At Silverstone this morning, Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) consolidated his hold on the series with a fine lights-to-flag victory and fastest lap. Behind him Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) should have been second, but he was again ...
At Silverstone this morning, Daniel Ricciardo (Carlin Motorsport) consolidated his hold on the series with a fine lights-to-flag victory and fastest lap. Behind him Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) should have been second, but he was again prevailed upon to hand the place to team-mate (and team owner's son) Walter Grubm?ller on lap 17. It may not be against the rules, but it's a long way from sporting behaviour, and the resulting silence when the pair appeared on the podium afterwards spoke volumes. In the National Class Gabriel Dias (T-Sport) claimed a fifth victory of the season after Daniel McKenzie ran into handling problems and lost out to the Brazilian. 3rd was the other Brazilian, Victor Correa (Litespeed F3).
The course of the race was pretty much settled at the start when Max Chilton (Carlin Motorsport) made an appalling start, while Ricciardo promptly capitalised on pole by pulling away into the lead as the field moved towards Copse. That let both van der Zande and Grubm?ller up a place and Chilton ended up 4th, probably deeply disappointed that he had made yet another poor start, and it didn't help that he now had Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) right on his tail. In the National Class Dias had grabbed the lead, while McKenzie had fallen back behind Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3/Bridger Motorsport) and Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon), the handling problems that would plague him for the next 23 laps already obvious. And from that point on, it became one of those processional races we often get at Silverstone, as Ricciardo began steadily opening up a gap over van der Zande.
Most of the action, in fact, was towards the back of the field, with Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing) and Philip Major (Carlin Motorsport) tangling at Abbey a lap into the race, and thus reducing the field to what appears to be this year's optimum total of 20 cars. In the pack, McKenzie managed to recover some of the ground he'd lost by getting back ahead of Richelmi and then Bridger. Unfortunately that meant he now had Bridger all over him as the International Class runner tried to get back ahead. The loser in all of this was Michele Faccin (Team West-Tec), who was now last but one with only Kevin Chen (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) behind him. There was a flurry of excitement when it looked as if Chilton was catching Grubm?ller but then Grubm?ller responded and that was the end of that really. The only really interest was in watching to see if Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) could find a way past Arundel, the latter having fallen off the tail of Chilton now.
And carrying on serenely at the front was Ricciardo who had now opened up a 5 second gap, seemingly without really trying after he'd set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 4. It all looked very easy and you began to feel you really were watching a champion in the making in the shape of the Australian. At the opposite end of the field, Faccin and Chen were still fighting it out, though they were no longer fighting not to be last as Max Snegirev (Team West-Tec) had taken up his usual post as a full stop at the end of the field. Chen wrestled his way through for 17th overall and that was the end of that.
And then came the incident that really should not have happened. Suddenly Grubm?ller was "catching" van der Zande as the Dutchman mysteriously lost pace, running at around 1.5 second a lap slower than before. While Ricciardo started to catch and pass the backmarkers, starting with the dreaded Snegirev, Grubm?ller was right on the tail of van der Zande, and then he was through without a struggle leaving van der Zande with Chilton on his tail. Oddly enough, though, the Hitech Dallara suddenly started to run at a normal speed again. I leave you to draw your own conclusions; suffice it to say that the rules are somewhat fuzzy on the subject of team orders...
With Ricciardo carving through the backmarkers like a hot knife through butter, and the rest of the leaders bearing down on them, the National Class boys were proving pretty adept at getting out of the way, even Adil Hermanto (Litespeed F3), who went through with what sounded like a box of neutrals but could just have been incompetence. And with a handful of laps left, the excitement - such as it was - evaporated, although Arundel was still under some pressure from Huertas. The Colombian took a bit of a look, but he couldn't quite make it, even as the pair of them caught and passed Snegirev, though the chance that Huertas had hoped for still didn't present itself. Behind them Wayne Boyd (T-Sport) was determinedly holding off Riki Christodoulou (Fortec Motorsport) and his old sparring partner Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing).
Ricciardo came home to a well-deserved victory, while Grubm?ller was an undeserved 2nd from van der Zande, Chilton, Arundel, Huertas, Boyd, Christodoulou, Nakajima and Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport). 11th was Dias, from Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport), Bridger, McKenzie, Richelmi, Correa, Chen, Faccin, Hermanto and Snegirev.
Fastest laps of the race went to Ricciardo and Dias.