At Spa this morning Felix Serralles (Fortec Motorsport) withstood the challenge of Carlos Sainz Jr (Carlin) in the early stages and later Daniel Juncadella (Prema Powerteam) to come home to claim his 4th victory of the season in assured style. It also promotes him to 2nd in the championship table just behind Jack Harvey (Carlin). The Invitation class victory (and 2nd overall) went to Juncadella, while the National Class winner was Duvashen Padayachee (Double R Racing) after a race long tussle with Adderly Fong (CF Racing).
As the lights went out to signal the start of the race, Serralles looked as if he would be lucky to be in the top ten after what was a truly horrible start. The result was that Sainz Jr got the drop on the Puerto Rican and stole the lead as they exited La Source to start the long climb up through Eau Rouge. Behind the Spaniard the Fortec cars of Alex Lynn and Hannes van Asseldonk seemed to trip each other up and thereafter began a steady plummet down the order for the Dutchman that benefitted Harvey in particular, as well as Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), the pair of them making up a lot of ground during the chaotic first lap.
A slow start from Fahmi Ilyas (Double R Racing) inconvenienced Emil Bernstorff (ma-con Motorsport) who was consequently very late getting away, and Luis Sá Silva (Angolan Racing Team), both the Malaysian and the Angolan only finally leaving the grid after the Medical car set off. It was also crazy in the rear of the pack as a result with Pedro Pablo Calbimonte (T-Sport) making a bid for the National Class lead only to find that the others were having none of it. He lasted a lap in 2nd before being overtaken by Richard “Spike” Goddard (T-Sport), and would soon be overhauled by Fong as well as they all set off in pursuit of Padayachee who had claimed the lead but was now embroiled in a scuffle with the International Class boys including team-mate Ilyas and Luis Sá Silva.
At the front it wasn’t all over by a long shot either. Serralles settled in behind Sainz Jr to play a waiting game, knowing that the tyre wear on the leader’s car should present him with a useful opportunity. That opportunity came on lap 2 when he saw a chance and took it, blasting past at Les Combes, where F3s are ideally set up to be able to pass. He was through and into the lead and there was nothing at all that Sainz Jr could do about it.
In the middle of the pack, meanwhile, Harry Tincknell (Carlin) was on the move after a dreadful qualifying that saw him start the race a long way adrift. He was initially behind Geoff Uhrhane (Double R Racing), the Australian far too busy fighting fellow Aussie Nick McBride (ThreeBond with T-Sport) to worry about anything else. McBride lost out to both men. Uhrhane then overtook Pietro Fantin (Carlin), which left Tincknell to have to try and find a way past his own team-mate without anything unfortunate happening.
Serralles continued on his way around the sweeping curves of the Ardennes, while behind him all sorts of things were happening. Sainz Jr was in some trouble holding off Juncadella. Eventually the inevitable happened and again Les Combes was the location for the mugging that followed. Sainz had no choice but to let Juncadella through for 2nd and he was clearly not too happy about it afterwards judging by his expression on the podium.
While Serralles continued to open up the gap to his rivals, Juncadella was now having a nice quite morning, while Michael Lewis (Prema Powerteam) was battling with Tom Blomqvist (ma-con Motorsport) for 7th in the pack and Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) was holding off Harvey for 4th. However, it was still lively in the National Class as well as Fong, Goddard and Calbimonte ran in close formation, swapping positions and then getting tangled up with Sa Silva as the latter tried to make his way back up the order.
Ahead of them Padayachee was trying very hard to stay out of trouble with no idea where his rivals were or if they were even anywhere close. He was more interested in staying out of the way of Ilyas and not tripping over anyone he shouldn’t have been racing with. It was certainly unnerving his parents as they stood above the Bus Stop watching…
Tincknell was still moving too and had finally managed to get back on terms with Uhrhane, having finally despatched McBride. It would take two laps and he would then have to try and deal with Sven Müller (Prema Powerteam) and Pascal Wehrlein (Mücke Motorsport), finally finishing the race in 13th as the filling in a sandwich of the two of them, Müller making up the place and towing Harry with him.
Serralles was serenely oblivious to all of this, as was Juncadella. Sainz Jr, still in 3rd, was watching his mirrors for Jaafar, and what he saw on the last lap must have been something of a relief as Harvey came through ahead of the Malaysian, with a move that caused him some amusement as well as alarm. However, the point was that he was through and leading the championship once the dust had settled, albeit only by a single point from Serralles.
The National Class bust up resolved itself over the final lap or two as well with Calbimonte launching an attack on Fong and the pair of them running side by side up the pit straight to the eventual advantage of Fong, rather than the newcomer. Goddard came back for 3rd in class as the Bolivian rookie was trying to sort himself out and that was the end of his challenge with just a lap to run.
As the race moved towards its end, another man making up ground was Felix Rosenqvist (Mücke Motorsport), with Blomqvist falling victim to the Swede after Blomqvist had been passed by a recovering Lynn in the later stages.
And after 13 challenging laps it was all over with a delighted Serralles the winner by over 5 seconds from Juncadella, Sainz Jr, Harvey, Jaafar, Lynn, Lewis, Derani, Rosenqvist and Blomqvist. Raffaele Marciello (Prema Powerteam) was 11th, from Müller, Tincknell, Wehrlein, Uhrhane, Fantin, Bernstorff, McBride, Andrea Roda (Jo Zeller Racing) and Lucas Wolf (URD Rennsport). Ilyas ended up 21st, from Sandro Zeller (Jo Zeller Racing), van Asseldonk (who came very close to losing out to Richard Bradley (Carlin) as they crossed the finish line, Padayachee, Sa Silva, Fong, Goddard and Calbimonte.
Fastest laps went to Serralles, Padayachee and Lewis.
Weather: Hot, sunny, dry.
Update news on race 2
Round 19 (Race 2) was cancelled due to serious weather issues. With the cars in the collecting area and the teams in the pit lane the heavens opened.
A lap by the course car ended with him nearly going off four times and a wave of water washing over the car.
The race has thus been cancelled and may or may not be rescheduled at some alternative venue, according to the wishes of the teams.