Race Report: Weather: Windy, changeable, dry track. Before we even started this race, we were down a Scholarship Class runner after Vas Calasan (Promatecme F3) crawled over the finish line at the end of Round 19 earlier in the day, the engine in...
Weather: Windy, changeable, dry track.
Before we even started this race, we were down a Scholarship Class runner after Vas Calasan (Promatecme F3) crawled over the finish line at the end of Round 19 earlier in the day, the engine in his Dallara having dried enough! That meant there were three Scholarship Class runners left, so a place on the podium was guaranteed so long as you could stay on the track. It didn't stop Stephen Jelley (Performance Racing) from getting off the line at high speed this time, wanting to get the drop on Ryan Lewis (T- Sport). Unfortunately, Marcus Marshall (Fortec Motorsport) was again slow off the line, and he baulked both of them badly, which allowed Ronayne O'Mahony (Performance Racing) to snatch the class lead. It didn't take long for both of them to come back at the young Irishman, and he was back down to third two laps later, while Jelley started a race long tussle to pass Lewis (which took five laps), and then, having reclaimed the lead, he had to spend the rest of the race keeping Lewis behind him while trying not to fall over the Championship Class cars immediately in front of the pair of them.
In the rather better subscribed Championship Class James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) made a poor start and then went off the racing line at the Complex, causing Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport) all sorts of trouble, allowing Lucas di Grassi (Hitech Racing), Nelson A Piquet (Piquet Sports) and Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) to get away. Another one in trouble early on was Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing). Thompson started the race much higher up than usual, which appeared to cause a rush of blood to the head or something equally debilitating. The next thing he knew, he was losing places to team-mate Marko Asmer, who is another one of those drivers who doesn't need telling twice when it comes to making the most of his opportunities, and also Fairuz Fauzy (P1 Motorsport).
The battle of the Brazilians up at the front of the field was pretty entertaining for the remainder of the race, with Piquet repeatedly looking for a way round his compatriot, while di Grassi was proving reluctant to back down, for reasons Piquet didn't find reasonable at all. He had a go, nonetheless, but then came close to throwing it all away with a rash move at the Chicane. Luckily he was able to gather it back together, and thereafter seemed - temporarily anyway - to consider that actually second to someone who was no threat to him in the championship was better than going off going for a win he could probably manage without.
A lap later, Will Power (Alan Docking Racing) came to grief, spinning off, having wiped out most of his rear wing early on. He got going again and limped back to the pits, Rossiter, meanwhile, was busy setting fastest lap, but he wouldn't hang onto it, and he couldn't do anything about Austin this time. He was 4th and that was where he would stay for the rest of the race. Piquet was back on the attack again, and was now savaging di Grassi at every tip and turn. Another wobble at the Chicane didn't seem to deter him this time, and it may not have been a coincidence that the gap between them was at one stage 0.666 seconds. It was just as well that there was some entertainment at the front, because otherwise there was little to look at apart from the Jelley/Lewis scuffle.
Di Grassi and Piquet were still battling it out for the lead, though it was probably going to take more than Piquet was willing to risk for him to get through. Austin was holding off Rossiter, and Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) was busy driving a very wide car and refusing to let his teammate, Piccione, through into 5th place, to Piccione's mock disgust afterwards. Adam Carroll (P1 Motorsport) was once again running in close company with Danny Watts (Promatecme F3), but again there didn't seem to be much chance of change there either.
There was very nearly another Scholarship Class lead change though, as Power finally wobbled into the pits for a new rear wing, and a new front wing, ready to come out and try for a point for fastest lap. Lewis thought he saw a gap, and he duly went for it, he and Jelley running side by side until Jelley was able to slam the door again.
And after that it got very dull indeed. Afterwards, di Grassi was almost beside himself at finally winning, and not just one round but two, while team boss David Hayle heaved a sigh of relief, claiming it was a gorilla and not a monkey they'd just got of their backs. Piquet settled for 2nd and Austin got onto the podium, allowing his team boss a quiet celebration too; it was an "up yours" to everyone as far as he could see. Rossiter was now fairly comfortable in 2nd in the series, while finishing 4th in this round. Parente led Piccione home, while Carroll was 7th from Watts, Asmer and Thompson. Again just outside the points was Fauzy, while Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport) was 12th and slowest Brazilian. Marshall was 13th ahead of James Walker (Hitech Racing). Jelley headed Lewis home for the Scholarship Class win, with O'Mahony in 3rd. And that was it for the day; another short race in which less than usual happened. Of course, the circus goes to Spa next so boredom is unlikely to be on the menu. Let's just hope it doesn't all get too exciting.
Next Races: Rounds 21 & 22, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, September 9th/12th
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite