At Brands Hatch this morning Pipo Derani (Fortec Motorsport) came home for his second victory of the season after a cracking battle from lights to flag with teammate and birthday boy Felix Serralles. The Puerto Rican was unrelenting in his pursuit of the Brazilian, which was partly why Pietro Fantin (Carlin) was able to catch the pair and came close to spoiling the Fortec party. The National Class win went to Adderly Fong (CF Racing) who left Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport) and Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) trailing in his wake.
With Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing) on pole, and Geoff Uhrhane (also Double R Racing) beside him, the cynics in the paddock were taking bets as to just where (and when) the accident would happen. What actually happened was that Uhrhane made a dismal start and most of the pack screamed past him before he could even blink. Ilyas got away well enough, and was able to close the door on Derani while Serralles came out of nowhere – or at least out of sixth – to almost nip through for second.
What quickly became more than clear was that Derani was not going to settle for second if he could help it. The trouble was he really needed to play it carefully with Ilyas, as the Malaysian can be unpredictable at best. However, Derani settled in while behind the Fortec pair, Fantin’s attention was being held by Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin), the latter another to have made a terrific start from a lot nearer the back now up in fifth. He had towed Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) with him which made Jack Harvey’s 11th place look a little sorry though not as sorry as Uhrhane having plummeted to tenth.
The excitement at the front was ongoing though, with Derani and Serralles having right up to Ilyas again. The trouble was they seemed to be far more focussed on fighting each other for second place than on working together to try and find a way past Ilyas. In addition the rest of the field was now starting to bunch up behind them, which meant that both Fantin and Sainz Jr were real threats, and they weren’t the only ones. Sainz promptly made a serious move at taking fourth away from Fantin, but the Brazilian resisted strongly, all of which was allowing Ilyas to get away somewhat.
Meanwhile in the pack Alex Lynn (Fortec Motorsport) claimed the first fastest lap of the race as he chased round in the middle of the melee while in the National Class Fong was getting away from Goddard. A lap later and Fantin and Sainz Jr were side by side going into Paddock, but Sainz could only find space on the outside and no one can make that stick from that position. They were slowing each other up now, and Jaafar was now right with them.
At the front the tussle for the lead was far from over, with Derani now setting a new fastest race lap as he attempted to find a way through. He was pushing Ilyas hard now, as he needed to if he was going hold Serralles off. The youngster was really flying too and it wasn’t long before the pressure building up behind Ilyas from the two Fortec cars finally led to the inevitable when Ilyas speared off into the gravel at Paddock and caused a ripple effect through the bunched up pack.
The upshot was to hand the lead to Derani just as Serralles set a new fastest lap. In the middle of the chasing group something happened to Tincknell and he emerged from the cloud of dust with nose damage that would force him into the pits and out of contention. Meanwhile Ilyas recovered to come back on in 5th. The collective holding of breath that had been going on from the start in the pits ended and everyone relaxed now there was a more “normal” leader in place.
Now he had some clear air in front of him Derani started to push on, stealing the fastest lap back from his team mate as he tried to shake Serralles off. Serralles had other ideas and was not at all keen to be left behind and he settled in to harass the leader at every opportunity. Fantin and Sainz Jr had yet another set to and Sainz Jr now snatched the fastest lap, that honour changing hands like a hot potato as everyone in the foursome that had been held up behind Ilyas was finally able to push on.
There was a new queue building up now though, as everyone from 6th back concertinaed up again behind Ilyas, starting with Jaafar in 6th, and taking in Nick McBride (Three Bond with T-Sport), Lynn, Harvey, Uhrhane and Hannes van Asseldonk (Fortec Motorsport). Jaafar was frustrated at being bottled up behind his compatriot but he wasn’t about to take any stupid risks either. It was a dilemma for the series leader though, as the others edged ever closer to him.
With the leaders still pushing on, and Derani now in possession of the fastest lap, Serralles started to close right up on Derani again, but he still couldn’t get quite close enough. It didn’t stop him trying though. As they started to trip each other up again, Fantin went faster yet, while Tincknell rejoined the race with a new nose and a plan to claim the point for fastest lap if he possibly could. His plan was helped by the fact that he was running pretty much on his own out on the Kent track, so he was unlikely to be hindered or sidetracked from his mission.
Although there were battles going on elsewhere, particularly with Harvey and van Asseldonk scrapping over ninth, the front was still where it was all happening. Derani set yet another fastest lap as he tried to escape his team mate, but all that happened was Serralles responded and went on the offensive again. He again pulled out alongside the leader and tried to drive round the outside, but Derani is wilier than that and knew exactly where to place his car to hold his lead. Again Serralles would have to settle back into second place.
With Fantin getting a track limits warning, and Jaafar now incredibly close to Ilyas, this 20 minute race was proving so much more exciting than yesterday’s processional race. In addition Tincknell was still winding himself up to try and get that elusive point for fastest lap. He soon settled into the groove and it wasn’t long before two fastest sectors were followed by a new race fastest lap, and then a second one. However, that earned him a warning for not respecting track limits, so it was moot as to whether he would be allowed to hang onto it.
At the front though Serralles still hadn’t given up and was trying all sorts to pass Derani but it just wasn’t happening. No amount of late braking was going to dislodge the Brazilian now if he could help it. And so it proved with Derani coming over the line 0.122 seconds ahead of Serralles. Fantin came in third from Sainz Jr, Ilyas, Jaafar, McBride, Lynn, Harvey and van Asseldonk.
Uhrhane finished in 11th, out of the points and 10 places back from where he started, with Fong again claiming the National Class from Goddard, Padayachee and Tincknell. Afterwards, we were informed that Fantin and Tincknell were both under investigation for not respecting track limits, and Tincknell’s fastest lap was disallowed. That still left him with the fastest lap of the race even so, with the National Class fastest lap going to Fong.