This time all 31 cars lined up on the grid, and as the lights went out, Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) attempted to get another lightning getaway. However, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) was having none of it. He weaved from side to...
This time all 31 cars lined up on the grid, and as the lights went out, Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) attempted to get another lightning getaway. However, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) was having none of it. He weaved from side to side to keep the rookie behind him, in a series of moves that may well have been considered a little unsporting. It was enough to hold off both Bird and Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport), while Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport) grabbed 4th. In the latter part of the pack, however, things were chaotic. Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), having survived the morning race unscathed for a change, went spearing off at Riches and a whole load of people went with him, including Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing), Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Sergio Perez (T-Sport). Mansell was out of the race immediately, while Meadows got as far as Sear before grinding to a halt. Perez and Castellacci both got going again, and Perez started what would become quite a recovery drive. At the front, despite waved yellows at Riches, Asmer was pulling away, though he couldn't shake Bird. Valerio meanwhile was busy holding off Engel and Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). Meanwhile, Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing) was leading the National Class, which may well have been to his own surprise.
Bird was right with Asmer and obviously wanted to get past, but the rest were now a bit strung out. The next change in order was little to do with racing and everything to do with the track conditions. Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) had picked up a puncture and had to pit to get a new tyre. That let Mario Moraes up a place, and started a reshuffle that rippled down the order.
Asmer, meanwhile, was pressing on as fast as possible, while Engel and Valerio traded fastest laps, and back in the National Class Alastair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) was chasing down Jensen for the lead. Of course, catching a driver is one thing and passing him is another altogether, especially in F3 when the "dirty" air behind the car you want to pass unsettles your car and causes a loss of momentum. The Mygales were also now losing momentum, with Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) dropping back down the order. He was now 17th behind Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport), and was losing ground even then. Having an equally woeful time was Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), the Angolan disappearing from the top 20.
Someone else in some trouble was Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), who had something of a train building up behind him. The "carriages" were Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport). Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport) was next to pass Guerrieri, which suggested that there was something quite critical wrong with the Mygale now. It was also possible there was something wrong with Bird's car, as he'd lost out to Valerio, presumably as a result of running so close to Asmer. Valerio now started to really push, while Kennard passed Jelley in the scramble for the mid-range points.
Guerrieri continued to drop back, and was soon 19th, just behind Jensen, which was a nice cushion for the National Class leader, protecting him as it did from Jackson. Bird, meanwhile, was trying to recover and had Engel right there with him as a result. On lap 8, Engel claimed fastest lap, which proved how hard he was trying. Of course he then fell victim to the dirty air syndrome in turn and fell into Mustonen's clutches. All this was allowing Asmer to break away, the Estonian now grabbing the fastest lap (and the point for it) provisionally. He was making it look easy, which was more than could be said for the rest of them. Having moved up the order, Kennard now lost out to Jelley and Breen and ended up 10th after a bit of a moment at the Esses, while at Russell it was about to get messy again. Ten laps in, Gonzalez got it very wrong, spinning and ending up stranded in the middle of the track. The Venezuelan didn't mess around and extracted himself from the car very quickly. Unfortunately, the Safety Car would have to be deployed.
The order, as they settled in, was Asmer from Valerio, Bird, Engel, Mustonen, Hohenthal, Jelley, Breen, Kennard and Greg Mansell. Moraes was 11th from John Martin (Alan Docking Racing), Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), Chilton, Petterson, National Class leader Jensen, Guerrieri, Jackson, "Frankie" Cheng (Performance Racing) and Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport). 21st was Teixeira, from Alex Waters (Promatecme F3), Salman Al Khalifa (Promatecme F3), Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing), Perez and Castellacci. A lap down after a pit stop was Albert Costa (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), while Devaney re-emerged from the pits after a five lap stop. However, after a lap he promptly dived back into the pits again and into retirement.
At the restart, Asmer controlled things beautifully, while Bird did his best terrier impression and attempted to savage Valerio. It didn't quite work. However, the real move of the moment came from Perez, who came out of Riches ahead of Al Fardan, Al Khalifa, Waters and Garcia! There were a number of grassy moments, but they all survived, which was a surprise frankly. It was a fine bit of opportunistic overtaking.
Meanwhile, Kennard and Grubmuller were scrapping, but Kennard hung onto his place, despite the Austrian's efforts (and those of Andreas Zuber who was keeping an eye on the teenager). And just behind them, in the National Class, Jackson lost ground after a minor off, dropping a place to Cheng, and falling back in reach of Perez. Jackson wasn't the only Double R Racing driver to lose ground. Mustonen also lost out to Hohenthal Breen and Jelley, which really didn't improve his weekend at all. To compound the misery, Jackson then lost another place as Al Fardan came past him. Perez should have been 3rd in class at that stage, but Al Fardan got him too.He seemed to be having a good day.
Guerrieri wasn't. After steadily going backwards, on lap 19 he gave up the unequal struggle and pulled into the pits. That was both Ultimate cars out of the race for mechanical reasons. The team were disappointed; they'd really hoped the results would start to go their way, but no such luck.
There were a couple more changes to come as the race ran to the full 30 minutes rather than 28 laps. Kennard managed to snatch another place, this time from Martin, while Jelley passed Hohenthal for 5th, salvaging some useful points on a circuit where he's always been impressive. Perez kept right on worrying Al Fardan, though he couldn't find a way past and would not be on the podium this time despite his best efforts.
And really, that was the end of any changes. Asmer just kept right on charging ahead. He set fastest laps on both of the last two laps, although he was nowhere near the lap record, which has stood since 2001. Asmer came home to his fifth win of the season, moving further ahead in the title chase by virtue of consistency, something which seems to elude the rest of them. Valerio was 2nd, from Bird, Engel, Jelley, Hohenthal, Breen, Mustonen, Mansell and Moraes. Kennard was 11th, ahead of Martin, Grubmuller, Chilton, Petterson, National Class winner Jensen, Teixeira, Cheng, Al Fardan and Perez (who leads the National Class on the same points as Cheng but one more victory). Jackson was 21st, with Castellacci, Waters, Garcia, Al Khalifa and Costa filling the remaining places.
The fastest laps went to Asmer (Championship Class), Cheng (National Class) and Chilton (Invitation Class).
The results are provisional at present, presumably pending investigation of Asmer's weaving technique at the start.
Next meeting: Monza, Italy, 22nd/24th June 2007.