Webb and Vergne share honours at Spa

Changes
The Invitation Class has increased to 6 cars, with Art Grand Prix bringing Jim Pla, Alexander Sims and Nathana?l Berthon, Mucke Motorsport fetching up with Carlos Mu?oz and Prema Powerteam fielding Daniel Juncadella and Nicolas Marroc.

Oli Webb.
Photo by Daniel James Smith.

At Spa this morning honours in qualifying were shared between Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin), and Oliver "Oli" Webb (Fortec Motorsport), with pole for race 1 going to Verne and for race 3 to Webb. 3rd in the session was Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport). Fastest in the National Class was James Cole (T-Sport) after a last lap dash for the flag. The Invitation Class pole man was Juncadella.

With heavy clouds hanging over the Ardennes it was a tense session as people wondered whether they would be able to set a good time before the rains came. As it turned out they got lucky and the weather held off for the duration. Initially the fastest times were being set by James Calado (Carlin) and Vergne, while Sims was quick out of the box in the Invitation Class. It didn't take long for Cole to top the National Class, but the real interest was at the front where Vergne was really pushing on, grabbing pole initially with a time of 2:15.773. It was all change behind him but for a very long time no one could get near the Frenchman at all. However, plenty of them were trying, with Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) going 3rd just ahead of fellow Brazilian Lucas Foresti (Carlin) in 4th. He was edged back out by Calado, who was looking useful after being very fast in free practice on Thursday. Webb meanwhile was fighting for 5th with Mu?oz and didn't look like a potential pole-sitter at that stage. Vergne, meanwhile, continued to press on, gong ever faster. His next flying lap was a whole 0.842 seconds faster than anyone else, and he was looking pretty bullet proof as they reached the halfway mark. The next to challenge him was Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin)., but he didn't hang onto 2nd for long, because Webb was now on the move, although he too couldn't get close to JEV's time. All that pushed Calado down to 4th, which wasn't at all to his liking. A lap later he was back up to 2nd.

To the surprise of many the next major change came when Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) shot up the order to 5th, shortly followed by Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) claiming 4th. Meanwhile, Vergne still had half a second in hand and was the only driver in the 2:14s... The order, with half the session gone, was Vergne, from Calado, Webb, McKenzie, Svendsen-Cook, Lloyd, Dias, Mu?oz, Adriano Buzaid (Carlin) who was being warned for not respecting the track limits, Foresti and Pla. 11th was William Buller (Hitech Racing), ahead of Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), Berthon, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), Marroc, Juncadella, Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) and Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3). 21st and not looking much happier than he had at Rockingham was Alex Brundle (T-Sport), who was only just faster than team-mate Menasheh Idafar and Cole. Sims was a curiously distant 24th at this point, just ahead of the inevitably slow Adderley Fong (Sino Vision Racing) and Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport).

Jean-Eric Vergne.
Photo by Stella-Maria Thomas.

As most drivers dived in for new tyres, Nasr was still pushing hard and managed to improve to 6th as we headed into the last part of the session. He wasn't alone because Sims now seemed to have the car to his liking and was able to haul himself into the top ten from almost last. With Svendsen-Cook now being warned for not respecting the track limits, things were starting to slow down, although not before Dias was able to improve to 2nd and to join Vergne in the 2:14s. And then Fong got it all wrong and ended up off track. Despite the waved yellows, there was little in the way of easing off from the rest of the drivers and so the officials took the decision to red flag the session, the first time that's had to happen and a sad reflection on driving standards if it really was necessary.

There was a slow return to the pits and they all sat around waiting to be sent out for the last five and a half minutes of the session, which would mean they had around two flying laps left in which to get a decent time. The order at the red flag was still Vergne from Dias, Calado, Webb, McKenzie, Svendsen-Cook, Nasr, Lloyd, Mu?oz and Sims. Buzaid was now 11th, just ahead of Foresti, Pla, Buller, Nakajima, Berthon, Jaafar, Marroc, Juncadella and Huertas. Bridger headed the last clump in 21st, from Idafar, Cole, Fong and Snegirev.

At the restart there was a rush for the track, and then a long pause while everyone got up to speed. The biggest surprise came when Webb snatched pole from Vergne by a narrow margin just as the clock ticked round to end the session. He wasn't alone in managing to find something extra from somewhere, with Svendsen-Cook going 5th and Buzaid improving to claim 8th. McKenzie then tore round to snatch 3rd at the last minute, while Juncadella shot up to 6th, displacing Mu?oz who slipped right down the order as the session wound down.

At the flag Webb was fastest, but didn't have a fast enough second time to claim both pole positions. Vergne was 2nd overall, with McKenzie 3rd, from Dias, Calado, Invitation Class pole man Juncadella, Svendsen-Cook, Nasr, Buller and Huertas. Buzaid dropped back to 11th, ahead of Foresti, Lloyd, Berthon, Mu?oz, Sims, Bridger, Jaafar, Pla, Nakajima and National Class pole man Cole. Marroc was 21st just separating Idafar from the other National Class runner, with Brundle, Fong and Snegirev rounding out the results.

Weather: Changeable, overcast, rain threatening.