Race Report – Round 7 (Race 1):
At Pau this afternoon Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) won the first race of the Grand Prix de Pau weekend by a comfortable margin from Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), the first of the British Series runners home, after a pretty straightforward lights to flag run for the Italian. 3rd place went to Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport) despite a stall at the hairpin when he got caught up in someone else’s incident. The National Class was won by Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport) who benefitted from the misfortune of series rival Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) when the latter failed to make the start, having to be pushed away into retirement before he could even get off the line.
Marciello made a good start when they finally got going and arrived at Gare nicely ahead of Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) and Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport), Jaafar ending up 4th behind the three Invitation Class runners. Meanwhile Jack Harvey (Carlin) and Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport) were embroiled in a tussle with Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke Motorsport), with Lynn coming out best in that particular fracas.
The expected carnage didn’t materialise on the first corner and so they settled in for what looked likely to be a very tough half hour for all except Emil Bernstorff (ma-con Motorsport), who went missing on the first lap after contact with the barriers. He had the decency not to block the track and thus the race continued unabated.
In the pack, Jaafar was keeping a weather eye out for trouble, having decided that there was something about Wehrlein that he didn’t entirely trust, but was also having to watch his mirrors for Lynn and the chasing pack. He was proven right on lap 9 when, just as the performance of the Cooper tyres started to go off, Wehrlein made an ill-considered lunge at Juncadella at Lycee and the whole thing started to unravel. In one of those classic Pau moments, they both slid gracefully into the barriers with their rear wings sticking out into the traffic flow. It was then just a matter of time before most of the field backed up behind them in a colourful if expensive traffic jam. Coming off worst was probably Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport), the Brazilian collecting enough damage to put him out of the race shortly afterwards. That was also the point when Lynn nearly lost out badly when his car refused to restart initially. Luckily for him he had time to reset everything and finally it coughed into life before he could lose any ground. The marshals worked at speed to disentangle everyone and send them on their way as fast possible, but Juncadella and Wehrlein were out on the spot.
That promoted Jaafar to 2nd after a major stroke of luck for the Malaysian. Coming into car he had endured a massive lock-up that dropped him back on the battling pair ahead of him and thus avoided being a part of their accident. It was a piece of luck that he really appreciated and he duly slotted in behind Marciello as they circulated behind the Safety Car for three laps. The order then was Marciello, from Jaafar, Lynn, Rosenqvist, Harvey, Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin), Harry Tincknell (Carlin), Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport), Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing) and Tom Blomqvist (ma-com Motorsport). 11th was Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport), from Michael Lewis (Prema Powerteam), Pietro Fantin (Carlin), Nick McBride (T-Sport), Sven Muller (Prema Powerteam), Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing), Andrea Roda (Jo Zeller Racing), Goddard, Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing) and Derani.
At the restart Jaafar made an attempt to overtake Marciello on the outside into Gare but that was never going to be on, and he had to settle back in to 2nd, while the Italian drove off into the distance and the chasing pack gained on Jaafar. It was interesting to see just how the battle for 3rd developed, with Harvey hanging on to Rosenqvist despite having collected a bent trackrod and a broken front wing in the rippled effect from the Juncadella/Wehrlein crash. “Everybody stopped at the hairpin and it was really hard to slow down without hitting someone,” he admitted afterwards. As he rightly remarked, finishing the race as well as he did was something of an achievement with his Dallara looking quite so second hand. Ilyas was the man who probably made up the most ground at the impromptu restart, for once finding himself in the right place at the right time, and managing to pick his way through the chaos, and he was able to hang onto his gains all the way to the flag, unlike McBride who was suffering the attentions of a number of Euro Series runners, most of whom forced their way past in unceremonious manner. His race probably wasn’t quite as dire as Uhrhane’s, the latter finding himself the target of an aggressive effort by Goddard who seemed to fancy mixing it with the International Class boys today if he could find a way to do it.
The odd occasional locked wheel was about as exciting as it got in the second half of the race otherwise, and Marciello ended the afternoon a happy winner, while Jaafar’s British series “win” and fastest lap were enough to edge him back ahead of Sainz Jr in the championship chase, though only by two points. Third was Lynn, just behind Jaafar, and only just clear of Rosenqvist, while 6th went to Sainz Jr after some quite wild driving, ahead of Tincknell, Serralles, Ilyas and Lewis. 11th was van Asseldonk, who has never looked comfortable since they got here, from Muller, Blomqvist, Fantin (see van Asseldonk – much the same), McBride, Uhrhane, Goddard, Zeller and Roda.
And tomorrow they get to do it all again, this time in the 40 minute 71st Grand Prix de Pau.
Fastest laps were set by Jaafar and Goddard.
Weather: Overcast, dull, dry.