At Magny-Cours this afternoon Oliver Webb (Fortec Motorsport) won again, putting himself in the lead of the championship chase over pre- season favourite Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin), the latter finishing 2nd after what was - at least by his standards - a disappointing weekend. Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) was 3rd, going a long way to make amends for his penalty for a jump start that cost him victory in the sprint race this morning. The National Class was won by James Cole (T-Sport), from team-mate Menasheh Idafar.
The weather gods were not smiling on the F3 field as they lined up to start the 40-minute feature race round at Magny-Cours. With the air temperature having climbed to 24.8 C and the track temperature at a whacking 43.9 C, preserving the tyres was going to be the main requirement for anyone who wanted to finish the race in a good position. As the lights went out Webb streaked away, leaving Vergne trailing in his wake. The Frenchman would later complain of a broken rear wing, blaming the heat. It's possible there may have been contact, but if so no one knew who the guilty party was. Meanwhile, in a separate incident the first lap saw the early exit of Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing) from the race, while his team-mate Carlos Huertas dropped to last before the race was lap old. The man next to him on the grid was Adriano Buzaid (Carlin), who was later reported to have a broken engine cover on his Dallara; the two things may not have been unrelated.
At the front Webb and Vergne were already starting to break away from the rest of the pack, the men behind all bottled up behind Dias in a squabbling gaggle led by Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport). The general shake up towards the back was all a bit odd though, as for a brief while Adderly Fong (Sino Vision Racing) was up in 16th, which seemed a bit unlikely to put it mildly. As Nakajima pulled into the pits and out of the race, and Huertas tried to re-catch the vanishing pack, it was just as well that Double R still had Felipe Nasr left to try and salvage something. At least he was up in the top ten having passed Buzaid to nab 8th. That put him in a position where he could - and would - spend the rest of the race harassing Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin), unable to get past but never going away either. Rupert had a new friend it seemed, though he would probably have been happier not to spend most of the race with Felipe looming in his mirrors, willing him to make a mistake.
Huertas' mood may have improved slightly when he found he was no longer last, but as that was only because Fong had now dropped back to a more normal position for him, it probably didn't help much. More interesting was what was happening at the front, with Vergne shadowing Webb all the way, though never quite being able to challenge, while McKenzie was all over Dias for 3rd. Just for good measure Idafar, who was leading Cole for the National Class, had Cole all over his rear wing, with Max Snegirev (in an International Class car for Fortec Motorsport) along for the ride.
In the pack, Buzaid was in trouble and losing ground and was quickly passed by Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport), while just ahead of them Lucas Foresti (Carlin) and Nasr were stuck together, which was the one thing saving Svendsen-Cook from Nasr right then. In contrast James Calado (Carlin) was having a very quiet run in 5th place, though given the effort the team had gone to in order to fix his car after he upended it in the gravel traps in the sprint race he was probably just grateful to be out.
With almost half the distance run, suddenly Alex Brundle (T-Sport) was gone, while Rio Haryanto (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) was busy splitting the National Class runners, at least temporarily. Meanwhile, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) was the next to find a way past Buzaid, edging his team-mate out of the top ten.
After that there was very little progress and the whole thing became very processional and not a little dull as people tried to make their tyres last in the heat. At the halfway point it was still Webb from Vergne a long way ahead of Dias and McKenzie, then a lonely Calado followed by Svendsen- Cook who was still trying to shake off Nasr, though they had now broken away from Foresti, Lloyd and Jaafar. Proving how hard he was trying Nasr was briefly informed that he needed to respect the track limits as he harried Svendsen-Cook incessantly.
With Webb and Vergne over ten seconds down the road now it was highly unlikely that much would change before the flag, though Haryanto did finally find a way past Idafar and left him to Cole's less than tender mercies. Otherwise the only real excitement was watching the Svendsen- Cook/Nasr battle. All of that seemed to distract Foresti somewhat though, with the result that he lost a place to Lloyd in the closing minutes.
Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3) joined the list of retirements with two laps to go, pulling into the pits and out of the race, while meanwhile Calado started to show an interest in McKenzie, passing him for 4th place on lap 18. Meanwhile Haryanto went missing as well, and William Buller suddenly lost ground, being passed by Cole, who had muscled his way past Idafar to claim the class lead and was clearly feeling somewhat punchy now. Buller lost ground rapidly after that, but luckily for him the race was almost over.
And so Webb came home for his second win of the weekend, pulling ahead of Vergne in the championship chase by 2 points. Vergne would have to settle for second, with Dias 3rd despite the fact that Calado closed him down in the final laps. McKenzie ended the race 5th ahead of Svendsen-Cook, Nasr, Lloyd, Foresti and Jaafar. Buzaid was 11th from Cole, Buller, Snegirev, Idafar and Huertas
Fastest laps went to Webb and Idafar.
Next Meeting: Rounds 10-12, Hockenheim, Germany, 29th/30th May 2010
Weather: Hot, sunny.
See also: Vergne wins Magny-Cours Sprint race