It's 8am at the Nurburgring, and you have to wonder who decided this was a sensible time to hold a qualifying session. At least we'd find out who the morning people were. And it wouldn't necessarily be the people you would expect. With the last of the early morning mist burning away, the field came out to play. We would bet that you couldn't guess who was first out, but if you've been paying attention all season, this is way too easy. It was the inevitable Ryan Lewis (T-Sport), continuing in the face of all reason with a policy that has brought him no reward at all this season.
Someone else who dived out early on was Steven Kane (Promatecme F3), who was presumably keen to get some mileage in while he could, after yesterday's very trying session. Charlie Hollings, Kane's National Class team-mate, was up in 4th overall, thus backing up his claim to be a morning person. Charlie Kimball was also being a morning person, the Carlin Motorsport driver slotting into 2nd, just behind Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport), who almost immediately had to relinquish provisional pole to Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing). Meanwhile Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) shot up the order to 7th, which suggested the team had cured his overheating brakes, which would also mean he didn't keep getting his foot stuck under the steering column. He wasn't at all happy yesterday evening, which is unusual for the normally sunny natured Dane. On the other hand, series leader Alvaro Parente, in the third of the Carlin Motorsport cars, was doing a good impression of not being a morning person. The Portuguese was in last place, though he was joined back there by Bruno Senna (Double R Racing), who spent a lot of the early part of the session in the pits, possibly having a nap. No one would have blamed him in the least.
Kane proved that he wasn't asleep by being the next man to go for pole. He was then overtaken by Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), the Estonian desperately trying to get back on terms at the top of the points table. It was a long way from over though, with a series of high speed order changes now meaning that if you blinked when looking at the timing screens, you were liable to miss something. Conway split the top two, then Kimball moved up to 3rd. Parente, who had been dead last, flashed off the screen altogether, only to reappear in 2nd. For some reason, this seemed to trigger a general rush for the pits, started by Asmer. We were only ten minutes into the session, but that didn't stop anyone. The only people seemingly not diving in for adjustments, or fresh rubber, were the P1 Motorsport pair of Danilo Dirani and Salvador Duran, and Team SWR's Nick Jones, none of whom had actually been out yet. In the case of Jones, it probably didn't matter much, but we could expect competitive times from the other two, provided that they could be bothered to get up!
While the pits filled up, Parente took advantage of the empty track and slammed in a pole position time that was 1.241 seconds ahead of his nearest rival, with a fastest session time in all three sectors. It was an impressive performance, and it remained to be seen whether anyone could get near him. As the Portuguese was making his bid for a front row place, Jones finally showed up. This at least meant that Senna wasn't absolutely last anymore.
With 18 minutes of the session still to run, Lewis, Kane, Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing), Senna and Jones were the only drivers out on the track. They were soon joined by the missing South Americans, when Dirani and Duran finally showed up. After a couple of slow exploratory laps, they joined Senna, Dirani and Duran to occupy the final three places, possibly confirming that Latin Americans don't do mornings, at least not if they don't have to. As the rest of the field started to wander back out, Dirani shot up to 7th, and Duran started to look like he was about to claim National Class pole position yet again.
At the halfway stage, Parente was still on pole, from Asmer, Conway, Lewis, Kane, Kimball, Dirani, James Walker (Fortec Motorsport), Michael Herck (Team Junior Racing) and Clarke.11th was Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), ahead of Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing), Ihara, Duran, Kennard, Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport), Bakkerud, Josh Fisher (Team SWR), Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing) and Hollings. Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing) was 21st, ahead of Cheong, Senna, Barton Mawer (T-Sport) and Jones. However, unlike yesterday's session, there were still a lot more changes to come. Bakkerud was the first of the second half improvers, dragging his Dallara to 8th, despite the fact that the brakes were still not working properly. Elsewhere, the P1 boys were obviously awake now, and really going for it, Dirani slotting into 2nd place, while Duran grabbed that National Class pole by moving up to 11th overall. Senna too was now on the pace, grabbing 7th and looking like he could go a lot faster, while Bridgman made a bid for glory, with a time that netted him 4th, if only temporarily.
Asmer raised the stakes, and started edging closer to Parente, only to be joined by Clarke in3rd. Bakkerud was still pressing on despite the lack of stopping power, and was now 6th, while Kimball made it an all-Carlin front row when he grabbed 2nd back from the Estonian. He didn't get to stay there very long, and was replaced by Conway, while Senna again improved for 5th. The really odd thing was that O'Mahony was up as far as 11th, after a frankly dismal season so far. Whether he could maintain that pace was another matter altogether, but it did suggest there'd been some progress.
The Double R Racing boys were also showing signs of the progress they have managed to make this year, when Clarke went back to 4th. Kimball briefly edged back into 2nd, and the Senna, in the other Double R car, snatched pole from Parente. By that point Alvaro was on his way back to the pits, after a minor mistake had scuppered his chances of improving again. He'd done 10 laps on those Avons, and the odds on getting another flying lap out of them were slight. It looked like he would have to settle for 2nd. And then he had that taken away from him too; Clarke's next lap was faster and Double R Racing locked out the front row of the grid, and coincidentally gave Senna his first pole. Most of the drivers had now completed all the flying laps a set of Avons could take, though Walker was able to improve to 7th. Conway, on the other hand, quickly joined the ranks of those sitting out the remaining few minutes in the pits. Senna wasn't far behind either, and it began to look as if it was all over. However, Asmer hadn't quite given up, and managed to grab 4th place, splitting Parente and Kimball. The American wasn't too upset about ending up 5th, feeling that at least his car was now running much more to his liking after a number of overnight changes.
As Clarke also joined the queue in the pit lane, there was an outbreak of waved yellow flags, and then white flags as a breakdown truck took to the track and trundled round on the racing line. It had gone out to pick up Kennard, whose clutch cable snapped when he tried to engage 5th gear, leaving the National Class runner stranded. It was a bit alarming, having the truck there with everyone else still out, but the timetable is too tight to allow for stoppages. It put paid to anything in the way of further improvements for most people, though after it was all cleared away Herck, heading the Invitation Class again as the only competitor who'd shown up, nudged his way into the top ten, by setting 9th fastest time. And that was the very last change. Some people were still out there and still pressing on, but it was now pretty futile. This was clearly demonstrated by Lewis, who managed to spin off simply because he was pushing too hard on worn tyres. He managed to collect himself together, but he looked a bit silly.
And so Senna claimed his first pole position, from team-mate Clarke, while series leader Parente was 3rd, from Asmer, Kimball, Conway, Walker, Dirani, Herck and Lewis. Kane was 11th, ahead of Bakkerud, National Class pole man Duran, Bridgman, O'Mahony, Reindler, Jelley, Mawer, Hollings and Fisher. Kennard was 21st, from Annala, Ihara, Cheong and Jones.