For the second race of the day, the grid lined up, but at least this time they were in the right place. There was no need for the reverse shuffle that had to be done in the morning. However, there were similarities - we had...
For the second race of the day, the grid lined up, but at least this time they were in the right place. There was no need for the reverse shuffle that had to be done in the morning. However, there were similarities - we had a rash of jumped starts, the worst offenders being Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) and Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport). Bird was so quick off the mark that he was almost immediately into the lead from a fast starting (but legal) Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), and Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), who seemed to have been asleep when the lights went out. In fact he almost lost out to Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) at the start, the Finn at least managing to make a start this time.
Meanwhile there was an Ultimate Motorsport car in the gravel traps, which turned out to be that of Esteban Guerrieri. His race was at a premature end, it seemed.
Meanwhile, Bird was busy building up a lead, which was probably just as well, given that everyone was just waiting for him to be awarded a drive through. The compact Carlin driver was certainly starting to pull away, aided by the fact that Hohenthal was being harassed by Asmer. It was as well someone was, because Niall Breen (fighting with Ultimate Motorsport's Michael Devaney) and Maro Engel (who had dropped back to 10th at the start) were having mixed fortunes, as was Mario Moraes who was very distant. They weren't as distant as Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), who was 16th at the end of the first lap for some odd reason, and was in fact stuck behind the National Class leader "Frankie" Cheng (Performance Racing). Mind you a whole load of people suddenly gained two places when Bird and Gonzalez were awarded the inevitable drive-through penalties. In addition, Alex Waters (Promatecme F3) had come under scrutiny and was also deemed to have jumped the start - considering he was 18th after starting 26th it was clearly a fair cop! Just to keep him company, Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) was also penalised. It looked like being a busy few laps in the pitlane.
Pitlane traffic was further increased by the appearance, at very slow speed, of Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), who had collected a large amount of gravel on his left rear tyre in the aftermath of someone else's accident. After that he managed to get onto the kerbs and damage the wheel, so he had little choice but to come in. However, no one was too interested in Mansell, when at the front of the pack Mustonen was all over Asmer, and Gonzalez was trying to go with him. It was all getting a bit fraught. Someone else having a slightly tougher time than they might have liked was Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), who lost out to a variety of people including Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport) who was apparently unaffected by his flying display in the earlier race or by the fact that after the incident there was nothing on the Dallara that wasn't bent out of shape.
The pressure on Asmer increased rather than decreased when Gonzalez came in to serve his drive through penalty, thus promoting Mustonen to 4th and right onto the tail of the Estonian. A lap later Bird came in, handing the lead to Hohenthal. It wasn't going to be easy for the likeable Swede, though, not with Asmer and Mustonen right with him. By the time Bird re- emerged, he was back in 15th and was behind Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing). He probably didn't like it much, but there was nothing that could be done. He was clearly guilty and he just had to take it and try and make the best of the situation. He promptly set about clawing his way back up the order, getting the drop on Teixeira into Paddock, and passing Cheng in the same place a lap later. Four places further back Gonzalez was trying for a similar recovery drive and was now 18th. Unfortunately for him, he got it all wrong at Surtees trying to pass Waters, who was about to come in for his drive through penalty. It was all a bit of a waste of time and effort, and it seemed such a shame after his morning efforts.
Closer to the front, Asmer was now very close to Hohenthal and was looking very threatening, while Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) was all over the dirt as he tried to catch Devaney, who in turn was desperate to find a way round Breen. Bird's catch up was still going strong too, with him gaining another place by driving round the outside of John Martin (Alan Docking Racing) at Paddock, at the same times as Waters came in for his penalty. That meant that Bird was now 12th behind Martin and Moraes. If he could get past them there was a chance of demoting Kennard for 10th and a point to go with the one he looked likely to get for the fastest lap of the race.
At the back of the field it had all gone pear-shaped again for Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), the Irishman ending up in the gravel at Hawthorns with his rear wing torn off, having tangled with Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing). As they race in the National and Championship classes respectively, it seemed a bit silly, but there you go. Boys will be boys. Castellacci crawled into the pitlane and into retirement while Jackson stayed where he was. Also out of the running finally was Greg Mansell, who pitted once more and never went out again. It was busier in there than on the track.
Bird was still fighting with various people and was now battling Martin again. He passed the Australian, then was in turn re-passed, getting back ahead as the pair of them went into Druids at speed. That left him free to take a run at Moraes, which he duly did going up the inside at Paddock. He was through into 11th and immediately started his pursuit of Kennard, who was a good 8 seconds ahead at this point.
At the very front it looked as if Asmer was playing a waiting game. He didn't need a win, but he wanted one. However, he seemed content to wait and see if Hohenthal would make a mistake or not. The trouble was that Mustonen was now getting ever closer and that wasn't a threat he could afford to ignore. He turned his attention to holding off the Finn, which allowed Hohenthal to pull away a little, at least until they started to lap the backmarkers.
The fastest man on the track was still Bird, though, who was determined to ruffle Kennard's feathers if he could. He was flying now, gaining on the Double F driver at over a second a lap, which meant there was enough time left before the flag for an attempt on that 10th place. He could certainly see the Double R car now, and so he kept right on pushing. At the very front, the leaders were passing the National Class runners, with Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing) scooting out of the way as they came up behind him. Wise move. Somewhere in all of this, Devaney managed to get past Breen who was then left to the tender mercies of Jelley. He wasn't having the best of days really.
As the leaders came up behind Meadows, it started to get very tense. Hohenthal was now being threatened by both Asmer and Mustonen, both of them right with him as they negotiated their way through the traffic. There were waved blues, and by the time it all sorted itself out, Mustonen was through to 2nd and Asmer had dropped back with three laps left to try and recover. Mustonen was now right with Hohenthal and he had a go, trying to get up the inside of the Swede. There was contact and the two of them almost came to halt, before getting going again, Hohenthal still ahead of his opponent. Asmer saw a chance and attempted to get back at the Finn, but couldn't quite make it stick, and the three of them tore across the line in line astern.
Despite confusion about when the race actually ended, Hohenthal had done enough and came home to his first victory of the year. It probably didn't go down too well with his erstwhile team-mates Greg and Leo Mansell, but then again Hohenthal hadn't much enjoyed being shouted at and punched, so this was a very eloquent answer. 2nd, and on the podium for the first time, was Mustonen, with Asmer taking the final podium position. 4th was Devaney, from Breen, Jelley, Engel, Valerio, Grubmuller and Kennard. Bird was very close to that elusive final point at the end, but couldn't quite do it, having to settle for 11th and a point for fastest lap. Moraes was 12th, from Martin, National Class winner, Cheng, Teixeira, Sergio Perez (T- Sport), Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport), Gonzalez, Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing) and Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport). Waters was 21st, ahead of Leo Mansell, Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport), Meadows, Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport) and Jensen.
Fastest laps were set by Bird and Cheng.
Next meeting: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, 26th/28th July 2007.