At the Rockingham Motor Speedway just outside Corby this afternoon, Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) did his championship chances no harm at all by snatching victory from Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) and Oli Webb (Fortec Motorsport) after a hard fought race. In the National Class Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) won from James Cole, also of T-Sport, the two of them lucky to survive the mid-field chaos that broke out around them early on.
Actually, the chaos wasn't confined to the race, as Alex Brundle (T-Sport) managed to fall off on his way out of the pits to the grid. He was able to get going again but it wasn't what you'd call an auspicious start for the youngster. At the start, poleman Webb was slow to move compared to Huertas, who dived through to grab the lead from Webb. Vergne, however, was even faster off the mark, jinking to the outside then charging past Huertas as they reached the first corner, Deene. Vergne simply powered ahead as Huertas was forced onto the damp side of the track, and the Frenchman then started to try and open up a gap. In the middle of the field James Calado (Carlin) got the drop on Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) for 4th, while a little further back Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) made a bit of a nonsense of the start, leaving Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) and Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) to fight over 10th place. The teenager dropped back to 14th and then came to a halt sideways across the track at Tarzan. By the time he got going again he'd nearly been collected by Idafar who was already leading the National Class, had been clipped by Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) who had to pit for a new front wing as a result and whose weekend deteriorated from that point. Just to complete the picture, he also caused Brundle to end up stranded at Tarzan temporarily. And while all that was happening, Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3) was having trouble holding off Adderley Fong (Sino Vision Racing) and Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport), which was unusual to say the least.
At the front Huertas was kicking himself for not resisting Vergne more effectively and was now in hot pursuit, chasing hard after the Frenchman and setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. He didn't get to keep that for long because Vergne responded to the threat by upping his own pace and pulling away slightly, going faster than the Colombian. It wasn't quite enough even so, and Huertas just wouldn't go away, the leader struggling to make the break he wanted. Someone else not making a break was Nakajima, who lost out to McKenzie for 9th while Adriano Buzaid (Carlin) was having one of his apparent "out of sorts" days and was slipping back down the order. If he wasn't careful he was going to end up in the clutches of Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) and Lucas Foresti (Carlin), the pair of them disputing 12th place in energetic fashion. Meanwhile Bridger finally managed to break away from Fong and Snegirev.
At Carlin life was getting just a little too exciting, with Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) finally finding a way past Nasr, or at least thinking he had, but ending up going a long way off track at Deene, thus not only handing the place straight back but also losing another 6 places before he could get going again back in 14th. It was a characteristically wild moment from the less than consistent Malaysian. Avoiding him, McKenzie found his way past Buzaid which went some way to improving his day. At the back Fong ran wide at Deene and Snegirev dived through but Fong almost immediately took it back, while Brundle completely failed to capitalise, not taking a leaf out of Jaafar's book, who was now starting what was going to have to be a recovery drive. On the next attempt Snegirev did go though and this time Fong simply didn't have an answer, leaving Brundle and Fantin to try and find their own way past the Chinese.
However, Jaafar was about to hit more trouble when he tried to take a place from Foresti and ended up in the barriers at the last corner. When he finally got going again he pulled out onto the track just in front of Vergne. After the leaders had swept past, he promptly impeded Calado at Deene and seemed to be going for all of his team-mates if he could get them. He wasn't the only roadblock out there; William Buller (Hitech Racing) was also cresting a roadblock but at least he was running in 5th, with Gabriel Dias in the other Hitech car, Nasr and McKenzie all bottled up behind him. It wasn't long before Buzaid caught back up with them as a result and Nakajima was getting closer by the lap, while behind him Foresti was all over Svendsen-Cook now.
All eyes were on the lead though, where Huertas was now catching Vergne at about a tenth of a second a lap, and was looking as if a challenge for the lead might be imminent. With around 5 minutes to go, the Colombian saw his chance, but Vergne was wise to it and moved over to block the threat. Again Huertas tried it and again he was repulsed, Vergne simply not letting him take the line needed to slingshot past. Huertas settled down again and waited, hoping to pressure the Frenchman into a mistake. With only a lap or two left, and Vergne gaining on the straights but losing ground in the corners, Huertas had another go, getting almost alongside the leader. It was touch and go but Vergne's nerve held and he kept his foot in, leading over the line at the end by 0.282 seconds, one of the closest victories in some time in the category. A distant 3rd place went to Webb, from Calado, while Buller was 5th, leading his train of Dias, Nasr, McKenzie, Buzaid and Nakajima home to round out the top 10. 11th was Svendsen-Cook, who had managed to hold off Foresti, while Idafar was the National Class winner in 12th overall. Cole followed him home, ahead of Snegirev, Brundle (who finally found a way past Fong), Fantin, and Fong.
With Bridger's car having died in the closing stages and dumped him out on the track, and Lloyd and Jaafar having retired eventually, there were no other finishers.
Fastest laps went to Vergne, Idafar and Fantin.
Weather: Hot, sunny.