Eng returns to winner's circle at Brands Hatch

Philipp Eng, an early favourite for the 2010 FIA Formula Two championship, has struggled to score points in recent races, but he returned in style in this weekend's second race, taking the victory at Brands Hatch while points leader Jolyon Palmer crashed out of the race.

Philipp Eng.
Photo by FIA Formula Two Championship.

Eng started from second on the grid, behind Kazim Vasiliauskas, and that was the order through the first corners, as the field filter through cleanly. Championship leaders Palmer and Dean Stoneman gained two places at the start, moving to third and fifth places, respectively.

Vasiliauskas, though, seemed to have Brands Hatch figured out now, and the Lithuanian slowly edged away at the front. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to follow up his pole position with a maiden victory, as his gearbox failed just after the halfway point of the race.

That was yet to come, though, as the drama switched into high gear on the fourth lap. Stoneman, who had made his way into fourth place past Tom Gladdis, was pressuring Palmer for third, and on that lap he decided to make his move, on the inside, as they approached Paddock Hill.

The two were side by side, but too close together, and inevitably they touched wheels as they entered the turn. Stoneman lost grip, and slid into Palmer, who then spun off into the gravel trap and into retirement.

Stoneman was able to continue, although the loss of momentum from the incident allowed Gladdis to regain position ahead of him; the two were running third and fourth, then, behind Vasiliauskas and Eng.

Once Vasiliauskas suffered his gearbox failure on the ninth lap, the podium looked to be Eng, Gladdis and Stoneman, and that was indeed the order at the chequered flag, in spite of the best efforts of Gladdis and Stoneman to change it.

Eng's margin of victory was a scant 0.545 seconds, but it was undoubtedly as satisfying a comeback as can be: since Eng's second victory of the 2010 season in Marrakech, he had scored but a sixth place in the ensuing seven races.

Will Bratt scored a steady fourth place, five seconds behind Stoneman but a comfortable four seconds ahead of Nicola de Marco in fifth. Sergey Afanasiev, Mihai Marinescu and Armaan Ibrahim made up the remainder of the top eight.

Stoneman now leads the championship with 196 points to Palmer's 186. Eng's victory lifts him back to third and 114 points -- far back of Stoneman, but there are still six rounds and 150 points available to be won. Bratt is fourth with 104 points, the only other driver with 100+ points.

The situation may change yet, however: as of this writing, the race stewards are still investigating the Palmer-Stoneman incident.

In any case, it'll be on to Brno in the Czech Republic in two weeks' time, where the series will again share the limelight with the FIA World TOuring Car Championship, as at Brands Hatch this weekend.