At Rockingham this afternoon, series returnee Marcus Ericsson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) claimed his first-ever British F3 victory ahead of Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) and Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport). The National Class was won by Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) after Gabriel Dias (T-Sport) was taken out of the race in one of a series of incidents that marred the start of Round 6.
However, the main controversy was caused by Riki Christodoulou, the Fortec Motorsport driver failing to take up his grid spot correctly, instead coming to a halt with his front wheels way over the line. It was always going to lead to trouble. However, first the race got underway, Christodoulou snatching the lead from Ericsson into Turn 2. Behind the pair of them complete chaos was breaking out. It seemed to start with Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) having a very indecisive moment. By the time he'd pulled himself together, multiple collisions had occurred in the pack, with Dias punted out at Zandvoort, Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport) messing it all up and punting Wayne Boyd (T-Sport) out of contention, and Carlos Huertas (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) putting himself in the gravel when he tried to get going again. Just for good measure, Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) and Nick Tandy (JTR) clashed, Tandy managing to keep going but with a badly bent car, while van der Zande was out of the race there and then. By the time the dust settled Buzaid was up to 4th, behind Christodoulou, Ericsson and Arundel, and the Safety Car had been scrambled while the wreckage could be shifted. Dias, Tandy and Victor Correa (Litespeed F3) all pitted for repairs, the latter just as he was being shown the orange and black flag because the officials suspected his car was damaged. Meanwhile, the survivors settled in behind the Safety Car and tried to calm down as much as possible. The order now was Christodoulou, ahead of Ericsson, Arundel, Buzaid, Nakajima, Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport), Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), Garcia, Stephane Richelmi (Epsilon Barazi) and Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport). 11th was Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport), who had had to start from the back after he stalled and who thus avoided most of the mayhem. 12th was Hywel Lloyd (C F Motorsport), from McKenzie, Wayne Boyd (T-Sport), Snegirev and an infuriated Tandy.
On lap 4 the race was restarted, with Christodoulou controlling it well. Behind him, Richelmi tried to make up a place on Grubmuller when Garcia fell back a couple of places and tripped the pair of them up. A lap later and the inevitable penalty board was shown for Christodoulou, the leader being awarded a drive through just as he'd set he fastest lap of the race. He chose to ignore the board and flag, presumably on instructions from the team, and simply kept going. Ericsson wisely decided not to try and pass him on the road, knowing full well the guy in front would have to come in eventually. It simply wasn't worth the risk.
Further back, there was a bit of a tussle going on with Nakajima once again doing his impression of the front of a train, with a whole gaggle of cars bunched up behind him. Ricciardo in particular seemed very keen to get past, taking a lunch into Turn 2 initially, then later trying it on again coming out of the turn. None of it quite worked though, the Australian having to slot back in each time. He just couldn't get close enough no matter what he tried. And he tried some very unorthodox moves...
Tandy, meanwhile, was still in recovery mode, charging up through the back markers until he encountered Richelmi at Turn 3. An attempt to pass the Monegasque saw Tandy drop right to the back of the field again, which must have been more than a little frustrating. It didn't stop him, mind. A clear track in front of him meant he could at least try to salvage a point for fastest lap, especially as that honour was currently with Christodoulou. However, he was now being shown the blag flag for not complying with the drive through penalty. At that stage he gave in and came in, handing the lead to Ericsson who was happy to take it. Just to rub it in, Tandy then claimed the fastest lap, thus leaving Christodoulou with nothing - part possibly from a fine.
Everyone duly moved up a place, and Lloyd then moved up another one, again passing Chilton at Turn 2 just as he had in round 5 earlier in the day. Tandy, meanwhile, had found a safe way past Snegirev and was again making his was back up the order. He wasn't the only one on the move. Lloyd next made a dive at Bridger, but the Litespeed driver proved a tougher prospect, blocking the Welshman effectively while at the same time keeping a sharp eye on Garcia just ahead. The Spaniard was having to work very hard to hold his position, and probably breathed a sigh of relief when Bridger had to divert his attention onto someone else for a while. It didn't alter the fact that if he looked in his mirrors he would be able to see Bridger, Lloyd and Chilton all looming large. Bridger had a go in the now traditional Turn 2 approach, but as a consequence nearly lost the Place to Lloyd as they all exited the turn, and seemed to decide that he might be better not trying anything else. The race now settled right down, the field running in procession until Boyd managed to snatch 11th from Richelmi right at the end of the race.
And so, a year late perhaps, Ericsson won a British F3 race, from Arundel, who had had a relatively quiet time of it once everyone calmed down (and who was grateful for that given the worn state of his tyres). Third was Buzaid, ahead of Nakajima, Ricciardo, Grubmuller, Garcia, Bridger, Lloyd and Chilton. Boyd was 11th, leading home Richelmi, while McKenzie brought his battered Dallara home for the National Class win. The youngster had been hit by several cars in the first lap fracas and reckoned he'd never seen so many crashes in one race. 14th was Tandy and Snegirev brought up the rear as usual.
Fastest laps went to Tandy and McKenzie.
Weather: Hot, sunny.
Next Rounds: Hockenheim, Germany, June 6th/7th 2009.
Please also see race one story: Emotional win for Tandy at Rockingham