At Bucharest today, Carlin Motorsport again dominated qualifying, with Oliver Turvey just pipping team-mate Brendon Hartley to pole by 0.003 seconds, while Jaime Alguersuari completed the lockout. In the National Class, newly crowned champion Jay...
At Bucharest today, Carlin Motorsport again dominated qualifying, with Oliver Turvey just pipping team-mate Brendon Hartley to pole by 0.003 seconds, while Jaime Alguersuari completed the lockout. In the National Class, newly crowned champion Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) was on pole once more, ahead of Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing) and Steven Guerrero (T-Sport).
Before we even started we were down a driver, Kristjan Einar of Carlin Motorsport having injured his knee (and his budget most likely) in yesterday's race. As it turned out sitting it out was almost certainly safer than being in the session, which was plagued by crashes and red flags.
Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) was among the first out but was being rather more circumspect than in yesterday's session. In fact the International Class boys were quite keen this morning (excluding the Carlin Motorsport lads who never come out in the initial stages of qualifying). Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) was the very first out which was why he ended up on pole initially, John Martin (Double R Racing) was second at the end of his first flying lap, and then Sergio Perez (T-Sport), running with a new Honda engine after yesterday's blow up soon replaced him, and then Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing) snatched 2nd, while his team-mate Martin shot to an early pole. And then, just as Perez moved to the top of the times, Mustonen, who was following Martin, clipped the barrier at the first chicane, and slammed into the wall, tearing off the front wing and the wheels. It was an accident of extreme violence and the Finn looked shaken as he was led away once the session was stopped; he was probably lucky in that hitting the barrier first would have dissipated at least a little of his speed.
At the stoppage the order was Perez, from Martin, Ericsson, Grubmuller, Bridger, Henry Arundel (Double R Racing), Salman Al Khalifa (T- Sport), Turvey, Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport), Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport), Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport), Lloyd (C F Racing) and Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport).
There was quite a long pause for barrier repairs before the pit lane reopened and the remaining 20 cars were turned loose again. Pretty much everyone went out immediately except the Carlin boys, and even they didn't wait that long, Turvey going out almost immediately while Sam Abay wasn't far behind. On his first flying lap, the Australian managed to claim 4th, but then it all started changing so fast it was enough to make you head spin. Max Chilton (Hitech Racing) went 2nd, while Invitation Class runner Oliver Oakes (Eurotek Motorsport) moved into 13th. Further up Ericsson grabbed pole, while Devaney improved for 8th. Then, with Abay now on pole, Hartley finally decided it was time to go out and set a time. While he was getting up to speed, Devaney claimed 2nd and Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport) was briefly 3rd, just before Bridger went 2nd overall and then Chilton went fastest of all. Abay put in another good lap for 3rd while Grubmuller settled in just behind him. And then Carlin showed their hand, with Turvey putting in a flyer for provisional pole.
Another lap, another reshuffle; Devaney claimed 3rd, and got demoted when Grubmuller posted a time for 2nd. Chilton promptly took pole position back, and then Abay edged into 3rd while Alguersuari suddenly appeared near the top in 4th. So far Hartley was still taking it easy and was back in 18th, but a lap later he was 2nd. Meanwhile, to everyone's surprise, Teixeira was still in the top ten, in 8th.
Alguersuari went out and tried again which put the Spaniard 5th, behind Turvey, Hartley, Chilton and Abay. He had Martin and Grubmuller behind him at this stage. While all that was going on, almost unnoticed Hartley went fastest of all only for Turvey to immediately snatch it back. Martin was still looking mighty fast in 3rd but then he ran well here last year, so that wasn't too surprising. Oakes, meanwhile, was now 9th while Bridger still led the National Class though he was now in 13th overall.
At the front though, the Brendon and Oliver show still raged, with Hartley again outpacing Turvey, only to have Turvey come straight back at him. The rest of the pack appeared to be fighting for 3rd, which was now in the hands of Chilton. Erstwhile championship leader Perez, on the other hand, was in big trouble with a time that would put him a miserable 16th on the grid if he didn't find some more pace from somewhere.
The two at the front were having no trouble finding that pace, with Hartley again going faster and again getting beaten out by Turvey as the latter crossed the line. Teixeira had now dropped out of the top ten (11th) while Guerrieri was squarely back in it in 6th. He was promptly edged out by Abay, while Martin again leaped up to 3rd. The battle to be fastest Australian, however, quickly resolved itself as Abay, following Martin, hit the barriers at the first chicane and ripped the left-hand side wheels off. He was able to drive it as far as Turn 6 and parked off the racing line, so the session could continue. And while all eyes were on him, Hartley reclaimed pole with a stunning lap.
As it turned out, Abay need not have bothered being so tidy, but he wasn't to know that. While Chilton improved again for 5th and Alguersuari completed the Carlin hat-trick with 3rd, Ericsson went 8th and Perez finally improved to 12th the red flags were being readied again. This was after Steven Guerrero (T-Sport) hit the wall and spun out with insufficient wheels attached. Oddly enough, he too had been following Martin when he crashed out. The session was stopped while they retrieved the stricken Colombian. The order now was Hartley ahead of Turvey, Alguersuari, Martin, Chilton, Guerrieri, Grubmuller, Ericsson, Abay and Devaney. Oakes was now 11th from Perez, Teixeira, Bridger (still on National Class pole), Lloyd, Guerrero, Wilson, Arundel, Major, Al Khalifa and Mustonen.
The restart was quite quick in coming and with just over 4 minutes left there was time for couple of laps if you didn't hang about. The first improvement came from Perez, who moved up a place to 11th, while Grubmuller stole 6th from Guerrieri. A further improvement from Perez put the Mexican 10th, and on his last lap Turvey dug very deep indeed to push Hartley into second by the slimmest of margins.
And so they start this afternoon's race with Turvey on pole, from Hartley, Alguersuari, Martin, Chilton, Grubmuller, Guerrieri, Ericsson, Abay and Perez. Devaney ended up 11th from Oakes, Teixeira, National Class poleman Bridger, Lloyd, Guerrero, Wilson, Arundel, Major, Al Khalifa and Mustonen.
Weather: Very hot, sunny.