Sandher takes first UK Formula Ford race win at Spa
Indian driver Suk Sandher won his first race in the UK Formula Ford Championship in slippery conditions at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium this afternoon.
The Nexa Racing driver was one of a handful of the UK series regulars who stayed on slick tyres as a light rain shower fell as the cars lined up on the grid. The opening lap with mixed track conditions caught out a handful of drivers.
Daniel Clarke spun on the first lap, dropping him down to sixth after starting from pole position and team-mate and title contender Charlie Kimball came round in last place after getting caught up in the incident. His title ambitions would be hurt even more when he pulled into the pit lane to retire a few laps later. Alex Sabet also spun into the gravel, which brought out the safety car.
As racing resumed series leader Valle Makela led a Nexa Racing 1-2-3 with Sandher and Sebastian Hohenthal behind him. American Joe D'Agostino had inherited fourth place after his Team JLR team-mates Clarke and Kimball problematic opening lap.
Clarke was determined to return to the sharp end of the grid though and on lap six went past D'Agostino and into third place, gaining the extra ground after Hohenthal spun, dropping him to 5th.
At the front, Sandher and Makela traded the lead on a couple of occasions before Makela was caught out on the slippery kerbs at Stavelot and spun. He ended up in 5th place, giving Sandher a clear run to his first race win of the season.
"It feels great to have taken my first race win, especially here, it's a great place to do it" said Sandher. "Makela got me at the start and the conditions at the beginning of the race were pretty tricky. It was slippery into the Bus Stop and at the Hairpin but the rest of the track was fairly dry. When he spun it gave me enough breathing space to relax and reel off the last two laps," he added.
Hohenthal and Makela's misfortunes gifted Clarke second place at the chequered flag. It was a great comeback drive after losing out the advantage of pole position at the start.
D'Agostino was pleased to have made it onto the podium after such an incident packed race.
"I saw the yellow flags waving as I came up to the point where Daniel spun and when I got there cars were going in all directions! When he came up behind me after rejoining I realized he was quicker and when he got a run on me I let him go by. After that we just worked together to catch up with the leading three and they gifted us second and third," he said.
With Kimball's retirement it means that Makela has to finish tenth or higher in tomorrow's second race to seal the 2004 title.
UK Formula Ford Championship -- Round 17 Spa-Francorchamps -- Race results: 1 Suk Sandher Van Diemen RF03 25m18.346s 2 Daniel Clarke Van Diemen RF04 25m22.395s 3 Joe D'Agostino Van Diemen RF03 25m25.006s 4 Sebastian Hohenthal Van Diemen RF03 25m26.433s 5 Valle Makela Van Diemen RF03 25m28.073s 6 Robert Sunderland Van Diemen RF03 26m05.280s