By Lynne Waite and Stella-Maria Thomas
- Nasr holds points lead after Oulton Park
- Lights-to-flag victory in Feature race
- Weather: Hot, sunny, dry.
Race Report - Round 6 (Race 3):
Monday afternoon's feature race at Oulton Park saw Felipe Nasr (Carlin) increase his lead at the head of the points table after a lights-to-flag victory in a frankly processional race. He was trailed home by Lucas Foresti (Fortec Motorsport) while Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) rounded out the podium places and made amends for two less than stellar races earlier in the weekend. As now seems inevitable, Bart Hylkema again won the Rookie Class though at least this time his opponent Kotaro Sakurai (Hitech Racing) actually completed a race this season.
At the lights Nasr's start wasn't brilliant but it was good enough and he pulled away into the lead as the pack chased round into Old Hall for the first time. Whatever happened, Felipe wasn't giving this one away to anyone else. As Foresti tucked in behind the leader, everyone else settled in for what would become a high speed nose to tail train rather than a race. The contrast between this and the three races at Monza could not have been more marked. Changes at Oulton Park these days tend only to occur when someone makes a major mistake or a car breaks down in some way or other. And that was just what happened. Carlos Huertas (Carlin) gained a place when Kevin Magnussen (Carlin) ran into engine issues and eventually pitted, thus proving that this really wasn't Kevin's weekend at all. However, Huertas didn't really benefit much from the exit from contention of his team-mate because that left him staring at the rear wing of Pietro Fantin's Hitech Racing car for the remainder of the race as part of an increasingly frustrated group of drivers trapped behind the Brazilian for the duration. Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) was just behind the Colombian, and was proving an obstacle too many for Race 2 winner Riki Christodoulou (Hitech Racing), while behind him Hywel Lloyd (Sino Vision Racing) was all over the place as he tried to get past.
And while this was going on Nasr was simply pulling further away, though Foresti was doing all he could to prevent a complete whitewash. In fact the Fortec driver was trying so hard that he set an early fastest lap that was never bettered, A whole load of people all gained a place each when Magnussen pulled into the pits and the team set about trying to cure whatever ailed the VW engine, but even that wasn't enough to inject some excitement into the race.
In fact the only real excitement was way back because Hylkema had somehow ended up behind Sakurai again, and was once more having a hugely difficult time trying to come back at the Japanese. To say that Sakurai was driving a wide car was a bit like saying the sky was blue. It didn't even get close to the reality. For a couple of laps it looked as if there might not be a Rookie Class finisher at all, as Hylkema tried all sorts to get past and Sakurai simply slammed the door repeatedly. Finally, the Japanese made a mistake, Hylkema was through, and that was the last Sakurai would see of him as the Dutchman drove away.
And still Nasr continued to pull away, despite Foresti going with him as much as possible. The battle for 3rd was not really developing into much, though Idafar may have seen it slightly differently as Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) loomed in his mirrors through every corner, while just behind him William Buller (Fortec Motorsport), Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Harry Tincknell (Hitech Racing) and Scott Pye (Double R Racing) ran in close formation for lap after lap. There then came an ever- increasing gap to Fantin, who was harassed all the way to the flag by Huertas, while Fong watched from his front row seat. Every so often Huertas would close right up on Fantin for 9th, but the nature of Oulton is such that overtaking is close to impossible these days, and there was nothing he could do no matter how often he looked. Even the pace slowing somewhat as tyre wear became an issue made little difference.
The Carlin misfire, meanwhile, claimed a second victim with around half the race run, when Jack Harvey trundled into the pits and was immediately up on jacks as the team peered under the car and the VW guys swarmed over the data terminals. Harvey would go back out eventually and would finish two laps down, bringing his weekend to an ignominious and frustrating end. The best he could have hoped for on returning to the race was a point for fastest lap, but even that wasn't to be despite a personal best lap from the youngster. He couldn't match Foresti's earlier effort, and he would end up empty-handed though at least he finished the race; that was more than Magnussen could say, the Dane eventually retiring from the race in something of a slump after a weekend he may wish to forget.
At the front, meanwhile, the gap just got bigger and bigger, and behind him all continued in an orderly fashion. Jaafar closed Buller down but to no effect, while Idafar was busy holding off Svendsen-Cook, but again there was no real threat of change right now. None of this troubled Nasr at all on his imperious way to the flag, even the necessity to lap Sakurai, the latter surprisingly still running. He did at least decide not to try and argue with the front runners as they came up to lap him, and Nasr was soon through, as was Foresti. The former's lead was only 3.5 seconds which didn't seem like much, but whenever Foresti tried to mount a challenge, Nasr had enough in hand to hold the gap steady. He was never really under threat. Foresti couldn't touch him, and was equally under no threat himself, especially as the pack behind Idafar had really concertinaed up now and Svendsen-Cook was finally in a position to have a go. He took a look up the inside at Cascades, but wasn't carrying enough speed to squeeze through. Idafar was not going to help and clung onto his place despite Rupert's best - and repeated - efforts in the closing laps.
And so Nasr won easily, from Foresti to move 34 points ahead in the championship table. Idafar was 3rd which meant the team wouldn't have to carry out their threat to him if he failed to finish in 3 out of 3 races. Svendsen-Cook was 4th, from Buller, Jaafar (now equal second with Foresti in the points), Tincknell, Pye, Fantin and Huertas. Fong ended the day 11th, from Christodoulou, Pipo Derani (Double R Racing), Lloyd, Fahmi Ilyas (Fortec Motorsport, Yann Cunha (T-Sport), Hylkema, Sakurai and a very distant Harvey.
Fastest laps went to Foresti and Hylkema.
Next Rounds: Rounds 7-9, May 14th/15th, Snetterton, Norfolk