This afternoon at Thruxton Brendon Hartley took his second victory of the day for Carlin Motorsport, and in a clean sweep of the podium his team-mates Oliver Turvey and Jaime Alguersuari claimed 2nd and 3rd making it the team's first 1-2-3 of the season. In the National Class Steven Guerrero (T- Sport) fought Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) all the way to the flag to collect his first win of the season, while series leader Andy Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport) could only sit and watch from 3rd place.
When the lights went out to signal the start of the race, Hartley was ready for whatever Turvey might try this time, having been squeezed out in at the beginning of the first race. He wasn't going to give any ground this time, and duly held onto the lead at the first corner. Further back Alguersuari had made a superb start to move up the order, in contrast to John Martin (Double R Racing), who seemed to be going backwards this time and lost out to the Spaniard. Meanwhile Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing) had got the drop on Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport), and the pair of them were battling for 3rd. However, that all fell apart on their first run through the Chicane. As Tandy tried to hold off Ericsson, the pair of them made contact. Ericsson was out immediately with broken suspension, while Tandy limped on for a while but started to fall back dramatically, having also sustained damage. That let Alguersuari and Sergio Perez (T-Sport) through, though Perez was soon busy holding off Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) who was sticking to him like a limpet. Further back, Meyrick, who started at the back, was hacking up through the field in attempt to at least get on terms with Bridger. He was 3rd in class by the end of the second lap, which was pretty rapid progress in anyone's book.
While Alguersuari was busy setting the fastest lap, Martin set about trying to recoup his loses, but was not coming under pressure from Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), the Swede staging a dive round the outside at Cobb, which Martin had no answer to. Martin made an attempt to come back for 6th but Hohenthal was keeping it thank you. A few seconds later Hartley was the new fastest lap holder, while Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing) made the first of a number of messy assaults on the Chicane that would eventually lead to disaster.
It wasn't long before things started to get really lively again, as Devaney was all over Perez, the Mexican having to defend his position fiercely at the Chicane. Devaney was looking very determined, but Perez really wanted to defend his series lead. It was starting to look like the immovable object and the irresistible force. The only question was which was which! Again it was as well Ultimate had Devaney, because his team- mates were in trouble as usual. This time Ricardo Teixeira made a mistake in the middle of the pack and ended up losing a lot of places as a result.
The trio at the front were now starting to pull away from the rest but they weren't separating out; Turvey was taking a bit of shifting as far as Hartley could see from his mirrors and it didn't help that Turvey now claimed the fastest lap, and was towing Alguersuari with him as he pursued the leader. Turvey seemed to want to prevent Hartley from claiming another win, while Hartley didn't want to let go of it, and they were running nose to tail now, which wasn't helping anyone's nerves at Carlin. They probably weren't the only ones feeling stressed though, as Mustonen once more missed the Chicane and had to sort himself out. This was becoming a bad habit. Further back, while Bridger was crawling all over the back of Guerrero, Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport) managed to wrest 4th in class from Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) on lap 5, only for it all to go pear-shaped a little later when the two of them clashed and both went off, the Yorkshireman going a long way off into the scenery while the Bahraini was stuck on the grass at the Apex of the corner. That handed 4th place to a slightly surprised (and increasingly streamlined) Kristjan Einar of Carlin Motorsport, who didn't need telling twice. That led to an outbreak of waved yellows for a while, which slowed down a number of battles while it was sorted out.
Devaney was again thinking about finding a way past Perez, who was now very much on the defensive again, while Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport) and Henry Arundel (Double R Racing) were side-by-side through the Chicane, the Australian trying to pass the Englishman, but not managing to make it stick. On lap 8, Devaney made his move at Chicane and dived up the inside of Perez. A lap later Perez took it back again by the simple - but extremely brave - expedient of driving round the outside of the Irishman. It wasn't long before all this to-ing and fro-ing allowed Hohenthal, Martin and Mustonen to catch up, which was probably the last thing Devaney wanted to see in his mirrors. Before he knew it he was being harassed by Hohenthal rather more enthusiastically than he would have wished. Things calmed once again as the yellow flags were hauled out again, this time at Church as Teixeira exited stage left.
