- Nasr extends points lead
- Felix da Costa penalised
- Buller takes 2nd, Harvey 3rd
- Fastest lap set by Fong
Nasr comes through the chaos to win three-way tussle in third race at Paul Ricard
At Paul Ricard this afternoon Felipe Nasr (Carlin) survived carnage to win the race on the last corner after a desperate lunge from Antonio Felix da Costa (Hitech Racing) took out leader Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) and handed the lead to Nasr with the chequered flag in sight. It may have made up for Nasr’s earlier penalty which saw him demoted to 16th in the sprint race, thus spoiling his perfect scoring record. Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) completed his hat-trick of Rookies Class victories as the only driver in the category now that Bart Hylkema (T-Sport) has defected to the International Class.
At the start it seemed there might be a clean first lap, as Magnussen got away into the lead, Nasr slotting in behind with da Costa on his tail. William Buller meanwhile was battling with Harvey for 4th, while Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) was holding off Carlos Huertas (Carlin) behind the pair. Just when it seemed they’d all got the insanity out of their systems this morning, it all kicked off. Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) made a passing move on Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), which saw both of them spin off. To be fair Fantin was ahead by half a car’s length but whether he was still under control is debatable. If it had just been the two of them it might not have been too much of an issue, but with Scott Pye (Double R Racing) and Harry Tincknell (Fortec Motorsport) as collateral damage it was very messy out there. Hylkema was also caught up but was able to limp back to the pits for impromptu repairs. With cars scattered all over the scenery it was clearly time for the Safety Car to join in the party.
Magnussen settled in for what turned out to be a long stint behind the Safety Car, leading Nasr, da Costa, Buller, Harvey, Svendsen-Cook, Huertas, Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport) and Yann Cunha (T-Sport). In 11th was Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing), Sakurai, Pipo Derani (Double R Racing), Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport), Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) and Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport), the latter having avoided the chaos but only just. Behind him but somewhat distant to begin with was Hylkema, who had rejoined on the same lap as the leaders and was now trying to catch the pack as fast as possible. That was obvious by the couple of fastest laps that he set as he set off in pursuit. Three laps later the weather started to change with umbrellas being unfurled in the open grandstands. As yet it was just a change in the wind and the odd spot of moisture, but something sinister was clearly on the way. Just when you thought it was safe… Next there’d be a cave troll or something!
At the restart both Foresti and Hylkema were quick to try and advance their causes, but they weren’t the only ones. Cunha was putting up quite a defence against Lloyd, but ended up locking up big time instead, letting the Welshman through with no comeback possible. As soon as he was past he started to open up the gap and was soon so far ahead that Cunha could do nothing. Meanwhile Idafar and Derani were scrapping too, as Idafar tried to make a move but couldn’t make it stick. Closer to the front Huertas and Svendsen-Cook were still battling for 6th and would bear watching. At the very front Nasr had a go at passing Magnussen but Kevin shut the door on the series leader and made him back off. In the pack at much the same time Sakurai dropped a load of places to the International Class all in one go to fall to the back of the field.
Nasr wasn’t done yet. He gave a quick sideways jink to remind Magnussen he was still there and then tried to get up the inside, but again Magnussen wasn’t prepared to play ball, despite Nasr’s new fastest lap. It wasn’t going well for the Brazilians generally, and Foresti’s progress was positively glacial. He’d managed to pass Derani but he was still out of the points by a long way and Nasr was looking good for a podium if not for the win. In effect Foresti’s title challenge seems now to be over. Not so Nasr’s of course, and again he tried to pass the Dane; this time they touched as Magnussen braked a little early to defend himself and Nasr found himself launched off the rumble strips. That was all the invitation da Costa needed to nip through and try and relieve the Carlin driver of 2nd. Nasr defended vigorously but he couldn’t prevent da Costa from coming through. He now had his sights firmly fixed on Magnussen, and soon reeled him in. Of course passing him might not be so easy. Da Costa picked up a new fastest lap while Nasr tried to collect his thoughts and check for damage. Presumably there wasn’t any because he didn’t seem to be losing any ground.
Further back Foresti blasted past Fong and took Idafar goes with him only for the two of them to tangle. Idafar spun but kept going while Foresti’s race was over, the car stranded on the kerbs with no chance of getting going again. By the time Idafar got going he was dead last, so that had done neither of them any good at all. At the front though the three-way battle wasn’t over by a long shot. Da Costa made a move on Magnussen, again had the door shut in his face, and again settled back in to second. He was just waiting for the slightest opportunity and to prove it set yet another fastest lap. He was running out of time if he wanted to win though, and he wasn’t helped when Nasr spotted an opening and went for it. The Brazilian briefly nosed in front, but da Costa came back again, giving the Brazilian a bit of a nudge in the process. Nasr wasn’t about to give up though, and neither was da Costa. It looked as if it might end in tears unless common sense prevailed. It wasn’t prevailing elsewhere, that much was for sure. Fong set a new race fastest lap then promptly tangled with Cunha in an overtaking move that was never going to work. Both cars were damaged, both drivers pulling into the pits a lap from the end.
It looked as if Magnussen was going to come home to a well-deserved win but then he arrived at the last corner of the last lap to find da Costa alongside him in a move that must have started in Marseilles or somewhere. With the rain beginning to fall properly there was no way they would both survive, and sure enough Magnussen was out on the spot, while Nasr nipped through to take the chequered flag ahead of da Costa, leaving a slightly surprised Buller to claim the final podium spot. 4th was Harvey from Svendsen-Cook, who held off Huertas all the way to the flag, then Ilyas scoring his first points of the season, Lloyd, Hylkema and Derani. Sakurai was 11th from Idafar, Magnussen, Fong and Cunha. Afterwards da Costa would be awarded a 30 second penalty for causing an avoidable accident, which dropped him to 9th behind Hylkema.
Fastest race laps went to Fong and Sakurai.
Weather: Humid, overcast, windy.
Next Rounds: Rounds 19-21, July 28th/29th, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium