Race Report - Round 4: Weather: Cloudy, dry. After James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport) managed to get into the lead for Round 3 (even if he wasn't able to keep it in the long run), it looked like his starting jinx had finally been laid to rest at...
Race Report - Round 4:
Weather: Cloudy, dry.
After James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport) managed to get into the lead for Round 3 (even if he wasn't able to keep it in the long run), it looked like his starting jinx had finally been laid to rest at last. Wrong. The lights turned green and although Courtney made a good start, Michael Keohane made a far better one. This time they were side by side into Redgate and Keohane made it stick. While Courtney scrabbled to hang on to 2nd place the pack behind him were all over him, Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing) getting very close to demoting the Aussie another place. However, he couldn't quite make it stick and so it was Carlin 1st and 2nd again. Behind this trio, Rob Austin (Menu Motorsport) slotted in to fourth, with Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing) again looming large in his mirrors. Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) slotted in behind the Scholarship Class leader while Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International) attempted to get ahead of Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec) for 7th (6th in class). They settled down for a while but on lap 3 Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport) was again in trouble after a very aggressive move on Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) at Redgate. Carbone may be tiny but it seems you can't push him around. He defended and Antinucci went off, taking Ernani Judice (who was an innocent bystander in all of this) with him. As the two of them sat beside the gravel traps, waiting to be towed to safety, Judice was justifiably aggrieved and more than slightly unimpressed with the American.
This race rapidly began to turn into a negative version (in the photographic sense) of the first race of the day, with Courtney giving chase to his teammate and having to try everything he could think of to get past the Irishman. And it wasn't working any better for him than it had for Keohane in the morning. The two of them were breaking away from Kerr, who seemed to feel that it might make more sense to maintain a watching brief rather than get too closely involved in the battle raging just ahead of him. Behind him, Austin and Carroll were again scrapping frantically until Carroll seemed to come to his senses and decide it would be better to win his class than risk it all for another place in the overall result; after all he wouldn't get any extra points for it. Van der Merwe was still in 6th, with Jouanny now on his tail, after he got the better of Kovalainen. However, that didn't last long, as Bruce made an attempt to get by at McLeans and the next thing anyone knew, both drivers were in the gravel although Jouanny would eventually extricate himself to finish 16th. It wasn't very clever, but it does begin to seem as though it's God's way of telling Trevor Carlin not to run more than two cars. This was reinforced by the fact that three laps earlier the fourth Carlin car, that of Shinya Hosokawa, had gone off big time. That makes a seriously unenviable record of four DNFs out of four races for the inexperienced Japanese. The only other driver with a record like that was Stefano Fabi (Team Avanti) and he finally managed to finish a race on the fourth time of asking although to be fair he was 24th. There were yellows all over the place again as Mark Mayall (Alan Docking Racing) had also managed to put himself in the tyre wall, though no one seemed to notice he had gone, so far back was he when it happened. The fact that he was fighting with Stephen Colbert (Team Park) at the time suggests that he hasn't realised he is now a Class A driver - in addition his driving suggests he isn't.
What all this silliness meant was that though Courtney was able to get very close to Keohane, there were frequently areas of the track where yellow flags meant he couldn't overtake unless he wanted to be disqualified! It was all a little frustrating to say the least. Things were becoming fraught again further back too, as Clivio Piccione (T-Sport) also seemed to be forgetting which class he is competing in. In his case, the Monegasque was mixing it with Tom Sisley (Motaworld) for 9th overall (and second in class). To be fair, you could see his point as he had fellow Scholarship Class runner Billy Asaro (Sweeney Racing) just behind him and Sisley might at least act as a useful buffer if Piccione could just get ahead of him. Ronnie Bremer (Manor Motorsport) hitting trouble just ahead probably helped as well. As the Dane fell down the order from 8th to 13th Clivio found a way past and Asaro didn't. It was a cushion that would protect him for the rest of the race.
At the front, meanwhile, things were becoming ever more heated. Courtney was beginning to look seriously ragged in his pursuit of Keohane, and Kerr was closing in all the time. Repeated attempts to pass Keohane were having no effect at all on him, while Kerr was quite obviously sizing up the situation and thinking about a last ditch attempt to take 2nd, if not the lead. He very nearly had his opportunity on the last but one lap, when they swept round into Redgate to find poor Harold Primat in trouble again. The Diamond Racing runner had managed to lose it into Redgate and was now stuck in the middle of the track as the leaders came screaming towards him. By some sort of miracle no one collected him, though it's hard to say how. Anyway, they all sorted themselves out and continued on their way. The order was as ever Keohane, Courtney, Kerr then Austin, Carroll, Kovalainen and Carbone, and Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport) who had been quietly getting on with the job of trying to salvage some points from a weekend he will want to forget. Piccione was next up, with Sisley, Asaro, Gilmore and Bremer behind. Then after quite a gap came Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), Carlsen, Colbert, Jouanny and Giandomenico Brusatin (Menu Motorsport) who was battling with both Jouanny and, once Jouanny overtook Colbert, Tor Graves (Alan Docking Racing). Justin Sherwood (Performance Racing Europe), Mohammed Fairuz (Fred Goddard Racing), Diego Romanini (Scuderia Etruria) and Gavin Smith (Meritus Racing) would all finish ahead of Fabi, who was followed home by Primat, not a result to impress and unlike Gilmore, his team-mate, Fabi is in a Dallara so he can't blame the car.
One thing that is becoming very clear is that Robbie Kerr is not a quitter. Even with the chequered flag less than a lap away he was still trying to pass Courtney. On the final lap he made a last ditch attempt, throwing everything at Courtney, including trying to get round the outside at the Chicane. It failed but it was a brave try. Keohane came home to his second win of the day, the two behind him falling back a little as they fought for positions. It wasn't as exciting as Round 3, but it was still quite a race. How the season will progress from here is anyone's guess. We shall have to wait and see what happens at Silverstone over the May Bank Holiday weekend. Because while everyone would have expected Carlin to have collected race wins by now, they might not have expected it would be Michael Keohane and not James Courtney who would be on the top step of the podium.