fraught, with the runner-up slots still in dispute, mainly between Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) and Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), as well as the Rookie of the Year title (which is now realistically between Sam Bird and Niall Breen, both of Carlin Motorsport).
Certainly Asmer seemed relaxed enough when the lights went out on the starting gantry, making what was for him a relatively leisurely start. So leisurely, in fact, the Breen nearly got him on the run down to Clervaux. However, he seemed to think better of it at the last minute, possibly in light of what he'd done in the earlier race, and so he settled in behind the Estonian, with Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) also giving chase. Others were not so circumspect. Jelley made an awful start and dropped back to 10th, while Engel was dropped first by team-mate Alberto Valerio, and then by Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), none of which was on the German's list of things to do at Croft. The un- circumspect also included Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), who shoved his way up the order and, in so doing, had Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) off. In the face of all this, Ernesto Otero (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) fell to the back of the pack, ending up with his "friend" from the first race, Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing). You couldn't help thinking that it wouldn't end well. What had already ended badly before the race was a lap old, was a mid-field scuffle between Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) and Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), the Austrian and the Brazilian spearing off at the Hairpin and ending up in the long grass, clearly each blaming the other for his abrupt exit.
With Asmer desperately trying to find a way to shake off Breen, the pair of them soon started to break away from the pack, while Kennard and Mustonen struggled to keep up. Behind him Valerio was now being closely followed by Engel, but there didn't seem to be a real threat from that direction. The interest now was in whether Breen could find a way past Asmer, and also in what Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) and Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) were getting up to in the middle of the pack. Gonzalez has a habit of putting in entertaining drives, and Guerrieri is also capable of some hair-raising stuff on occasions, so it remained to be seen as to whether they would both survive, and if so in what order. It was possible that the hybridized Mygale/Dallara that Guerrieri was driving (the team had run out of Mygale rear wings and needed to do something!) would hamper him, but he seems pathologically incapable of quitting while there are still wheels on the thing, so it looked likely to be a tense battle. It got even tenser when they found themselves on the tail of Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), who didn't have the same level of speed but who wasn't about to let that stop him holding his place. It was obviously a Mansell thing this afternoon, because brother Leo, fresh from scoring his first points in 19 races that morning, was bottling up National Class runner "Frankie" Cheng (Performance Racing), stopping the Chinese driver from pursuing class leader Perez.
Someone for whom the wheels were not still on the thing was Bird, the rookie having suffered a suspension failure halfway round the track on lap 3. He tried his best to keep on going, but the Dallara was pulling sideways on the straights and didn't want to know about corners. Sam limped round to the pits, and into retirement, announcing in despair that he was "going home to eat ice cream till I'm fat!"
After that it seemed the race had settled into a pattern, with Asmer reeling off a series of fastest laps, gradually leaving Breen behind as he continued to push for home. Meanwhile, Kennard, for reasons known only to himself, went straight on at Hawthorn, throwing away a perfectly good 3rd place. He didn't hit anything, but it seemed to take him an absolute age to get going again, and by the time he was facing the right way, everyone else had gone. He set off in pursuit of the pack in what was clearly a less than happy mood.
Someone else who wasn't too happy was Cheng, who was still bottled up behind Leo Mansell, and as a result was now having trouble fending off Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport), the Bahraini driver looking to change his 3rd in class for Cheng's 2nd if at all possible. Cheng was getting quite frustrated, though he was also setting the fastest laps in class as a result of trying to stay ahead. The really weird thing about this was that they had Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing) not far behind them, locked in battle with Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), and weirdly neither of them had fallen off yet. It was strange by anyone's definition of strange.
Meanwhile, at the back, another driver who often falls off promptly did so. Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport) may have been surprised to find another car behind him, especially as it was the recovering Kennard, but at least the Mexican was able to continue. Which was more than could be said for Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport), After a desperate effort from the team to rebuild the gearbox between races, his efforts came to nothing yet again when he pulled off at Sunny, the race only a third of the way over. It was a shame, especially as he's now come very close to scoring that elusive first point more than once, only to have something go wrong.
There was still no sign of anything going wrong the front. Asmer was now running on his own, with Breen a lonely second. Mustonen was having a fairly quiet time too, as were Valerio and Engel. The erstwhile 3rd placed man, Kennard, was not having a quiet time in comparison. Ahead of him Al Khalifa had got it all wrong, trying to hold off Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing) and was off in a cloud of dust, rejoining somewhat behind the Championship Class runner, and then Kennard caught Jensen, bundling the Icelander out of the way somewhat unceremoniously at Clervaux. Meanwhile, the next retirement came when Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) rattled into the pits and never rejoined. The rate of attrition was far less than in the morning, but was nonetheless more than we've been used to of late.
As Asmer continued on his stately way, Gonzalez was having trouble with Jelley. Jelley was trying to salvage something after his poor start, while not far behind, Teixeira was clinging onto 12th place, despite Jackson all over his rear wing. Both battles would resolve themselves, with the dispute over 12th taking less time. With ten laps to go, Teixeira couldn't hold the Irishman off any longer, promptly losing not only 12th, but four further places on the same lap. That dropped him back into the clutches of Kennard, who promptly set about him too. The Angolan was having a rough afternoon, it seemed.
With 6 laps to go, Asmer was merrily lapping the backmarkers, while the more discerning spectators were keeping an eye on Gonzalez and Jelley, while perhaps wondering why exactly Leo Mansell was trying to pass Perez at this late stage. He wouldn't get up into the points, and there was little to be gained, though the Mexican was unlikely to resist, not wanting to get into a pointless scrap with a Championship Class runner and risk losing his National Class victory. Mansell backed off. And as the race moved into its final laps, so too did Jelley. At least he tried to. Coming into Clervaux "I had a look, then backed off, but he let me through. Perhaps he remembered that the last time I was alongside him he ended up on his head!" It was a bit odd, but Stephen wasn't about to refuse if Rodolfo chose to back off. He was through in a very neat manoeuvre. And that was the last bit of excitement.
The chequered flag greeted Asmer yet again, and he came home to another victory. Breen was now a rather distant 2nd, ahead of Mustonen, Valerio, Engel, Greg Mansell, Guerrieri, Jelley, Gonzalez and Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), who mystifyingly looked somewhat lacklustre here. 11th was John Martin (Alan Docking Racing), leading home Jackson, National Class winner Perez, Leo Mansell, Cheng, Kennard, Teixeira, Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing), Al Fardan and Otero. The final three classified runners were Garcia Samano, Al Khalifa and Jensen (who'd had a torrid afternoon).
Fastest laps were set by Asmer and Cheng.
Next meeting: Rockingham, Northamptonshire, 29th/30th August 2007