Changes: We're missing Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing), after an accident at home with a bonfire. He turned up at the circuit on Friday, despite the fact that he'd been hospitalised on Wednesday, so he probably shouldn't have been running...
We're missing Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing), after an accident at home with a bonfire. He turned up at the circuit on Friday, despite the fact that he'd been hospitalised on Wednesday, so he probably shouldn't have been running at all. After two slow and painful test sessions he saw sense and called it a day, flying back home at the end of the day. He was out of the meeting.
In a departure from normal procedure, instead of Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) being the first runner on the track, Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport) was the first man out, the Englishman leaving the pit apron a good twenty seconds ahead of anyone else. As a result, at the end of the first handful of flying laps, Jelley was fastest, ahead of Bruno Senna (Double R Racing) and Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), the local hero. It was odd but at least explicable. Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) shooting up the order to 2nd overall was a little harder to account for. He was replaced by his team-mate, Australian Karl Reindler. As least he's in a Championship Class car, unlike Kennard. In a bid for team solidarity the third ADR runner, Juho Annala, slotted into 3rd overall. None of them would be anywhere near that far forward by the time the session ended.
In a bid to salvage something from a relatively pointless season O'Mahony was really pressing on at his home circuit. With 13 of the field now running, he put in another quick time to claim a very early provisional pole. In the National Class it should come as no surprise to anyone to know that Salvador Duran (P1) was ahead of the rest and was suddenly 2nd overall. Neither he nor O'Mahony got to enjoy their positions of superiority for long, with Jelley and then Senna each taking a brief turn at the top. They'd all reckoned without Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) who quickly edged both Senna and Jelley out. The changes were still coming through thick and fast though, with Duran once more attempting to stake his claim with a time that was good enough for 4th overall behind Kane, Senna and Jelley. He was pushed down a place in the overall scheme of things when O'Mahony clawed his way back to 2nd, but was displaced when Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) decided he fancied a run at the National Class pole and leapfrogged everyone to go 3rd. It was beginning to look as if this might be a very odd race indeed. However, there was still time for everything to change. The first sign of normality came when Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) came out of nowhere to go 2nd on the grid, and he was followed almost immediately by Charlie Kimball in the second of the Carlin cars, the American hoping to clinch the runner-up slot in the title chase before the weekend is out. It looked as if it might be another Carlin benefit after all.
Meanwhile Duran had edged back up the order and was lurking threateningly just behind Hollings. They weren't the only ones locked in a fight for positions. Lewis had tried to claim 4th, but was kicked back a place when Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) grabbed 3rd, only to find that Kimball came straight back at him, and showed every sign of hanging on to the place now he had it.
Late to the party - being Brazilian makes getting up early a no-no it seems - was Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport), the Brazilian re-adapting quickly after his first outing in a Renault World Series 3.5 litre car at Donington last weekend. Certainly his step up the ladder had done his turn of speed no harm at all, something he proved by setting the 6th fastest time of the session. Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) was another beginning to improve as the session started to wear on, and he hauled himself into the top 10, after languishing a long way back for the first half of the session.
This was in direct contrast to Marco Asmer (Hitech Racing) who had only completed two laps, before managing to spin out. This left him languishing in 22nd, and not looking at all happy about it. His mood probably wasn't improved by the fact that the officials didn't seem at all inclined to stop the session and rescue the Estonian. However, when O'Mahony went off, suddenly the situation changed drastically. The red flags came out and both cars were rescued.
At this point the order was Kane, from Parente, Kimball, Conway, Lewis, Dirani, O'Mahony, Senna, Jelley and Bakkerud. Hollings was holding off Duran for the National Class, from James Walker (Fortec Motorsport), Kennard, Josh Fisher (Team SWR), Barton Mawer (T-Sport), Reindler, Annala, Dan Clarke (Double R Racing) and Nick Jones (Team SWR). Cheong Lou Meg (Edenbridge Racing) was 21st, ahead of Asmer and Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport). It was a very neat break in the session, with fifteen minutes out of thirty still to run.
The clean up operation was effected quickly, and the session got underway without too much delay. However, you could be forgiven for wondering if there was any real point in having a half hour session. Parente didn't even bother to go back out, and Kimball went out for a lap or two but soon returned to the pits. They seemed to have made the right decision. The improvements simply wouldn't come, though a couple of the more desperate cases were able to move up the grid a little. Walker was the first of them, the N