There's always at least one very odd race each season, and it's possible that Round 17 was it. There are a number of drivers who look likely winners, but most people would not necessarily have included James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) among them.
There's always at least one very odd race each season, and it's possible that Round 17 was it. There are a number of drivers who look likely winners, but most people would not necessarily have included James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) among them. However, that was exactly what happened this morning at the Nurburgring. With Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) on pole, we might have expected another victory for the series leader, but it was not to be.
First off, the start procedure was changed without anyone bothering to inform the drivers, the race going live before they'd even had a chance to line up properly. Parente got away smoothly and looked as if he was about to produce another demonstration drive, but when he went to change up to 3rd gear the clutch slipped, and he immediately lost all the ground he'd made up. Meanwhile, Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) had shot forward into the lead, only to get whacked from the rear by Marko Asmer who was barging his way up along the inside in a desperate attempt to salvage something from this race. The result was that Conway's team-mate, Walker leapfrogged from 6th on the grid into the lead, scything past Conway at the second turn. It was, he said later: "like a Formula Ford Festival start". Whatever the true horror of it all, once the dust settled, the Fortec cars were 1st and 2nd, Parente was 3rd and Dan Clarke (Double R Racing) was revolving into the gravel trap, having been helped there by Asmer. Asmer didn't get away unscathed either, dropping back to 7th, behind Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) who'd made another of his trademark lightning starts, but ahead of Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) who was none too impressed to be trapped behind the Estonian when he was busy trying to defend his own chances of stopping Parente taking the championship. He managed to pass Asmer but holding him off was a whole other kettle of fish. Meanwhile, Bruno Senna (Double R Racing) was also slipping back down the order, having been passed by Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport), the Englishman jumping from 17th to 9th by following Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing), who got all the way up to 5th before he found there was nowhere left to go.
In the National Class, Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport) was leading once again, though he was caught up with a number of the Championship Class runners, like Senna. He decided discretion was the better part of valour, and simply let them go, allowing him to concentrate on keeping his series lead intact. Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) had dropped right back at the start when he got boxed in, which left Charlie Hollings as the most immediate threat to the Mexican's lead. In fact, before long, the worst threat came from a Championship Class runner, Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing), who kept getting in the way and was going way too slow for Salvador's liking. Meanwhile, Nick Jones (Team SWR) pitted at the end of the first lap, and would stay there for a good long time before emerging not that far ahead of the leaders.
Afterwards, there was some discussion about jump starts, but with the mayhem that the start procedure turned into, it was almost impossible to decide who was guilty and who wasn't, so nothing more was said. And really, it was something of a miracle that they all got through Turn 1 and lived to fight another day.
With Walker now comfortably in the lead, Conway was being harassed by Parente, but was being pretty determined about closing the door in the Portuguese's face. Behind them, Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) was looking keen to catch up with the third placed runner, and was doing his level best to reduce the gap between them, while behind Bridgman, Kimball and Bakkerud were battling fiercely for position. That let Asmer get through again, for 7th, and he then set about grabbing 6th from Bakkerud. A corner later he lost out again, after he went too wide. Bakkerud didn't need telling twice, and then suddenly Kimball was all over the number 12 car again. Most of the action seemed to centre around the Carlin cars, since Parente was all over Conway's rear wing again as they came up fast behind Jones. They lapped the Championship Class runner easily, but it was pretty much the end of any real challenge Parente was prepared to offer, preferring instead to maintain a watching brief, and see if he could provoke Conway into a mistake.
Someone who was provoked into a mistake was Senna, the Brazilian deciding he wanted to pass Jelley at a place where there really wasn't room. Having forced the issue, Senna duly ran out of room and clipped Jelley's rear wheel, damaging his own front wheel in the process. He had a brief gravel-filled moment and then staggered round to the pits and into retirement. Half a day after Double R Racing had been celebrating their first front-row lock out their drivers were now looking rather sorry for themselves. And so they all settled down now to a somewhat processional run to the flag, though Dirani was edging closer and closer to Parente, who just couldn't get that mistake from Conway. However, the championship leader kept his cool, and resisted the temptation to try anything rash.
If you wanted excitement, you could amuse yourself by wondering when Walker would actually appear on the timing screen (his transponder wasn't working properly), or you could watch what Asmer was up to. He'd finally found a way round Bakkerud, and that left the Dane trying to hold off Kimball again. Kimball, on what he called a damage limitation exercise, finally found a chink in his team-mate's armour, and the two of them indulged in a side-by-side battle for a couple of corners, which included a slightly alarming piece of late braking by Bakkerud, before Kimball managed to get away for 7th.
The only other excitement came from watching Kennard, who hacked his way past Barton Mawer (T-Sport), his team-mate Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing), and finally a somewhat disgruntled Hollings, who was not pleased to lose 2nd. As if it wasn't bad enough being constantly beaten by Duran, now Kennard was doing it as well!
When the dust settled, it turned out that only a Carlin driver can now be champion. Parente has a 105 point lead over Conway, and there are 105 points up for grabs. Even if Conway won every race and set five more fastest laps, he can only equal Parente's points score, and the Portuguese would be champion because he would have more race wins to his name. Kimball could theoretically still take the title, but he's 72 points behind now, in 2nd overall. It's now just a matter of waiting to see what happens this afternoon.
So a somewhat stunned-looking Walker came home to his first race win since his karting days, with Conway 2nd and Parente 3rd. Dirani was 4th, from Bridgman, Asmer, Kimball, Bakkerud, Clarke and Steven Kane (Promatecme). Jelley slipped out of the points after Senna's attack, and Duran headed home Michael Herck (Junior Team Racing), Ryan Lewis (T-Sport), Reindler, Kennard, Hollings, Annala, Mawer and Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport). Josh Fisher (Team SWR) was 21st, from Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing), Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport) and Jones.