In an attempt to prove that it's the first man out that gets the best time, this session saw the Raikkonen Robertson Racing drivers getting away from the pitlane ahead of everyone else. Stephen Jelley was ready to really go for it this time,...
In an attempt to prove that it's the first man out that gets the best time, this session saw the Raikkonen Robertson Racing drivers getting away from the pitlane ahead of everyone else. Stephen Jelley was ready to really go for it this time, with team-mate Jonathan Kennard sitting right in his slipstream, while Atte Mustonen was actually the first of the Double R boys to really show a turn of speed. However, his early provisional pole was only in the 1.34s, and he soon got displaced by Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) and his team-mate, Alberto Valerio. Just for good measure, Niall Breen in the third of the Carlin cars edged into provisional pole, ahead of Engel, Mario Moraes (also Carlin) and Valerio. Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) was also up the order at this point, slotting into 2nd, only to get pushed down by his team-mate, Sebastian Hohenthal.
A further reshuffle and the order was Kennard from John Martin (Alan Docking Racing), Breen, Greg Mansell, Hohenthal, Walther Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), Engel, Moraes, Valerio and Mustonen. This looked as if it was going to be quite a fast-moving session, and so it proved, at least in the early stages.
Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) was the next to put in a flying lap, claiming 2nd place, only to lose it to Kennard, and they both fell down the order when Breen went fastest. It was good to see Martin up there in the top ten, as much is expected of him, especially given how impressive he was in Formula Fords last year, but he's at the bottom of a very steep learning curve right now. Not only that, but the times generally were only in the 1.30s at this point - it was clear that everyone would get faster before we were done.
Pole was next briefly occupied by Hohenthal, but the Swede was displaced almost immediately by Kennard, while in the National Class Michael Meadows (Master Motorsport) now held pole. The class for older cars was to prove altogether less volatile than the Championship Class was doing. This was proved when Valerio shot back up to 4th, although Meadows did briefly lose his National Class pole to Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), at least for a while. All eyes were on the front, however, where Greg Mansell now snatched 5th from Grubmuller, and Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) finally started to show pace, arriving in 8th apparently from nowhere. He wasn't the only one to be having difficulties to begin with. Jelley was 18th at this stage, but he was also now on a charge, and the next thing everyone knew, he was on pole. That had shaken the order up a bit. It now read Jelley, Kennard, Hohenthal, Breen, Valerio, Grubmuller, Greg Mansell, Bird, Engel and Asmer. That wasn't the way it was going to stay, of course, because Engel and Asmer, among others, both had designs on that front row slot. They promptly proved it by scrapping over 3rd with first Engel and then Asmer claiming the position. However, things then quietened down a little with an early but general rush for tyres breaking out.
With Bird now 5th, Mustonen and Kennard both looked to be pushing hard now, a point driven home when Kennard set a new pole time of 1.28.794. Now of all the people at Double R Racing that you might predict would take their first pole of the year, it's fair to say most of us wouldn't select Kennard, but there he was at the top of the screens! And given how quiet it was going, it looked as if he might even get to stay there. Meanwhile, in the National Class, Cong Fu "Franky" Cheng (Performance Racing) was now at the top of the pile, and fighting to stay there.
In an effort to get back ahead of Kennard, Jelley was now trying to extract that little extra something from his Avons. He managed to get a faster lap, but it wasn't enough to improve his position, and he was stuck in 2nd, probably to his great disgruntlement. While all this was going on, Breen was back up to 8th, while Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) was having a second less than happy session and was busy having a bit of a moment as he tried to work his was up the order. He really wasn't ready for this, and any improvement had to be regarded as progress under the circumstances. The Argentinean was still smiling after what had to be a character-building sort of day.
At the sharp end, Engel managed another time improvement though it wasn't enough to move him up any, and Jelley was having much the same issues, getting to within 0.098 seconds of Kennard's time, but not quite managing to improve on it. Despite this, some drivers were still improving, as was demonstrated when Meadows reclaimed the National Class pole even after his tyres should theoretically have gone off completely.
Maybe the 2007 Avons are even weirder than has been suggested. Certainly, times were still improving, despite there being less than half the session left, and the temperature being a lot higher than anyone could reasonably predict for Easter in England. Mustonen, who seems to take his time getting warmed up, went faster to claim 6th, and Hohenthal was also now looking very quick. Meanwhile, Martin set his personal best time in the first sector and was able to improve to 14th. Hohenthal, on the other hand, snatched 4th from Engel just as Engel gave up the attempt and was getting out of his car in the pit lane. Despite there being a little time left, he didn't attempt to go back out, and he was probably right not to bother. However, he was somewhat frustrated afterwards, as he'd been hoping for two front row starts, not just one.
His team-mate Breen managed to find some time from somewhere, netting a late improvement to go 8th ahead of Grubmuller. Hohenthal wasn't finished yet either, claiming 3rd from Asmer at the last minute, while the final improvements came from the Italian newcomer, Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing) who moved up to 16th, and from Guerrieri, who managed to climb to 17th which was probably as good as it was going to get.
And that was pretty much the end of it. Kennard claimed his first pole position, from Jelley, Hohenthal, Asmer, Engel, Mustonen, Bird, Greg Mansell, Breen and Grubmuller. Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport) was 11th, ahead of Valerio, Moraes, Martin, Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing), Guerrieri, Castellacci, Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), and Meadows, in National Class pole. 21st was Cheng, from Alistair Jackson, the Raikkonen Robertson Racing driver returning to the paddock with a badly broken car at the end of the session. 23rd was Sergio Perez (T- Sport), from Jensen, Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport), Alberto Costa (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Alex Waters (Promatecme), Salman al Khalifa (Promatecme), Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport) and Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing), the latter joining the ranks of the hors de combat and being transported back from the boonies on one of the circuit's many breakdown trucks.
Last on the gird, having not set a time, was Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), the Irish driver sidelined when his Mygale encountered gearbox problems that kept him confined to the paddock while the team worked feverishly to fix the problem.