At the Nurburgring early this morning, Jordan King (Carlin), the 2013 champion, again drove the perfect race to claim victory in the final race of the season. He was followed home by William Buller (Fortec Motorsport) and Antonio Giovinazzi (Double R Racing), the two of them fighting for the runner-up slot in the series. The National Class winner was Sun Zheng (CF Racing), the Chinese driver having arrived at this meeting as category champion.
With a stupidly early start, the weather looked likely to play a part in events. The air was cold at 08:30, the track was cold, and the tyres were extremely cold, to the point where several team managers felt the need to remind the drivers of the fact, presumably before any of them found out the hard way! As King and Buller both made relatively careful starts, in the pack Felipe Lopes Guimaraes (Fortec Motorsport) fell foul of Jann Mardenborough (Carlin), the two of them dropping back out of contention as a result.
At the front King was already pulling away, Buller dogging his wheel tracks, while behind them Giovinazzi was settling to 3rd, holding off Nicholas Latifi (Carlin), the latter again being troubled by Tatiana Calderon (Double R Racing). 6th was Sean Gelael (Double R Racing), with Richard “Spike” Goddard (ThreeBond with T-Sport) on his tail. Zheng was next up, ahead of Alfonso Celis (Fortec Motorsport), Mardenborough, Chris Vlok (Team West-Tec), William Barbosa (Team West-Tec), and Guimaraes.
Mardenborough was soon on the move, which would surprise no one who has watched him in action this year, and it didn’t take him long to get past Zheng, following in the wake of Celis, who he then set about trying to demote. Meanwhile, behind the lead pair Latifi was attacking Giovinazzi for 3rd. Giovinazzi couldn’t afford to let the place go if he wanted to be runner-up this year. As it was, if Buller stayed where he was and scored the extra point for the fastest lap of the race, he and Giovinazzi would both have scored the same number of points. That would have made Buller runner up, based on the comparative number of 2nd places the two of them have scored this year (they both had two wins so that would have been no help in deciding).
In the early stages it looked as if Buller might well manage to move Fortec up from what seems to be their pre-destined third at the end of the season (they have never finished higher than that, no matter how good their driver). Certainly Buller was running well, and was more than able to stay with King, and he had set a fastest lap. However, there was plenty of race left.
A message came up suggesting that Latifi might have jumped the start, which would have taken the pressure off Giovinazzi, but it came to nothing and the Canadian went right on harassing the Italian, though he couldn’t find a way past. Behind them, Goddard and Calderon were scrapping, Spike getting through, and Celis trying to go with him. That put Goddard back on Gelael’s case, and he didn’t hesitate to go on the attack.
Elsewhere there was further action. Mardenborough spun off, apparently on his own, while Spike had a fresh go at Gelael, and the organizers briefly hung out yellow flags in Sector 3, for reasons that were not clear.
The order now as King, still leading reasonably comfortably from Buller, while Giovinazzi and Latifi had dropped back a little. The real action was behind them now, with Gelael having to fight off Goddard, and Celis, the Mexican right there with the battling pair. Calderon was next, from Mardenborough, Guimaraes, Zheng, Vlok and Barbosa.
Once more Goddard had a go at Gelael – and once more he couldn’t make it stick. That gave Celis an opening, and he tried to force his way past Goddard, only to have the door closed in his face. A lap later and it all went wrong. Goddard tried an over-optimistic overtaking manoeuvre, coming from so far back that Gelael wouldn’t have seen him coming. There was no room for the attacking car, Gelael was tipped into a spin, and Celis was lucky to avoid it all.
As the top four pulled further and further away, and King took fastest lap from Buller, Goddard was awarded a drive through penalty for causing a collision. T-Sport’s team manager was required to present himself at race control immediately. Meanwhile, Goddard’s front wing was looking more than a bit wobbly, and Celis was all over his rear wing. The attempt to pass ended when Goddard ducked into the pits to serve his penalty, Gelael following him in. Goddard was soon back out, and Gelael wasn’t far behind.
Celis might have though the abrupt departure of both Goddard and Gelael might make his morning easier. He was wrong. They may have gone, but that gave Mardenborough a clear run at him, and Guimaraes wasn’t far behind either. He couldn’t relax for a second, and if he wanted to hang onto his 5th place he was going to have his work cut out for him.
At the front King just kept motoring on, Buller sticking like glue but unable to get close enough to pass. Giovinazzi was still 3rd, from Latifi, while Celis now had his hands full with Mardenborough and Guimaraes. Calderon had dropped back somewhat, while Zheng was happily leading the National Class from Vlok, Gelael, Barbosa and Goddard, the latter now dead last.
He lost even further ground a lap later when he dived back into the pits for a quick fix, presumably to the front wing, but was soon back out. The battle for 5th was still on though, with Celis defending well from Mardenborough, as the red and white car locked up and slid around, Mardenborough trying everything he could think of to battle his way past. Celis was not relinquishing the position though, no matter what Jann could throw at him.
Although Buller stuck to him all the way to the flag, the victory was King’s. Giovinazzi came home 3rd, and took the runner-up slot after the fastest lap stayed with King. 4th was Latifi, then Celis, Mardenborough, Guimaraes, Calderon, Zheng, Vlok, Gelael, Barbosa and Goddard.
Fastest laps of the race were scored by King and Zheng.
Next Races: 2014