At Silverstone this morning, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) took his eighth victory of the 2007 series to pull well ahead of nearest rival Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport), although Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) closed the gap on both of...
At Silverstone this morning, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) took his eighth victory of the 2007 series to pull well ahead of nearest rival Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport), although Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) closed the gap on both of them after a steady drive that saw him benefit from other people's mistakes to finish 2nd. Third was Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), despite being nudged into a 360 degree spin by Gonzalo Rodriguez (T-Sport) early in the race. In the National Class, Sergio Perez also claimed his eighth win, and moved further ahead in the Championship after his closest challenger Frankie Cheng (Performance Motorsport) picked up a puncture and had to retire.
The numbers had started to reduce before the race even started. Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport) pulled into pit lane at the end of the green flag formation lap, with what seemed at first glance to be a clutch problem, but which turned out to be a drive shaft failure. That reduced the numbers to 28. They would be further reduced very rapidly thereafter. However, at the start Asmer got away very well to consolidate on his pole position, while Gonzalez made a move on Mustonen round the outside at Copse. Another good start came from Engel, who was able to get ahead of Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) also at Copse. Not everyone was quite so successful, with Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) tangling, as the National Class arrived in a bunched up squabbling mass behind Championship Class runner Walter Grubmuller (Fortec Motorsport), and didn't all get round. It started when Grubmuller and Perez actually made contact, the Mexican damaging his front wing, and it ended when Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing) also got embroiled in the mayhem, the Icelander pitting with bits hanging off the car, including most of the sidepod. When the broken bodywork was stripped away it would reveal a broken radiator.
And all of that meant we needed the Safety Car. Asmer's efforts to break away had come to nothing and he would have to do it all again at the restart. The order at the end of a somewhat chaotic first lap then was Asmer, from Gonzalez, Mustonen, Engel and Greg Mansell. Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) was 6th, ahead of Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport), Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) and Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport). Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport) was 11th, from Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport), Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport), Cheng, Perez, John Martin (Alan Docking Racing), Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing) and Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport). 21st was Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing), with Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport), Ernesto Otero (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing) and Grubmuller the remaining survivors.
At the restart Asmer didn't quite have it all his own way. Gonzalez was right with him as they tore down towards Copse. He made a serious attempt to pass the Estonian, got it slightly wrong and left an opening for Mustonen, who didn't hesitate, though he probably should have done. What happened next depends on who you listen to. Basically, the two of them touched going into Becketts and Mustonen spun through 360 degrees, losing ground to Engel and Greg Mansell, while Gonzalez went a long way off, rejoining the race in about 20th. Engel reckoned Gonzalez didn't leave Mustonen enough room, but Gonzalez inevitably saw it slightly differently. "He didn't leave me enough room. I didn't leave him enough room. We were side by side and maybe we were both too aggressive."
The resulting reshuffle let Guerrieri up to 5th ahead of Bird, while further back Kennard, Moraes and Chilton were putting on a bit of a show that would result in Moraes being shown the driving standards warning flag and limping into the pits to retire. Slightly ahead of them, Bird was now closing down Guerrieri now and was right on his rear wing, which looked likely to make live interesting for the Argentinean. Another driver who took advantage of the restart was Perez, who managed to get ahead of Cheng to reclaim the National Class lead, while behind the two of them Gonzalez was regaining ground hand over fist, making up four places in one lap. He gained another one when Moraes pulled into the pits with gravel and grass falling out of various nooks and crannies. His race was over.
Mustonen's wasn't, as he proved when he got back past Greg Mansell to grab 3rd, and promptly began to driver away from the Fortec runner. He couldn't catch Engel, it seemed, and Engel couldn't catch Asmer, feeling that his car lacked that last percentage of speed needed, but second would do after a dismal run for the German of late. It may have felt more like a practice session than a race, but 15 more points would be useful now.
With Gonzalez making progress from the rear, and a battle developing towards the front between Bird, Guerrieri and Jelley, there was plenty going on out there. Bird made a move on Guerrieri, who defended his position, and in the aftermath Jelley snuck past both of them. Bird managed to get past the Ultimate car too, as Guerrieri began to lose ground, clearly in some sort of trouble. A lap later and he had a massive queue behind him; they didn't stay there long and the next time they came round he'd dropped to 10th behind Devaney, Breen and Hohenthal. He was now just trying to hang on and bring the car home.
While Asmer continued to lead the race despite almost binning the car six laps from the end, the National Class battle was still raging. Gonzalez had passed both Cheng and Perez to climb back to 14th, which left Perez holding off the Chinese. The announcement that Cheng's start was under investigation did nothing to relieve the pressure, and Perez was having to work very hard to stay ahead. Meanwhile, Chilton spun off at Abbey, and everyone behind him moved up a place.
Guerrieri was still losing ground, and was soon under pressure from Kennard, who passed him easily down the straight. If only life was that easy for Breen. He was bottled up behind Devaney, the two of them locked into what started as an all-Irish scrap, but got international quite quickly when Hohenthal also joined in.
Guerrieri's problems were at least to someone else's benefit towards the end of the race, though, when Perez managed to pass the stricken Mygale and was able to shake Cheng off. Cheng then must have made contact with Guerrieri because the next thing we knew the Chinese was pitting with a punctured right front tyre, a sure sign of close contact. That moved Otero, on his first British F3 outing, up to 2nd in class, ahead of Al Fardan. Cheng wasn't the only one making contact.
Gonzalez, perhaps inevitably, now ran into more trouble when he happened on Martin going through Becketts. The resultant collision put Martin off there and then with broken rear suspension, while Gonzalez limped back to the pits with only three wheels on his wagon, and a large amount of broken front suspension.
As Asmer continue to cruise round ahead of Engel and Mustonen, the last battle to resolve itself was all-Irish fight for 7th. Breen was still with Devaney, but he couldn't get past, no matter what he tried. He would have to bide his time. With less than a lap to run, Breen finally got the chance he'd been working towards at Abbey, and he was through. Hohenthal tried to follow him, but Devaney held on, determined not to lose any further ground.
And so Asmer moves 75 points ahead in this years title battle, with eight wins from 15 races. Engel was 2nd, from Mustonen, Greg Mansell, Jelley, Bird, Breen, Devaney, Hohenthal and Kennard. Perez was 11th overall, winning the National Class race, and leading home Grubmuller, Guerrieri, Jackson, Leo Mansell, Teixeira, Otero, Al Fardan, Castellacci and Garcia.
Fastest laps were set by Asmer and Perez.