He was followed by Jackson spinning at Seagrave and losing several places to the National Class boys into the bargain. He wasn't the only one running out of grip. Hohenthal was next to take to the grass on the run to the Chicane for the 11th time. By the time he was facing the right way he'd dropped to 7th but otherwise he could consider himself lucky to get away with it. He was assisted in his recovery by the fact that Arundel was coming under pressure from Abay again, and by Mustonen launching an attack on him. Mustonen attempted to go round the outside of Hohenthal only to spin himself and beach the car at the Chicane, while Hohenthal got two places back by re-passing Arundel and Abay. Abay thought about going with the Swede but didn't quite have the momentum, and then it was all academic because the Safety Car was scrambled while Mustonen - who had taken one of the series new sponsor's banners out as he spun out - waited impatiently to be rescued.
The order as they settled in behind the Safety Cat was Hartley from Turvey, Alguersuari, Perez, Devaney, Martin, Hohenthal, Arundel, Abay and Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport). 11th was Max Chilton (Hitech Racing) whose weekend was not getting any better, from his team-mate Walter Grubmuller, and Bridger, who had finally pressured Guerrero to the point where he could get through to grab the National Class lead, Guerrero, Meyrick (who couldn't do anything much about the two ahead of him), Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing), Einar and the errant Jackson who had now had a pit stop and was a lap down (bit who did manage to rejoin just ahead of the Safety Car).
While a disconsolate Mustonen trudged back to the pits, Hartley wasn't too happy either as he could only watch Turvey catch up and wipe out the 1.5 second lead he'd worked mighty hard to establish. With slightly less than 10 minutes left to run, or 7 laps, the race finally went live again. Hartley controlled the restart nicely, despite having Turvey almost under his rear wing at this point, and almost immediately started to break away again. He wasn't letting anyone take this away from him, not even his team- mate.
Behind the leading trio, Martin was now all over Devaney and Hohenthal had recovered enough to join in too. It was all highly entertaining once more, with Martin having to really defend himself at the Chicane. It wasn't quite enough and Hohenthal was through with six laps left of the race. Chilton then missed Chicane although in his case it didn't really matter as he was not running in the points anyway.
With a couple of laps left to the chequered flag, Abay was still trying to find a way past Arundel and it now seemed that any way at all would do. Arundel wasn't co-operating though. He wasn't the only one. While the top 5 were still relatively close together, Hartley at least had a little breathing space, albeit only 0.423 seconds. Devaney didn't. He'd got Hohenthal all over him and was having to decide between defending himself against that attack, or trying to sort Perez out before the race ended. In the end he would stay where he was, unlike Perez's National Class team-mate Guerrero. In a last ditch effort the Colombian blasted past Bridger with a lap to go to claim his first victory in the category and T-Sport's first National Class win of the year. Behind them Meyrick was holding station while behind him Jackson was having a go at Jensen, before deciding it wasn't a good idea. He backed off rather than having another accident, but you had to wonder what he thought he was doing in the first place as he was a lap down on the field. His misery was compounded when he was fined £325 for speeding in the pit lane and given a 2-second penalty for gaining an unfair advantage by cutting the Chicane early in the race.
When the dust settled Hartley came home to claim his second win of the day, leading a Carlin 1-2-3 with Turvey and Alguersuari locking out the rest of the podium. Perez is still in the lead of the championship after a fine 4th place, despite the efforts of Devaney and Hohenthal. Martin was 7th, from Arundel, Abay and Major. Grubmuller was 11th, from Chilton while Guerrero was 13th overall, winning the National Class to the very vocal delight of his supporters, while Bridger and Meyrick occupied the next two places. Jensen was 16th from Jackson, Einar and Jordan Williams (Team Loctite). There were no other finishers.
The fastest laps of the race went to Andy Meyrick: 124.62 mph, 200.56 kph.
Weather: Windy, warm, changeable.
Next Races: Rounds 13 & 14, Brands Hatch, Kent, 11th/12th July.