At Thruxton this morning, despite starting from 7th on the grid, Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) out-drove, out-thought and generally out-classed the opposition to claim yet another F3 victory and further consolidate his already considerable championship lead. Second place went to James Calado (Carlin) after both he and Jev proved to have the legs on Oli Webb (Fortec Motorsport). The National Class went, after a hair-raising battle, to Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport), from James Cole (T-Sport).
At the start, however, it all looked rather different as Lucas Foresti (Carlin) got away in the lead just ahead of fellow Brazilian Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing). There followed a massive scrap as the two South Americans tussled for the lead, while behind them Webb was waiting to see what would happen. He didn't have to wait long. With their speed seemingly evenly matched, Nasr attacked Foresti as they headed into the Chicane for the second time, making a lunge that pushed the Carlin man onto the grass. They tangled, Foresti limped round and into the pits, and Nasr collected himself together enough to get moving again by the time the rest of the pack had gone through. That handed the lead to Webb, who wasn't at all reticent in claiming it, while behind him the various surviving Carlin drivers tripped over each other in their enthusiasm to get ahead. Calado was 2nd with Adriano Buzaid holding off Vergne, and just to complete the set, Rupert Svendsen-Cook also getting in on the act. A lap later and Vergne made to go round Buzaid at Campbell, a move that didn't quite pan out. He settled back into 4th and waited.
There was also quite a midfield scrap going on, involving , among others, Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing), William Buller (also of Hitech) and a motley assortment of others including Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport), an out-of-his-depth Adderley Fong (Sino Vision Racing) and Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3). On the tail end of that group, Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport) managed to spin and stop in the middle of the track, looking more than slightly embarrassed, especially when he finally managed to fire it back up just as a bunch of burly marshals reached him. The Russian spun it back round to face the right way and took off, just as the front runners hove back into view, with Vergne now through into 3rd and starting to sniff round Calado.
A lap later and Vergne was catching Calado rapidly, while in the midfield Dias and Buller had clashed, Buller retiring there and then, which allowed Huertas to set about Dias, while Fong was amazingly still holding off Bridger just behind them. It was all getting a bit unseemly out there. However, the man in most trouble now was Webb, because while Vergne was catching Calado, Calado was also gaining on the leader. It was debatable who would get the drop on whom first. As it turned out it was Vergne, the Frenchman diving through at the Chicane and into 2nd. It wasn't the only bit of internecine strife either, as Svendsen-Cook was harassing Buzaid for 4th, finally getting through after a bit of effort on his part. That opened the door for McKenzie to also get the drop on the Brazilian in the closing stages of the race, blasting through to finish 5th. However, elsewhere things were getting messy with Fong mucking up the Chicane and spinning himself out of the highest place he's seen all year. Just for good measure, Alex Brundle (T-Sport) was attempting to tangle with his own team-mates again, this leading to Idafar cutting the Chicane and very nearly wiping himself and Cole out as a result. They managed to survive, and Idafar hung onto the class lead, but it was a close and slightly scary moment. At the front though, it was suddenly all to play for as Vergne began to reel in Webb, hauling Calado with him. On lap 12 Vergne saw his opportunity and didn't hesitate, leaving his braking incredibly late and diving through into the lead as they once again entered the Chicane. Once through he immediately began to pull away, leaving Webb to cope with Calado, who seems to have a had a long hard think since Spa, and is now back on form and ready to try and challenge his team-mate. First though he needed to find a way past Webb. Given the sprint race only lasts 20 minutes he was in danger of running out of time if he didn't make his move soon.
With two laps to go the chance came, and Webb could do nothing to stop Calado no matter what he tried to do. And that was it really. Vergne came home to yet another win, from Calado, Webb, Svendsen-Cook, McKenzie, Buzaid, Jaafar, Huertas, Dias and Bridger. 11th was Brundle, ahead of Lloyd, Idafar, Cole, Fong, Snegirev and an extremely unhappy Foresti. All of this means that Vergne now leads the championship by 96 points with ten more races to go (and 183 points still up for grabs).
Fastest laps went to Vergne and Idafar.
Weather: Sunny, dry.