The weather was decidedly odd for this one, and the result was even more peculiar. We didn't get the result we expected, and in fact we were lucky to get a result at all as it turned out. It all started out sanely enough, under sunny ...
The weather was decidedly odd for this one, and the result was even more peculiar. We didn't get the result we expected, and in fact we were lucky to get a result at all as it turned out. It all started out sanely enough, under sunny skies, though with some rather nasty clouds lurking in the distance. Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing) was unable to start, having got as far as the end of the pit lane. The mechanics came running, removed the engine cover and set to with a will. It was too late though, the ECU had broken down irrevocably and he wouldn't start the race. Weather wise, there was a brief shower during the formation lap, but in the end it didn't amount to anything much, and although the track was slightly greasy, it did seem that we might get away with this.
Anyway, the drivers all lined up, the lights turned red and went out, and Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) and Mike Conway (Fortec Racing) both made excellent starts, the 2004 British Formula Renault Champion peeling away into the lead while the Estonian slotted in behind him. Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport), starting from pole, didn't get away at all well. He found the clutch slipping when he was in 1st gear, and had to try and change up to 2nd as soon as possible. The result was he was third by the time they all reached Clervaux, and he had a sneaking suspicion that there wouldn't be much he could do to alleviate that situation, a fact rammed home by the discovery that he couldn't catch up with Asmer despite his best efforts into first corner. To further change things in the mid-field it soon became apparent that it wasn't good to be called Stephen or even Steven today. Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) stalled on the line, found the car wasn't at all keen on going forwards, and tried desperately to get out of the way. He failed. Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport) collected him, and that was pretty much the end of the morning's fun for both of them, though they both staggered some distance before having to give up completely. Kane made it to the pits, while Jelley managed half a lap before he pulled off and watched the ensuing mayhem.
And so, Conway was leading for the first time this season, with Asmer and Parente behind him. In 4th, Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) was suffering the attentions of Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), while Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing) was trying to make up for his dreadful qualifying session. James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) was holding off Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) and Bruno Senna (Double R Racing), while Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) had converted his National Class pole position into a class lead, but was coming under pressure from Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport), the Mexican being amazed by the extreme unpredictability of the local weather. At the very back of the field, Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) was battling Nick Jones (Team SWR) for the right to be last, losing out to the Welsh-American when Jones spun at Hawthorn, and Cheong just managed to miss him. By the time Jones got going again he was a very long way back; surely Cheong would have to finish ahead of him now?
The weather was beginning to look slightly ominous now, with the clouds getting darker, and closer. There was still a possibility that it might just pass overhead without dumping rain on everyone, but that possibility was getting slighter by the minute. Meanwhile, Senna was already in trouble, as his engine cover had come loose, and was now stuck to his rear wing, not the best place for it really. Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was another who'd had a bad qualifying session and was now desperately trying to make up for it. He soon despatched Duran and was after Hollings, with intent to get ahead of the National Class leader. As Conway set his first fastest lap of the race, the sky got even darker. The next thing we knew it was raining over at the Hairpin, and there were hailstones bouncing off the tarmac. Meanwhile, it was still dry at Clervaux. The result was chaotic, with Walker, Kimball and Ricardo Teixeira all going off at Tower, while Cheong dived into the pits, possibly mindful of the fact that he'd already had a near-death experience on the flight from Hong Kong, and didn't want another one. Or maybe he just wanted to let Jones by.Senna had also pitted, hoping to get his engine cover sorted out. Through it all, Conway remained sure-footed, while Asmer tried to catch up, but found he just didn't have enough power. Parente was still 3rd, from Dirani and Bakkerud, though Clarke was looking increasingly threatening behind the Dane.
After the field shot past again, both Cheong and Senna emerged from the pits, but the Brazilian ran into trouble out the back, falling off and ending up in the field from whence he would later be retrieved. A lap later we'd lost the National Class leader, Hollings making a mistake under braking and skating out of contention, the team hearing him say "Oops!" as he lost it completely at the Complex. Meanwhile, Lewis had undone a lot of good work, when he spun, but he at least recovered. James Walker, meanwhile, had also been rescued from the grass and was now underway again, just a lap down. Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing) had also been in the wars, and was now trailing a broken front wing plate, the end plate scraping on the ground as he took Clervaux. As if that wasn't enough, Clarke (who had passed Bakkerud), made an over-optimistic attack on Dirani. It was never going to work and result was that both of them went off at Tower, Dirani's Lola breaking a drive shaft on the way. With the area around Tower starting to look like an F3 scrap-yard, the officials scrambled the Safety Car to give themselves time to mount a cleanup operation.
