Weather: We'd had a reasonably dry morning, though as usual the clouds were beginning to gather with intent to rain on the GTs - or at least that was most people thought. We knew differently. All that can be said is we're really beginning to regret offering to do a rain dance for Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) back at Castle Combe, not least because it seems to have worked and we don't appear to be able to turn It back off. But it's hard to refuse a Brazilian when he's giving you a pleading look and offering you anything you want if you can make it rain for him. the way things are going, your first-born should about do it Nelson!
Anyway, from a perfectly dry morning, as the F3s lined up for the start of their first race of the day, a light drizzle began to fall. It wouldn't stop until after the race. Weird. It wasn't the only weird thing about Round 15 either. A number of people who would normally be considered front- runners were a lot closer to the back of the field than they ought to be; people like Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport), Danny Watts (Promatecme F3) and Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport), the latter the victim of an engine failure in qualifying. All this - along with the weather - looked as if it was going to play straight into Piquet's hands. You wouldn't find the young Brazilian complaining. He had Fairuz Fauzy, man of a thousand teams though currently with P1 till he decides they're not good enough for him, alongside him, so there didn't seem to be much to worry about, especially as the next man up was Ryan Lewis (T-Sport), the current runaway Scholarship Class leader. A further threat, in the shape of Lucas di Grassi (Hitech Racing), who pulled into the pits at the end of the formation lap, a broken driveshaft putting paid to his chances before the field even lined up.
And so, the lights briefly glowed red, then went out, signalling the start of the race. Fauzy tried to get alongside Piquet as they dived towards Old Hall, but Piquet's nerve held, and he came straight back at the Malaysian, while Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) tried to latch onto Piquet's coattails, getting in front of Lewis, who was having a bit of trouble with James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) just then. By the time they'd all sorted themselves out, Carroll had rocketed up the order and was 6th, and all over Rossiter. In fact by the end of the first lap, he was ahead of the youngster, after Rossiter tried to pass Lewis; failed, and lost out to Carroll in the attempt, the P1 driver hauling his car up the inside of the Fortec driver at Old Hall.
In 7th, Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) seemed to briefly lose concentration, forcing Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) onto the grass on the inside. The Indian spun, his car rotating across the track and ending up on the far side of the tarmac, pointing at the barriers. Quite how nothing hit him was anyone's guess, but by some sort of miracle they all missed him. Of course by the time he managed to get going again he was dead last and not at all happy. He would stagger around for two more laps before retiring hurt.
A lap later and it was clear that the lead belonged to Piquet. He was already beginning to open up a gap to Fauzy, who had Parente to worry about anyway. Lewis was still 4th, though he seemed to be fighting his car rather than driving it, the two-year old Dallara looking singularly evil through the corners. Carroll was bottled up behind him, though he probably wouldn't stay there for long, not given how determined he seemed to salvage something this weekend. You couldn't help thinking it might be safer for Lewis if he let the charging Championship Class boys through. Even if Carroll could get past Lewis, it seemed unlikely that he would be able to do anything about Piquet because two laps into the race he was already nearly a second ahead of Fauzy, and he seemed to be pulling out an increasing gap with every corner.
Behind him, Lewis managed to hang on for one more lap, but then he had to give way to Carroll and to Rossiter, which left him open to attack from Power and Watts, or would have done if they hadn't been a bit distracted with each other. Watts forced his way past the Australian however, by the popular method of barging his way up the inside into Old Hall. This move seemed to work for almost everyone that tried it, though you had to be close enough to actually make it stick.
Watts was determined to hang onto the place, while Power was not keen to give way. By the time the squabbling pair had reached Cascades, they were tripping over Lewis, and that was the point at which it all fell apart. In the resulting reshuffle, the main losers were Power, and Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), the Estonian an innocent bystander who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Lewis lost ground as well, but Asmer ended up last. He wasn't too pleased about it.
A third of the way into the race, it was increasingly obvious that Piquet was now firmly in control despite the slippery track, or maybe because of it, with Fauzy still holding off Parente for 2nd. Carroll was now 4th and beginning to close on Parente, while Rossiter was busy recovering from the Cascades two-step. Lewis had fallen back into the clutches of his old friend Marcus Marshall (Fortec Motorsport), the Aussie not exactly having been impressed with Lewis at Donington. The trouble was that behind him James Walker (Hitech Racing) was in the way of an increasingly frustrated Piccione, who was dragging his Carlin teammate Danilo Dirani in his wake. The recovering Power was now trapped behind Scholarship Class runner Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing), and had the second Performance car, that of Ronayne O'Mahony, behind him. Vasilije Calasan (Promatecme F3) was far closer than O'Mahony really wanted him to be, but at least he was stopping Asmer from getting through.
While Piquet continued on his way serenely, Power's problems were solved at the half way point when Jelley coasted to a halt trackside with a dead battery, leaving Lewis clear to take yet another class victory, thus promoting O'Mahony to second in class. Lewis was still determined to finish as far up the overall order as he possibly could though, which meant that Marshall, Walker and Piccione were still unable to sort out there own personal battle for fear of falling over Lewis at the same time. It was a bit of a problem for the Championship Class contenders one way and another.
And not surprisingly a lot of the cars were beginning to look more than a bit second hand, especially around the wing end plates. With Piquet now a good two seconds ahead, Fauzy was in trouble. Parente quite clearly wanted to get past, and looked as if he might almost be carrying enough pace to do it. The trouble was, he couldn't quite make it, and he was getting ever more desperate in his attempts. Marshall was having the same problem with Lewis, though Piccione finally found a way round Walker, which meant Marshall would have to stop worrying about Lewis and start worrying about the Monegasque. The trouble with this race, as Thompson had pointed out earlier in the day was that it was really more of a sprint than a proper race, at only 14 laps distance. In effect, by the time you had got on terms with the guy in front of you, there would be no time left to do anything about him. Admittedly, no one had told Piccione this it seemed, but otherwise, at the front the field was very spread out now, although Parente hadn't given up on 2nd place either
At the back, Asmer had gained a place or two, but nothing significant. The real action was still behind Lewis. Once Piccione was through, that was really the end of it for Lewis. Dirani tried to go with his teammate again, but couldn't quite get past Walker. Meanwhile close to the front Fauzy found himself having a wobbly moment at Knicker Brook. He was able to hang on, but it just made Parente more certain that an overtaking move ought to be possible. He would simply keep trying till the chequered flag if necessary. It wouldn't work but he didn't seem to be able to stop himself. The battle for 4th began to hot up as the race drew to its conclusion too, and as Piquet disappeared into the distance, Rossiter was all over Carroll. However catching Carroll was one thing, passing him quite another matter. Basically, Carroll wasn't having it, thank you very much. And all this meant that Watts was catching them both, which helped Carroll because it gave Rossiter something else to worry about on the run to the finish. In the mid-field, Piccione had finally managed to find a way past Marshall now that they weren't having to factor Lewis into the equation, but it was really too late now for the Carlin driver to do anything apart from accept that 8th would be as good as it was going to get.
And so Piquet strolled over the line, a clear winner, with a point for fastest lap as well. Fauzy held off Parente for 2nd, and Carroll screamed across the line in 4th, just ahead of Rossiter and Watts. Thompson was 7th all on his own, from Piccione, Marshall and Walker. Dirani was just outside the points in 11th, from Power, while Lewis was 12th overall and - no surprises here - Scholarship Class winner, with the extra point for fastest lap safely in his possession too. Asmer was 13th, from O'Mahony, who was 2nd in the Scholarship Class, ahead of Calasan.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite