Alan van der Merwe, fresh from an inherited win at Donington Park two weeks ago, extended his lead in the championship with a fine display at Snetterton on Easter Sunday. The South African lead for the whole race and, despite pressure mid-race...
Alan van der Merwe, fresh from an inherited win at Donington Park two weeks ago, extended his lead in the championship with a fine display at Snetterton on Easter Sunday. The South African lead for the whole race and, despite pressure mid-race from second placed Nelson Piquet Jr and two Safety Car periods, defended his position to cross the line over four seconds ahead.
Van der Merwe and Piquet both made great starts and pulled away quickly. Behind them Antinucci was slow getting away and was passed by Bremer. Carroll also made a bad start and dropped back to eighth while Green, in his newly-repaired Carlin, made up a couple of places to fifth. The order at the end of lap one was van der Merwe, Piquet, Bremer, Antinucci and Green.
The leading trio started to pull away from the rest of the pack, although at the front van der Merwe had trouble breaking away from Piquet. He built up a 1.5 second lead over the first three laps but then was forced to run wide on lap four to avoid a slow Ernani Judice who was leaving the pitlane and he fell right into Piquet's sights. He then managed to pull out another two seconds - including lapping 1.3 seconds faster than anyone else on lap 5 - but again Piquet reeled him in.
Piquet was further helped on lap eight with the deployment of the Safety Car a couple of laps after an accident. Ivor McCullough, who was leading the Scholarship Class for year-old chassis, was pushed off the circuit at the Bomb Hole, a fast right-hander on the far side of the circuit.
The Safety Car returned to the pits at the end of lap 12 and Piquet kept right behind van der Merwe's rear wing for the next two laps. No soon as the Safety Car had returned to the pits it was again deployed, this time on lap 15 after team-mates Christian England and Michael Keohane collided at the end of back straight half way round the first lap after the restart.
After four laps touring at low speed the cars restarted for the remainder of the race, now extended from 20 laps to 23 laps due to the intervention of the Safety Car. This time the luck was with van der Merwe. Antinucci's car had suffered mechanical problems on lap two and he quickly fell back down the field. He then pitted on lap three for five laps and then again on lap nine for three laps. He rejoined on van der Merwe's 18th lap neatly in the gap between the leader and Piquet.
This meant that Piquet now had a potentially slower car between himself and the leader and he also had Bremer and Watts breathing down his neck - both were less than a second behind. Fortunately for van der Merwe, and not for Piquet, Antinucci's engine problem had been resolved and he was now the fastest driver on the track. Piquet managed to fend off the advances of Bremer as Watts faded away, but was unable to mount a serious challenge on the lapped Antinucci.
Van der Merwe crossed the line to take a convincing lights-to-flag victory four seconds ahead of Piquet with Bremer close behind in third place.