Of course, it didn't turn out to be that simple. First the Safety Car picked up Cheong instead of Conway (OK, the initials are the same, but that's about all), but that was soon remedied. They finally waved the Macanese through and half a lap later Conway had settled in behind the Safety Car. Just behind him was a backmarker in the shape of Teixeira, while Asmer and Parente were still 2nd and 3rd. 4th was now Bakkerud, profiting from the unexpected exit of Dirani and Clarke, while another backmarker, Jones, had settled in behind him. Duran was now leading the National Class and was 5th overall, from Barton Mawer (T-Sport), Josh Fisher (Team SWR). 8th on the road was Lewis, while Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) was 4th in class. Behind him were Kimball, Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), the hapless Cheong, Annala, Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport) and Walker, who was a lap down. And so they continued for the next four laps, while the snatch vehicle took away the wrong car, before finally getting the one they were sent out to retrieve.
When the lights finally went out, indicating that the Safety Car period was about to end, Asmer found himself wondering if he should pass Teixeira into the Complex or not so that he could have a run at Conway at the restart. Somewhere along the line the Estonian decided he'd better not, just in case someone noticed! He didn't want to get hit with a penalty, because that would undo any good he did himself if he managed to get ahead. He settled for staying where he was, knowing that Teixeira tends to be very gentlemanly when it comes to getting out of the way of faster cars. He probably also suspected he'd not have enough power to get Conway.
At Carlin things were getting lively too, when Bakkerud decided he really fancied getting on the podium if he could. Parente made a minor mistake into Tower, which nonetheless cost him a lot of ground. By the time he'd sorted himself out again, the Dane was with him. Christian made a lunge at Alvaro, and passed him at the Hairpin, only to have Parente come back at him by the time they'd reached the Complex. A couple of laps after the Safety Car had pulled off, it looked like it might be needed again. O'Mahony had wrestled his way past Annala, and was now looking at claiming a Championship Class position back from Ihara. The Irishman got it all sideways, walloped the Japanese into the field, then drove off leaving her stranded. It wasn't very friendly. However, she managed to get going again, dragging the car round to finish the race in the points.
Meanwhile, Conway was making it look very easy at the front, with Asmer in futile pursuit, while Parente was suffering the continued attentions of young Mr. Bakkerud. And they're supposed to be in the same team. It was a good thing Trevor Carlin was off at the Grand Prix, because he wouldn't have enjoyed watching this! By this stage, there was hardly anyone left in the Championship Class, a fact proved by the presence of Duran in 5th place overall, leading the class, while trying to fight off the terrier-like battling of Mawer, a man who just won't quit. The Aussie didn't quite have the measure of the Mexican, but that didn't stop him trying. Meanwhile, Annala's front wing was getting ever looser, though he didn't seem to be easing off any.
And then, a lap earlier than anyone was expecting, the chequered flag came out. Seemingly someone had lost count. The flag was so unexpected that Conway didn't even see it, and decided he'd better not slow down until someone actually waved a flag at him. It was probably the best thing to do under the circumstances. His engineer may have been telling him the race was over, but he didn't want to make a fool of himself at this stage. As it turned out, it was true; he had won the race, as well as setting the fastest lap. That put him firmly in the lead of the series, especially as Dirani had scored no points at all. Asmer wasn't too unhappy with second, though he was certain they needed to find some more speed from somewhere if they're to win race. Parente, after his poor start, decided his best bet was to open his account in the series with 12 points for 3rd, so he wasn't at all disappointed with the result, especially as he knew he could have made a better start if his clutch had been working properly. For a man who'd not done any pre-season testing either, Parente has hit the ground running, and must be a strong bet for the title. Bakkerud, in 4th, looked very surefooted, and seemed to surprise himself. He was very pleased indeed with his result, especially as his performance in Formula BMW had in no way suggested just how good he actually is.
In 5th, and the National Class winner, was Duran, who couldn't believe just what English weather was capable of. He also commented that it might have been a lot easier if the world hadn't been full of Championship Class cars crashing in front and around him. He had a point. 6th (and 2nd in class) was Mawer, the Australian coming home ahead of Lewis, who had been doing everything he could think of to try and get past. 3rd in class, and 8th overall, was Fisher, from Kimball and Kennard. Annala was 11th (and 6th in class, despite the broken nose-wing), with O'Mahony, Ihara and Walker in the last of the Championship Class spots, just ahead of Jones, Teixeira and Cheong. There were no other survivors.
Fastest laps went to Conway and Duran.