They had all (with the exception of Alan Docking Racing's Robbie Kerr and Carlin Motorsport's James Courtney) been pretty well-behaved during Round 10 (run the day before as a replacement for the race that was rained off at Croft) so it...
They had all (with the exception of Alan Docking Racing's Robbie Kerr and Carlin Motorsport's James Courtney) been pretty well-behaved during Round 10 (run the day before as a replacement for the race that was rained off at Croft) so it was probably too much to hope for equally good behaviour for the first of the "real" Snetterton rounds.
The lights turned to green and the start was apparently clean. However, the first corner was anything but with Shinya Hosokawa (Formula Dream Team Carlin) and Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport) getting into trouble almost immediately. They both staggered round to the pits before rejoining the race. At the front, Kerr had capitalised on his pole position and made an impeccable start to take the lead from Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) and Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International). His main rival, Courtney, also started well but he was back in 5th, after a somewhat troublesome qualifying session, and was trapped behind Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport), who wasn't about to let the Championship leader through if he could help it. It soon turned out that he couldn't help it and Courtney was up to 4th. However, when Clivio Piccione (T-Sport) had an off and scattered debris all over the track, it looked as if anything that had happened on Lap 1 would turn out to be purely of academic interest. Despite the fact that Piccione was able to continue, the Safety Car was deployed so that the debris could be cleared.
It would have been useful if the Safety Car had then managed to pick up the leaders on its first attempt, rather than the trio of Hosokawa, Piccione and Taylor who it could be argued were to blame for it being out there in the first place. Perhaps it was felt that they needed close watching! Anyway, once that was sorted out the order was Kerr, Carbone, Jouanny, Courtney, Kovalainen, Robert Dahlgren (Sweeney Racing) who had inherited the Scholarship Class lead when Piccione got it all wrong, Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport), Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport), Ronnie Bremer (Manor Motorsport), Stefan de Groot (Menu Motorsport), Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing), Billy Asaro (Sweeney Racing), Gavin Smith (Meritus Racing), Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), Matthew Gilmore (Promatecme International), Mark Mayall (Alan Docking Racing), Stefano Fabi (Team Avanti), Stephen Colbert (Meritus Racing), Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing), Justin Sherwood (Performance Racing), Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport), Tor Graves (Alan Docking Racing), Harold Primat (Diamond Racing), John Antoniades (Duma Racing), Pedro Barral (Diamond Racing), and the trio that were responsible for it all, Hosokawa, Piccione and Taylor. S tefan Hodgetts (Motaworld Racing) had already retreated to the pits with a seriously unwell car, and various team members were now scratching their heads in bafflement as they tried to work out what was wrong with the Mugen in the back. They really were having a weekend to forget, and it wasn't over yet.
Anyway, once the track was nice and clean and shiny again, the Safety Car pulled off. Kerr hung onto the lead and was busy making the most of being well away from Courtney. If he could help it he wasn't about to let anyone spoil his run to the flag. It had all gone wrong on Saturday. That would not happen this time.
It didn't take long for more problems to occur though. This time it was Bremer who was involved, the Dane having battled with Robert Dahlgren for 8th place. He was almost able to get the place, when Dahlgren ran out of road at Riches, but Carroll saw an opportunity to move up the order and out of reach of the other Scholarship Class runners and was through before Ronnie could stop him. Courtney, meanwhile, had spent a lap or two stuck behind van der Merwe before Alan realised who it was and moved over to let the number one car through to continue his championship chase, and allow him to hunt down Kovalainen.
Kerr's break for the border would soon be halted however. We only had a handful of laps before there was further mayhem. While Courtney and Kovalainen were fighting over 4th place, and Jouanny got the jump on Carbone for 2nd, Rob Austin, as is so often the case if you believe Bremer, was in trouble again. This time he was involved in a crash that eliminated himself, Sherwood and Fairuz, neither of whom is even in the Championship Class. The result was a further Safety Car period as various bits of Dallara were collected up and thrown in the bins. This was getting ridiculous. It seems that there have been more laps behind the Safety Car this season than there have been racing laps, which ought not to be the case in a supposedly professional formula. Then again, having seen what happens in F3000 these days, I suppose we shouldn't really be surprised.
At the back, Primat managed to fall off, thus losing the few places he had gained through the antics of others. He was able to rejoin but now he and Barral were stuck behind Piccione, who was trying to recover some dignity after the start. Unfortunately the T-Sport car was running out of gears, and as he ground to an almost-halt, trying to wave the two Diamond Cars through, the inexperienced Barral didn't want to risk getting into trouble for passing anyone under a Safety Car period. The result was the farcical spectacle of three Scholarship Class cars moving at walking pace, until Primat lost his temper and went past anyway. At which point, Piccione seemed to find the gears he wanted again, and retook his place. A lap or so later, Barral went off on the outside of Riches and then stood in the middle of the field for a while, presenting himself as quite a tempting target until the marshals yelled at him to move to a place of safety.
When the race finally restarted for the second time, with less than a quarter of the distance left, Kerr made yet another impressive start, though Jouanny did his best to stop the Englishman from getting away. Kerr continued on his way to the chequered flag, with Jouanny close enough to see him clearly but not close enough to be a real threat, Kovalainen was now attacking Carbone for 3rd, though he claimed afterwards, in what seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek moment, that "team orders" had stopped him going through.
Elsewhere, Bremer was becoming increasingly frustrated in his efforts to get past his teammate, Antinucci, but the American was not about to give up a perfectly respectable 7th place. No one at Manor has enough points that they can afford to give them away, and Ronnie would have to settle for 8th. Carroll had sensibly opted not to get in the way of either of them, and his Class win meant that he only needed 6 points in the next race to put the title out of reach of Piccione, his nearest rival. We looked as if we would leave Snetterton with one new champion, even if the Championship Class looked likely to go down to the wire this year, Kerr having taken the lead back from Courtney now.