Weather: Sunny/cloudy, dry, windy. The race started with a dilemma - or at least it did if you were the marshal appointed to be the start judge, but you were also the marshal who was supposed to stand at the back of the grid with a flag and stop...
Weather: Sunny/cloudy, dry, windy.
The race started with a dilemma - or at least it did if you were the marshal appointed to be the start judge, but you were also the marshal who was supposed to stand at the back of the grid with a flag and stop Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) from moving until 10 seconds after the rest of the grid had gone (he'd been penalized after the rear wing of his car failed scrutineering after qualifying). Needless to say, the start took place without any officials watching the front of the field to see what they were doing. This series needs more marshals, and it needs them soon.
Even if no one was watching, it made no difference to Danilo Dirani (Carlin Motorsport). He'd already had one win today and he wasn't going to miss his opportunity to take another one. The lights went green and - despite wheelspin - the Brazilian was off, closely followed by Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport) and Will Davison (Menu Motorsport). One threat soon fell by the wayside though; this time around James Rossiter (Fortec Motorsport) did an even better job of disproving his theory that left-handers don't crash, when the poor deluded boy only got as far as the first corner, ending his race underneath the Dallara of Will Power (Alan Docking Racing), who didn't seem to be too impressed, judging by the rather graphic gestures he was making in the general direction of Rossiter. The upshot of all this was that Dirani's start was of purely academic interest, as the Safety Car was scrambled and took up the lead at the end of lap 1. Behind the top 3, Lucas di Grassi (Hitech Racing) was 4th, from Clivio Piccione (Carlin Motorsport), Adam Carroll (P1), Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), Marko Asmer (Hitech), Nelson Piquet (Piquet Sport) and Andrew Thompson (Hitech). In 11th was Fairuz Fauzy (Menu), ahead of Danny Watts in the Lola-Dome (Promatecme F3), while the Scholarship Class leader, Barton Mawer (Performance Racing) headed his team-mate, Stephen Jelley, who seems to suffer from an odd compulsion to let other people win! Marcus Marshall (Fortec) was trapped between the two of them and another Scholarship Class runner, Vasilije Calasan, in the second Promatecme car, thus proving that there is insufficient luck to stretch round all the Aussies in the category at present. There were another couple of interlopers in among the Scholarship Class boys in the shape of Matthew Walker (Fortec), and Alvaro Parente (Carlin), the latter having been caught up in the Power/Rossiter debacle and having just managed to survive it. Adam Langley-Khan (Alan Docking Racing) was next up, from Ajit Kumar (Mango Racing) and of course the resulting delay allowed Lewis to catch up with the field easily. Some drivers have all the luck, and Lewis would appear to be among them.
Considering Piquet had started 12th, he was at least now in the points. However, that was soon of little consolation to him, and a lap later he was out of the game, pulling over with a dead car, an earth lead having come loose. It was to be hoped that his team would keep him away from sharp instruments for the rest of the day; his mood hadn't been good before, and now he was completely disconsolate. It took a second lap behind the Safety Car while the debris was cleared away, and then things gout underway again. Dirani's restart was superb. He'd got a taste for being at the front and he wasn't about to let it go, whatever Viso and Davison tried. And before long they were too busy fighting each other to notice that the Carlin car was beginning to leave them behind - again. It was probably just as well that the cluster of drivers behind (di Grassi, Piccione, Carroll, Chandhok, Asmer, Thompson, Fauzy and Watts) seemed to be glued together at that point, and couldn't concentrate on the duo fighting for second. Parente, meanwhile, had started to carve his way back through the field, making short work of Walker, before setting about Marshall, who also failed to offer much resistance. Jelley decided it wasn't his fight, and let the Portuguese go, which was sensible; a lap later Mawer did the same, preferring to concentrate on his possible class win. With all that going on, it was possible to miss that at the back, Lewis was in pursuit of the class lead if he could get it. He'd started by dispatching Kumar. He dropped his wheels in the dirt to do it, but it didn't seem to slow him down much, and he was soon breathing Langley-Khan's exhaust fumes, trying to find a way past. Despite suggestions from Adam's dad that this would be easy and Lewis wouldn't be held up, it turned out rather different, as Langley-Khan resisted for all he was worth, blocking Lewis ruthlessly for what must have felt like a very long time. Finally he had to bow to the inevitable, though not before he'd put up quite a fight.
Parente's cause was aided in no small way by what was happening at the front, when Carroll pitted and Viso speared off into the field a lap later, thus causing the second complete wash out of the day for P1. Viso clambered out of his car and then flopped down in the long grass, too furious to go far. Davison, meanwhile, gratefully accepted 2nd place though it seemed unlikely that he would be able to catch Dirani. Suddenly, life was much quieter.
Parente's comeback drive seemed to have stalled now, though there was some amusement to be had watching Walker and Marshall squabbling for places, Marshall losing out in the end. Lewis took a while to catch up but he was now behind Calasan, having finally disposed of Langley-Khan. The Frenchman was unable to stop him coming through, and he was now 3rd in class, but he had Marshall and Walker in the way before he could get to Jelley and Mawer. As it was, Walker passed Jelley and later Mawer, and Marshall edged ahead of Jelley a little later. Which gave Lewis a clear run at the second placed Scholarship Class runner. Having been demoted by Lewis more than once already this season, Jelley was having none of it this time and put up a spirited resistance for what remained of the race.
Someone else who wasn't about to let anyone through was Watts, who now had Parente all over the back of him, the Portuguese deciding that having got back into the points positions, he'd like more than just one, thank you very much. Unfortunately for him, Watts had other ideas. The next thing anyone knew, there were cones flying everywhere, and Alvaro backed off, deciding it probably wasn't worth the pain for one more point. And that really was the end of the excitement, as cooler behaviour set in and everyone finished pretty much as they were.
A second win (coupled with another point for fastest lap) means that Dirani now tops the table on equal points with Piquet, but technically in the lead as he has more race wins (two to Piquet's none). Davison took an impressive 2nd place, from di Grassi, Piccione, Chandhok (who was much happier afterwards), an increasingly confident looking Asmer, Thompson, Fauzy, Watts and Parente. Walker was just out of the points in 11th, while the Scholarship Class victory went to Mawer, from Jelley, Lewis, Calasan, Langley-Khan and Kumar. Marshall was still mixed in with them and followed Mawer home, which, as neither of them have been here before, may well have been a case of the blind leading the blind.
Next Races: Rounds 7 & 8, Knockhill, Scotland. May 15th/16th.
Note: Round 4 now scheduled for Snetterton, Norfolk. June 5th.
By: Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite