Changes This week saw the series revert to the "normal" 21 runners, with not so much as a single invitation class runner, despite running at the former GP track Magny-Cours, Qualifying Report Life in general seemed to be back to normal...
This week saw the series revert to the "normal" 21 runners, with not so much as a single invitation class runner, despite running at the former GP track Magny-Cours,
Life in general seemed to be back to normal from the moment the pack emerged onto the French track, with local man Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) on the pace immediately and pretty much on top of things from start to finish, though he did have Oli Webb (Fortec Motorsport) in hot pursuit all the way to the chequered flag. 3rd in the session was Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport), last year's National Class champion beginning to show his true form as the season progresses. Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) claimed National Class pole from his team-mate James Cole.
Even from the first lap it was Vergne who showed the others the way, and he very quickly left Webb trailing as the Englishman started to come to grips with the tricky French circuit. In the early stages McKenzie was 4th, just ahead of Felipe Nasr (Räikkönen Robertson Racing). Meanwhile Idafar was leading the National Class by a large margin. The rest of the field were battling for 2nd pretty much, Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) showing early pace, with the not-so-usual suspect William Buller (Hitech Racing) just behind him. Meanwhile Vergne was around three quarters of a second ahead of everyone and seemed untroubled by the rest of the pack. While "JEV" proceeded at his own pace, McKenzie leapfrogged to 3rd behind Webb, while James Calado (Carlin), who was the pace setter at Silverstone not a month ago, languished back in 11th.
With a third of the session gone, Vergne was looking increasingly untouchable at the top of the order. He was trailed by Webb, McKenzie, Dias, Buller, Lucas Foresti (Carlin), Nasr, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), and the Räikkönen Robertson pair of Carlos Huertas and Daisuke Nakajima, who rounded out the top ten. Webb eventually started to close the gap to Vergne but he was still looking for over half a second to catch the Frenchman in his own back yard. Further back were people who you might have expected to be closer to the front as Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) and Calado were both still attempting to break into the top ten and not showing much sign of doing so.
They were just ahead of Idafar, who continued to lead the National Class from Cole, the two of them now split only by Hywel Lloyd (CF Racing with Manor). A further effort from the Welshman saw him edge ahead, but he was almost instantly replaced by Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3) so the situation hadn't changed much for the two of them. While Huertas mounted a charged that saw him improve to 8th there was a general rush to the pits. Vergne was in and out in a flash, which was more than could be said for anyone else. Soon it was just him, Webb and Idafar, while the track slowly heated up and the temperatures rose steadily. With the track at 32.8°C while air temperature was already 18.2°C it was clearly going to be a hot day in Nevers.
When Webb wandered into the pits too, it seemed Vergne was just playing a waiting game and circulating in case anyone got close to him time. There was a sudden Carlin rush for the pitlane exit though as Adriano Buzaid, Calado and Svendsen-Cook all out in an effort to get more Carlin cars in the top 10. They had quite a bit of work to do, and they had less than 12 minutes to do it in, so it was to be hoped they were concentrating. That seemed to open the floodgates, and while Svendsen-Cook improved but stayed 11th, everyone rushed back out except for Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing), but since he was dead last anyway over a second slower than Max Snegirev (Fortec Racing) it didn't really matter. Into the bargain the track seemed to be slowing significantly, and although Calado just squeezed into the top ten, Webb was failing to get on terms with Vergne no matter how hard he pushed.
Further back Bridger improved but stayed 17th, while Svendsen-Cook was not up to 5th. It proved the time was there if you knew where to look, though not everyone was finding it that easy. Alex Brundle (T-Sport) was the next improver, shooting up to 7th. Just for good measure, though, the man at the front dug a little deeper, and Vergne edged further away from his pursuers again, just as Buzaid displaced Brundle for 7th. Webb was briefly pushed to 3rd by McKenzie though he was back in place again less than a minute late, while Svendsen-Cook improved again to go 6th. He then lost out to Buller, while Calado and Buzaid settled in behind him.
Dias was able to find a little more speed but it didn't move him up from 4th, and an improvement in time from Buller had much the same effect, the youngster remaining in 5th. The session hadn't exactly come alive in the second half, and the only change in the last five minutes came from Jaafar, who snatched 13th. Lloyd did go faster but stayed 15th and Fong improved but he was still a good thee quarters of a second adrift of Snegirev so it was nothing to get excited about.
As the chequered flag fell, it was Vergne from McKenzie, Dias, Buller, Svendsen-Cook, Calado, Buzaid, Huertas and Brundle. 11th was Foresti, from Nasr, Jaafar, Nakajima, Lloyd, National Class pole sitter Idafar, Bridger, Cole, Rio Haryanto (C F Racing with Manor) and Snegirev. Fong was 21st and last.
Weather: Dry, warm.