This afternoon in Bucharest Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) went a long way towards keeping his championship hopes alive after a dominant victory over Carlin team-mates Oliver Turvey and Jaime Alguersuari. In the National Class Salman...
This afternoon in Bucharest Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) went a long way towards keeping his championship hopes alive after a dominant victory over Carlin team-mates Oliver Turvey and Jaime Alguersuari. In the National Class Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) finally claimed a victory after a series of podium places, leading Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing) to the finish. Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) finished 3rd in class which was enough to make him 2008 National Class champion.
At the start, it was clear that Hartley was on fine form in the 33C (91.4F) heat. He led away with Turvey following him into second after blocking Alguersuari into the first corner. Meanwhile, from dead last Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) was already moving up the order but that was pretty much because he'd had a word with the National Class runners and they'd agreed to let him through so he could get back in contention. It's lucky for him that he's popular in the paddock. Another driver on the move at the start was T-Sport's Sergio Perez, who was also trying to keep his championship chances alive after a less than satisfactory qualifying session in the morning. He was up to 8th and pushing hard. However, the biggest shuffle was in the National Class, where Bridger and Steven Guerrero (T-Sport) who started first and second were now 4th and 3rd respectively, and Al Khalifa was leading from Lloyd by quite a large margin. Afterwards none of them seemed too sure what had happened at the start, apart from to say it was chaotic.
The International Class was still largely in the order they qualified, which left Hartley in charge, from Turvey, Alguersuari, Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) and Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport). Behind him Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing) was all over Max Chilton (Hitech Racing) for 6th, in what looked as if it might also become quite a messy scrap. Ericsson, meanwhile, has eased his way to 15th while unusually Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport) passed Guerrero and Bridger to try and get back on terms with the rest of the International Class. A slight error from Mustonen and Perez was suddenly on the Finn's case, but Hartley was untroubled by any of this, pulling away steadily from his team-mates and setting a series of fastest laps.
A lap later and Ericsson was now 14th, up another place, while Hartley had opened up healthy a gap and could concentrate on staying away from the walls. Elsewhere Henry Arundel (Double R Racing) was holding off Devaney as they went into the Chicane, though he couldn't hold the Irishman off for ever. At the same time Guerrero was holding up Bridger who was all over him, while Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport) passed the seemingly completely out of his depth Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport) to try and catch Bridger. And then it all went very badly wrong. Guerrero came out of turn 9 and lost his grip, slamming into the wall and breaking the car, while behind him Major clouted Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport), pushing him in the barriers and then, for good measure, collected Wilson and put him out of contention as well. While Major sat there with his brakes on fire, Wilson limped slowly to the pits and the other two were out on the spot. Inevitably, the Safety Car was scrambled, destroying the lead Hartley had built up and probably frustrating the New Zealander no end, but there was no other choice with Dallaras littering the scenery.
And so, as they settled in behind the Safety Car, the order was Hartley, from Turvey, Alguersuari, Guerrieri, Abay, Chilton, Mustonen, John Martin (Double R Racing), Perez (who had lost a place) and Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing). 11th was Arundel, from Devaney, Ericsson, Al Khalifa, Teixeira, Oliver Oakes (Eurotek Motorsport) in the only Invitation Class car, and the last man standing, Bridger.
Five laps later and wreckage had finally been cleared away. Hartley controlled the start beautifully, keeping calm and holding back before they crossed the line, the better to open up a gap over Turvey again. However, back in the pack the seeds of further trouble were being sewn, when Perez came through with a seriously smoking Honda. The engine was clearly about to give and Sergio was leaving oil all over the racing line which was likely to trip someone up. A lap later and it was definitely all over for Perez, though others were still in the fight. Mustonen was trying all sorts as he tried to pass Chilton, while Devaney found his way past Arundel for 10th. A lap after that and trouble again reared its head with Arundel going off at the roundabout that constitutes the final corner of this circuit, thus letting Ericsson through and giving the marshals a good workout as they tried to remove the Englishman from the racing line. He wasn't the only one in trouble. While Hartley continued on his way to the flag, and Ericsson edged him out of a point for fastest lap, Teixeira found some oil at turn 9, spun, narrowly missed the barriers on both sides of the track, and ended up stranded in the middle of the road, square on to the oncoming traffic.
With the Angolan's car in a bad position, and the race distance almost reached, the organizers very sensibly hauled out the red flag and then the chequered and declared the result a lap back. And so Hartley won from Turvey and Alguersuari in yet another Carlin 1-2-3, while Guerrieri finished a creditable 4th on his return to the series. Abay was 5th from Chilton, who managed to hold off Mustonen all the way to the flag, and they were followed home by Martin, Grubmuller and Devaney. Ericsson missed out on a points placing, but scored a point for fastest lap, while behind him Al Khalifa won the National Class and got a point for fastest lap, ahead of Lloyd, Oakes and Bridger. There were no other finishers.
Weather: Very hot, sunny.