With a hint of rain in the air, and clouds scudding across the sky, the scene was set for another lesson in race car driving from Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin), the Frenchman taking his second victory of the weekend in impressive style, barely putting...
With a hint of rain in the air, and clouds scudding across the sky, the scene was set for another lesson in race car driving from Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin), the Frenchman taking his second victory of the weekend in impressive style, barely putting a wheel wrong for the duration of the 40 minute feature race and coming home miles ahead of William Buller (Hitech Racing) and 3rd placed Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), on the podium for the second time. The National Class was won by Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) despite a spin, after James Cole (T-Sport) threw it all away with two laps to go when he lost control and embedded himself if the Sachs Kurve gravel.
At the start there was some indecision on the part of the teams, with most of them prepared to change rear wings if the rain that was spitting intermittently turned into anything serious. It didn't and the race got off to a clean start, with Vergne pulling away immediately and simply leaving the rest of them in his wake, wondering just how he does it. Adriano Buzaid (Carlin), meanwhile, was attacking Buller but had the door promptly shut on him by the youngster, while Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) made a poor start and threw away his front row advantage as he struggled with the new clutch that had to be fitted overnight.
Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsport), meanwhile, was going backwards and doing his championship chances no good while his chief rival romped away into the distance. And at the back, Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport) and Wayne Boyd (Sino Vision Racing) clashed as Boyd bundled the Russian out of the way. Snegirev continued but seemed to be having trouble controlling the car from the way he was taking the stadium section. He wasn't dead last - that dubious honour went to Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport), the Welshman driving something that sounded more like a heavy duty lawn-mower than a sophisticated piece of racing machinery.
As Vergne steadily increased the gap, his rivals started to squabble among themselves. Buzaid now had Buzaid looking interested in making up ground, and immediately on their tails were Jaafar, Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) and a whole gaggle of others, all waiting for their opportunity. It wasn't long in coming either, at least for Jaafar, when he staged an attack on Dias and was through for 3rd. The let Nakajima get on the Brazilian's case, though it was made more difficult for him by the train of cars visible in his rear view mirrors, starting with Svendsen-Cook, and trailing back through Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport), Carlos Huertas and Felipe Nasr (both with Raikkonen Robertson Racing), James Calado (Carlin) and Webb. Calado was having to be cautious now though as he'd already had two warnings for not respecting the track limits - one more and he'd be in for a drive through penalty, which would not improve his weekend any.
Back in the National Class, Idafar was leading from Cole, the latter trailing around with what sounded like a very rough engine. He would be promoted into the lead, however, when Idafar contrived to spin off. Although he got going again, that left Cole with an unchallenged lead, at least for the time being. It was just as well because he was caught up in the cluster of cars bottled up behind Alex Brundle (T-Sport), and didn't want to get involved in anything that was nothing to do with him. There was quite enough going on in that pack with Boyd and Lucas Foresti (Carlin) scrapping furiously just ahead.
A couple of laps later and Jaafar was all over Buzaid, while Buller kept his cool and tried to maintain a safe distance from those behind. There was nothing he could do about Vergne by now, in fact he probably couldn't even see the leader, so his plan had to be to keep his nose clean and hope against hope that something would happen to Vergne. As the pack started to spread out, Nasr limped into view and dragged his car into the pits to retire, while Snegirev was awarded a drive through. Giving a penalty to a man who was already all but last seemed a bit pointless, but rules are rules, a fact that may have been lost on Fortec as a lap later both Webb and McKenzie also got drive through penalties as well. Oh to be a fly on the wall at the Fortec debrief...
That reshuffled the order in the midfield, while Jaafar had managed to squeeze past Buzaid and was 3rd. Dias was still trying to hold off Nakajima, only for Nakajima to find Calado coming through and edging him out of the way. The rest of the field was getting strung out as the distance took its toll on the tyres but there was plenty to watch as Calado now started looking closely at Dias. Behind them, Brundle was still running his own train, and frustrating all efforts to get past on the part of Webb, Bridger and Boyd. Only Vergne appeared untroubled by anything, lapping Snegirev with ease and blasting away again before the Russian could get a lesson in driving from the leader. It was a mightily impressive performance from the Frenchman and no one looked close in terms of class this morning
As the race drew to its close, Huertas was given another drive through which would translate into a 30 second penalty after the race, and McKenzie picked up another penalty too having lost ground in the squabbling mess behind Brundle. It had been a weekend of extremes for last year's National Class champion, with the high of a podium yesterday and then the low of a 30 second penalty dropped him to 16th at the end of the morning. Another man having a morning to forget was Cole, who had thrown away the National Class with a trip into the Sachs Kurve gravel that saw him dig in and have to be craned away by the marshals. Not a good end to what looked as if it was going to be a comfortable win for the points leader.
And so Vergne, who was so fast that there was speculation that he was getting an early flight out, came home to a classy win and increased his lead to 34 points over Webb. 2nd was Buller, from Jaafar, Buzaid, Dias, Calado, Nakajima, Svendsen-Cook, Foresti and Brundle. 11th was Webb, from Bridger (awarded driver of the weekend), Boyd, Huertas, Lloyd, McKenzie, Idafar and Snegirev.
Next Meeting: Rounds 13-15, Rockingham, Northamptonshire, 17th/18th July 2010