At 13C, the Italian weather this weekend was beginning to feel like a bit of a joke. Certainly the amount of rain that had fallen overnight was more monsoon than gentle autumn shower, and the track was awash by the time the teams assembled on the pre-grid. It was generally agreed that we'd have been better of staying home at Silverstone, where we might not have needed waterproofs and sweaters.
Anyway, with no delay whatsoever, the 22 cars lined up on the grid. The start went better than could have been expected, with Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport) holding his line into the first corner, but then discovering that he really should have blocked the outside line. Instead of completing the first lap in the lead, he found Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) powering past him on the outside line to snatch the lead. Behind them the rest of the pack was enveloped in an enormous ball of spray, and no one could see what they were doing. Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport) lost ground to Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and James Walker (Hitech Racing) in the gloom, but promptly set about trying to reclaim at least one place back from Walker. As Buurman is a driver of some aggression, this led to him taking some very interesting lines indeed as he attacked Walker with his customary vigour. For the Dutch skid school expert there's no such thing as an impossible line, especially in the wet, and the inside and outside were equally fair game. It was possible he'd have gone underneath if he could have done. There was a definite feeling that this could only end one way, and that would be in the nearest gravel trap. It was only a question of who else would go with him.
A little further back, Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) was leading his own personal train of cars, with Salvador Duran (Hitech Racing) and James Jakes, also of Hitech, sandwiched between the German and Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), while Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) lost out to Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3) in pretty much the same way that Jarvis lost out to Senna. Clearly the outside line is the Brazilian line at the first corner here! In the National Class Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) was busy capitalizing on his superb qualifying position and was well ahead of both Juho Annala (Performance Racing) and championship leader Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport). The Finn was not at all comfortable in the rain round this technically demanding circuit, and the Venezuelan was complaining that he "couldn't see bugger all!" in the midst of the pack. Stuart Hall (T-Sport) was stuck behind Morgado and really didn't want to be, but there wasn't much he could do about it since visibility was so abysmal. Gonzalez, meanwhile, was trying to deal with Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing) just ahead of him.
And at the front Senna was steadily pulling away from Jarvis. Of course he had the advantage of being able to see where he was going. No one else did! Reindler managed to get ahead of Annala, dropping the Finn back into Gonzalez's clutches. There wasn't much else going on because really the best bet was to just hold station and hope for the best. Of course no one had told Buurman that. He was still attacking Walker for 4th, which was probably only to be expected, though it seemed very unwise. Somewhere in the murk Gonzalez hacked past Annala, and started to set off after Hall and Morgado, but he couldn't really see what was happening, at least not at this stage.
The fastest lap of the race was being traded back and forth between Senna and Conway, with Jarvis getting a temporary look in before Senna got it back. Meanwhile, behind the leaders Buurman went for that 4th place again, trying to hack round the outside as they headed into the first corner. When that didn't work, he reconsidered his options and started looking at other ways round. By the end of lap 5 he'd run out of ideas as well as out of road. It had been heart in mouth stuff to that point and now it ended in the inevitable gravel. Luckily both cars were a long, long way off and there was no need for a Safety Car or anything similar. That promoted Engel to an unexpected 4th place, with Duran, Jakes and Bakkerud still running in formation behind him. Valerio, Jelley and Hall (who had found a way past Morgado at last) rounded out the top 10.
Meanwhile, having held up Annala, Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) went skittering off into the gravel traps after a bit of a scuffle with Mauro Massironi (Passoli Racing), putting himself out of the race, while Duran had a cross-country moment and lost two places to Jakes and Bakkerud as a result. People were sliding all over the place and it was a miracle there weren't more cars off, but that was pretty much the end of any excitement. The weather began to improve slightly, but it wasn't enough to develop a dry line, just a less wet line.
It was enough to allow Jarvis to close the gap to Senna a little, but Senna then fought back having been told in no uncertain tones that he needed to press on as much as possible because he wasn't home safe yet. Massironi, meanwhile, was back again and was now trying to take Annala again. This was beginning to vex the Finn, but there wasn't a lot he could do about it. Behind them, Waters was being caught by Avila, who seemed to have woken up rather late in the morning. In the meantime, having got some clear track in front of him, Engel took a turn at fastest lap, though Senna didn't let him keep it for too long. The times were coming down dramatically as the track dried out, a fact that was made clear by Senna setting a 1:57 after a series of 2 minute laps. He was now steadily pulling away from Jarvis again and well, and finally came home over 7 seconds ahead. He then eased off a bit on his last lap, having realised that otherwise he would need to try and pass Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport) who he was about to lap. Jarvis was 2nd after a steady race, with Conway settling for 3rd and the points. Engel was 4th, from Jakes, Bakkerud, Duran, Valerio, Jelley and Hall. Morgado took his 2nd win of the season in the National Class, and finished 11th overall. Reindler was 12th, from Gonzalez, Fabrizio Crestani (Corbetta), Massironi, Annala, Waters, Avila (who was struggling with battery problems) and Ihara.
Next Race Meeting: Rounds 19 & 20, Silverstone, UK, September 23rd/24th.