At Oulton Park this morning Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) took his first race win of the season at the end of the 20-minute sprint race. He was followed home by Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) and Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), despite Nakajima having led the early laps. Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) won the National Class category after his only rival, James Cole (T-Sport) crashed out midway through.
The winner of Race 1 at each meeting draws a number between 6 and 10, and that number decides which position on the grid he gets allocated for Race 2, while the person who finished Race 1 in that position is moved to pole. Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) was the one to benefit when Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) drew 7. The remaining 5 drivers who were then ahead of the Race 1 winner formed up behind the new pole sitter in the reverse order in which they finished Race 1. Clear? No... Never mind. We'll all get the hang of it eventually.
Anyway, it turned out to be a wasted opportunity for Dias as he made a less than brilliant start. Mind you Nakajima wasn't too quick away either, though he did enough to grab the lead. Dias made a stab at taking it back but couldn't quite get past and had to settle back in to 2nd for the early stages. Behind the two of them Huertas was in 4th as he tried to chase down Svendsen-Cook. Even further back James Calado (T-Sport), who had started from the back after crashing out in Round 1, had started picking up places as had Felipe Nasr in the third of the Double R cars but they were neither of them in a position to trouble the points yet. And while all that was going on, at the back Adderley Fong (Sino Vision Racing) had stalled and needed pushing into the pit-lane, from where he would eventually start the race a lap down.
At the start of lap two the leaders appeared side-by-side and Dias took a look at the outside of Nakajima into Old Hall. It wasn't a good idea; the grass is so sodden at the moment that the Brazilian promptly lost all traction and spun himself right out of contention. That let Svendsen- Cook through into 2nd, and it wasn't long before he was right on Nakajima's tail to challenge for the lead, though the Japanese gained a well-earned reputation as something of a roadblock last year and wouldn't be easy to deal with. All of that also allowed series leader Vergne through to 5th, just behind Adriano Buzaid (Carlin).
As the track started to dry out, the fastest lap times were constantly changing and it was initially Alex Brundle (T-Sport) who was quickest despite being down in 10th at this juncture. Meanwhile Cole had caught up with Idafar and was trying to wrest the National Class lead from his team- mate. And just as it seemed things were settling down, the guys at the front came up fast behind Fong, the Chinese driver receiving signals from the marshals post that caused him to dive up the Hislops escape road. That was all very well, as it let Nakajima and Svendsen-Cook through but Fong then rejoined right in front of Huertas, who has to haul on the anchors or hit the pale blue car. The end result of it all was that Svendsen-Cook caught right up with Nakajima and was all over him like a rash. And as they rounded Old Hall again the youngster made his move, muscling his way through and promptly opening up a gap to the Japanese. Huertas had bundles Fong out of the way now, and Nakajima's situation was made worse because he now had his team-mate right on his tail and looking menacing.
With the dry line continuing to improve and expand, everyone was speeding up, most notably Calado who was now 12th and menacing Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor). Dias was also on a charge as he tried to make up for his earlier misdemeanour, by setting the fastest lap of the race so far. With two points available for the fastest driver, it was worth a go at least. At the front, meanwhile, Nakajima was trying to come back at Svendsen-Cook while Vergne was hanging the tail out as he tries to wrestle his way past Buzaid. However, the Frenchman wasn't about to take a major risk and throw away valuable points by getting into a situation with his team-mate. When "Buzzy" resisted hard, Vergne backed off and settled in to wait.
While Svendsen-Cook pulled away at the front, in the middle of the pack the National Class result was pretty much settled when Cole spun out at Hislops and ended up beached on a tump of grass. All Idafar now needed to do was bring it home in one piece to win the class. Someone who wasn't thinking about bringing it home safely was Huertas, though. The Colombian set a new fastest lap as he caught up with Nakajima, and was showing signs of wanting to come through. The trouble was there were waved yellows at Hislop which reduced the overtaking possibilities. The erstwhile pole position man, meanwhile, had given up the struggle and brought his Dallara into the pits and out of the race. Not everyone was ready to do the same. Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) for one was still busy trying looking for a better finishing position, and to do that he needed to pass Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin). It was proving easier said than done, but he kept on trying.
As Svendsen-Cook kept pressing on, Vergne was busy showing why he's favourite to take the title this year. Having decided that he wasn't going to find a way past Buzaid he dropped back to allow himself some room and set about claiming the extra points for fastest lap. He was lucky in that he was far enough ahead of the train developing behind Jaafar, but it was a smart move too. Passing Buzaid would have earned him one more point; by not trying it he earned two more.
Just to stop Carlin having it all their own way in this race, the Foresti and Nasr battle resolved itself in the closing stages of the race with Nasr getting through at Old Hall. At least this time the two of them didn't clash, which was why they were so far back at the start and why they had to do so much work. In the train behind Jaafar life was getting interesting where Idafar barged past Lloyd. Losing out to National Class car suggested there might be an issue with the Manor car, and that suspicion was confirmed when Lloyd pitted, the engine sounding rough. He'd just been passed by Jay Bridger (Litespeed) when he pulled in too, Bridger briefly holding the fastest lap until Vergne came round again. At the front, meanwhile, Huertas had a real go at Nakajima, but he couldn't quite make it stick no matter what he tried. That was enough to spur Nakajima to greater efforts and he too was briefly fastest of all, but there was no stopping Vergne.
With just a few minutes left, what was happening elsewhere? Well, Calado had a serious look at Brundle at Old Hall as he tried to get into the top ten, but the Norfolk-based youngster wasn't having any of that thank you very much. Vergne was busy setting his fastest lap time, and the overall fastest time of the race, untroubled by much else and Svendsen-Cook was resisting Nakajima for all he was worth. And at the tail end, Fong had a bit of a moment at Knickerbrook and speared off through the gravel. He did recover but it wasn't an impressive performance.
And so Svendsen-Cook came home to claim his first F3 win, followed home by Nakajima, despite the latter running wide and falling back into the clutches of Huertas. It was too late for a change, but it made for a close finish to the series first sprint race. 4th was Buzaid from Vergne, Jaafar, McKenzie, Oli Webb (Fortec Motorsport), William Buller (Hitech Racing) and Brundle. 11th was Calado, Bridger, National Class winner Idafar. Nasr was 14th, from Foresti, Snegirev, Fong and Lloyd.
Fastest laps went to Vergne and Idafar.
Weather: Cold, damp, greasy.