This time it was the Raikkonen Robertson Racing man, Jonathan Kennard, who led the charge, heading out of the pitlane as soon as the signal was given. Others were not so keen. Marko Asmer and Walter Grubmuller (both with Hitech Racing)...
This time it was the Raikkonen Robertson Racing man, Jonathan Kennard, who led the charge, heading out of the pitlane as soon as the signal was given. Others were not so keen. Marko Asmer and Walter Grubmuller (both with Hitech Racing) and Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport) were all sitting in the pits, biding their time.
Meanwhile, Kennard was busy setting the fastest lap, and giving everyone else something to aim for. However, as it was only a 1 minute, 10 second time, it wasn't much of an effort. Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), who had also made an early start, set a 1:03 almost immediately afterwards, thus significantly raising the bar for the rest of them. Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), who seems to have lost some - or possibly all - of his spark this season, shot up to 2nd, ahead of Kennard, but it was all a bit too early really. Just to demonstrate that there was a lot more to come yet, Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing) was next to make a significant advance, going up to 4th and taking a temporary grip on the National Class pole to boot. Meanwhile, Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport) moved up to 2nd, with Gonzalez and Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) were 3rd and 4th respectively. They all got shoved down a rung when Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) and Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport) claimed the front row, while Kennard snagged 3rd, just behind Gonzalez. Things were in a constant state of flux though, with Engel now fastest in the first sector, with a 1:02. He soon lost out to his team-mate Bird, though, the rookie setting a nice, tidy 1:02.222. Engel did enough to go 3rd, only for Moraes to go faster and give Carlin a temporary top four lockout. It couldn't last though.
Kennard again speeded up to snag 2nd, while Gonzalez was looking better than he has all year and was now 4th. The next improver was Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), who moved into 2nd, thus disrupting the Carlin pattern, and he was joined not long afterwards by Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), whose first real flyer was enough to move him to 4th. Devaney, meanwhile, was also showing very strongly, and soon pushed Mustonen out of the way, only to have Engel do the same to him. In the National Class, T-Sport's Sergio Perez was now on class pole, though Alastair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) was looking threatening. However, for the time being, the little Mexican was enjoying leading.
At the front, though, things were about to change. Asmer finally emerged from the pits, and a flying lap not long afterwards signalled his intentions. It was enough to move him to the front row, though he wasn't quite fast enough to displace Bird, the Bucharest winner clinging onto pole position, and the only man to break into the 1:01 so far. The next challenger was Mustonen, but it still wasn't quite enough. Bird hung onto his pole by 0.037. He would keep hold of it for a little longer after yet another attack of yellow flags at Riches. The spinner this time was possibly Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport) as he wrestled the Lola into some sort of submission. He was pointing the wrong way but at least he wasn't buried in whatever crop is growing on the outside of Riches this year. After he sorted himself out the changes started again, with Jackson bundling Perez aside for the National Class pole, and, perhaps more significantly. Asmer topping the overall order.
Meanwhile, proving he's a fast learner, Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport) was up in 7th, and looking like he might manage to stay there or thereabouts. With ten minutes gone then, the order was Asmer, from Bird, Mustonen, Kennard, Jelley, Engel, Chilton, Devaney, Breen and Moraes.
The changes were still coming thick and fast. Jelley improved to 4th, and joined the 1:01 brigade, with elsewhere in the order Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing) was on the first page of the timing screens in 18th, while his team-mate John Martin was up in 7th. Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) moved into 8th, while Bird claimed back pole. With Valerio moving back to 6th, it was clear there was still pace to be found. Asmer proved it by taking pole back with a 1:01.558. A lap later and Greg Mansell was 7th, the highest-placed of the Fortec cars. This was strange, and made even stranger by the fact that his team-mate Sebastian Hohenthal was only 19th at this point. You had to wonder what was going on there.
Meanwhile, there were goings off at Riches again. The trouble is you really do need to be flat through Riches these days to get a fast lap, but if the car isn't quite right, all that happens is you spear off into the field (and if it really goes wrong you probably end up on the main A11 road). While Breen improved his time to go 8th, his team-mate, Moraes was pushing hard. However, Martin was now somewhere in the wheat, the car all but invisible apart from the top of the roll hoop. The yellows were waving frantically, but that wasn't enough to make them all slow down to a sensible speed while the incident was sorted out, and it definitely wasn't enough to stop Moraes joining the Australian in the undergrowth. Really, Moraes should know better though his driving has been pretty wild all year so I suppose no one should have been too surprised. With two cars in there, the officials really had no option but to stop the session with around 12 minutes still on the clock.
The order was Asmer, from Bird, Mustonen, Valerio, Jelley, Kennard, Greg Mansell, Breen, Engel and Martin. Gonzalez was 11th, ahead of Chilton, Grubmuller, Devaney, Moraes, Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport), Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), Hohenthal and Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing). Jackson was still heading the National Class from Perez, Hamad Al Fardan (Performance), Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport), who seemed to be struggling with Snetterton, Albert Costa (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport), "Frankie" Cong Fu Cheng (Performance Racing) and Salman Al Khalifa (Promatecme F3). Alex Waters, in the other Promatecme F3 car, was bringing up the rear.
Anyway, the restart was soon underway, with 10 minutes showing on the clock. There was a relatively small scale rush to get out, and Engel managed to edge his way towards the front of the scrum. In contrast neither Bird nor Asmer seemed in any hurry to get back out, and Moraes was sitting around looking grassy! The pressure was on for some drivers though, with Engel and Hohenthal both pushing on as hard as they knew how. Hohenthal's first flying lap moved him up 10 places to 9th, but shortly after he was back in 10th and Engel improved as well. Gonzalez joined in the battle now, as did Breen, both managing to find more speed from somewhere. Gonzalez went 10th, dropping Hohenthal to 11th, while Engel dug deep to claim 4th, with team-mate Valerio shooting up the order too, in 5th. This was the point at which Asmer decided it might be prudent to get out there, just in case. Hohenthal improved again for 7th, while Engel found more speed from somewhere but stayed 4th. The two Ultimate cars were also out there, pressing on, and finally things seemed to be coming right, or at least improving. Devaney leap-frogged to 14th, and Guerrieri hauled himself out of the 20s and into 17th place. A lap later and Devaney improved further to 12th, while Gonzalez also improved, settling into 8th. Breen was the next to get a better time, which left him 11th, and then the yellows broke out at Riches yet again.
That put an end to any improvements until the very last seconds. As the flag came out, there were two final improvements, which saw Valerio edge up to 3rd and Hohenthal in a far better 6th.
So that was it. Asmer was back in charge and on pole, with Bird, Valerio, Mustonen, Engel, Hohenthal, Jelley, Gonzalez, Kennard and Greg Mansell. Breen was 11th, just ahead of Devaney, Martin, Chilton, Grubmuller, Moraes, Guerrieri, Teixeira, Petterson and Leo Mansell. 21st was Castellacci, leading National Class poleman Jackson, then came Perez, Al Fardan, Meadows, Costa, Al Khalifa, Jensen, Cheng, Garcia and Waters.