An early start to the day for the F3 competitors would be followed by a long, long wait for the second race late in the afternoon. Energy levels were high nonetheless, particularly towards the front of the grid. Maro Engel (Carlin ...
An early start to the day for the F3 competitors would be followed by a long, long wait for the second race late in the afternoon. Energy levels were high nonetheless, particularly towards the front of the grid. Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), sitting on pole, didn't make what he considered a great start, but in comparison with Stephen Jelley's (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) it was positively brilliant. Jelley lost out at the start, and had to tuck in behind Engel, while Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) shot past several people to nip into 3rd. It all proved somewhat academic when Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) spun out in the middle of the pack. He was assisted by Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) slamming the door on him hard pretty much as he did to Engel in Bucharest and with much the same result - they were both out of the race before it really got started. As everyone took avoiding action, the front-runners started to streak away, Asmer all over Jelley with Sam Bird (Carlin Motorsport) joining in enthusiastically.
In the National Class, "Frankie" Cheng (Performance Racing) was leading the class, having passed Sergio Perez (T-Sport) into the first chicane, a move that was similar to the one Bird pulled on Asmer to claim 3rd. With Jelley following grimly, Engel needed to break the tow if he didn't want the Englishman to slipstream past him. He was pushing as hard as he dared while he waited for his tyres to come back to their optimum temperature. A long wait on the grid had left most of the drivers with the same problem, so now it was up to everyone to manage the situation as best they could. Cheng promptly lost out to Perez for that very reason, and that compounded with a mistake meant the Mexican was free and clear in the class lead early on.
Meanwhile, Jelley thought he could take the lead from Engel and made a determined effort to go round the outside. Engel was having none of it, shutting the door firmly on Jelley and making it quite clear he wasn't about to relinquish his hard won lead. Behind them Asmer was back up to 3rd, but Bird wasn't taking it lying down. He almost got back ahead at the Parabolica, but then Jelley fell back a place and there was a bit of a sort out as Asmer moved into 2nd. Jelley immediately tried to get back at Asmer, while Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport) lost 5th place to Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), and then clashed with Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport), putting himself out while Guerrieri continued unscathed.
A lap later and Jelley was back ahead of Asmer, though only just. Asmer then damaged his own front wing running into the back of Jelley's car, thus letting Bird through into 2nd. It was more like a Formula Ford race out there with slipstreaming galore, and an awful lot of bumping and barging going on, most of it unintentional. That left Engel to drive off into the distance, while behind him all manner of shenanigans had broken out. Kennard was trying to pass Jelley, while a little further back Alberto Valerio (Carlin Motorsport), Mario Moraes (Carlin Motorsport) and Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport) were scrapping over the mid-points places in an unseemly manner especially as they're meant to be on the same side. This would have a bearing later.
The inevitable finally happened, needless to say, and we lost one of the front-runners, with Jelley making a mistake and spinning out of contention and stalling his engine. It could only happen to Stephen, who seems to be vying for the title of unluckiest man in F3 this season. By the time he got going again, the others were long gone.
Asmer dropped back a little, got tagged by Valerio, and that let the Brazilian through into 3rd. With Engel leading Bird, and Valerio holding off the squabbling pack, The Carlin boys were running 1-2-3, just as they had at Snetterton. With three laps gone, Engel was beginning to build up a substantial lead while the rest of the field seemed hell-bent on savaging each other. In 4th, Kennard was now holding off Guerrieri and Asmer, while Moraes and Breen were slugging it out behind them. They were soon joined by Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), after he managed to find a way past Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), and Perez was busy trying to avoid getting sucked into a Championship Class battle that had nothing to do with him. After all, the second placed National Class runner was a lot further back, so he had everything to lose and nothing to gain if he got involved in a needless scrap. It was a scrap of enormous ferocity but also extremely entertaining but you could see the Mexican's point!
It wasn't long before Moraes, Breen and Devaney started swapping places, with Devaney getting the drop on Moraes but then finding Breen right with him. Not only that, but Moraes was able to slipstream straight back past Devaney and also Breen, frustrating the Irishman's attempts to move up the order. Someone else not moving through the order was Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), the Angolan apparently losing it all on his own. Meanwhile, at the front, Engel was reeling off the laps with metronomic precision, while Bird has also broken away from the pack and was running on his own. The fight immediately behind was calming a little, with Asmer trying to find a way past Kennard, while Kennard couldn't quite work out how to tackle Valerio. While he was doing that, Asmer found a way through in a classic "up the inside" move, setting the fastest lap of the race so far, and though Kennard came back again he couldn't quite make it stick this time.
Behind them, Devaney was back up to 7th, provided you didn't look too hard, because Breen and Moraes both fought their way back past again. The three of them seemed to be super-glued together. Devaney got back ahead again after jinking at Moraes, but Moraes came straight back as they crossed the start/finish line. Breen followed him through, and Perez, Matteo Chinosi (Ombra Racing) and Cheng were now left with no choice but to join in. Again Devaney tried to get ahead, but this time Breen cut him off. As a result, Perez got through as well, and Breen was now leading the squabbling mob.
Meanwhile, the fastest lap went to Jelley who had fought his was back up to 16th and was trying to salvage something from the wreck of his morning, even if it was only a solitary point for fastest lap. That was looking unlikely to go to Engel who was driving as carefully as he could to try and bring home a second victory this year.
All eyes were on the 7th place battle now though. Devaney had managed to squeeze back past Perez and was now breathing down Moraes exhaust pipes once again, and was soon past and on Breen's tail. As they ran in close formation, they were starting to catch Guerrieri who had been having quite a quiet time but for whom life was about to get very interesting!
Jelley, in the meantime, was going faster and faster, which was bringing him in reach of Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport), the 10th placed runner in the Championship Class. There was the possibility of more than 1 point for Jelley, depending on how hard he could push the youngster. Chilton passed Cheng, which should have given him a cushion, but a National Class runner wasn't going to stop Jelley for long! He was soon on the teenager's tail, and Chilton simply didn't have the answer to the more experienced man. With a lap to go, Jelley was back in the points, and he'd also set another fastest lap, despite being caught up in slower traffic.
Engel crossed the finish line around 3 seconds clear of Bird, with a delighted Valerio finishing 3rd. Asmer settled for 4th, while Kennard followed him home. Breen claimed the hotly disputed 7th place from Devaney and Moraes, while Perez won the National Class. 11th overall (10th in class) was Jelley, who must have been kicking himself for throwing away another good chance at a win. The Invitation Class went to Chinosi, who was 12th, ahead of Chilton, Cheng, Grubmuller, John Martin (Alan Docking Racing), Federico Glorioso (Ombra Racing), Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), Leo Mansell (Fortec Racing) and a frustrated Michael Meadows (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) who'd spent most of the race battling Alex Waters (Promatecme F3). Waters was 21st, leading home Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing), Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), Albert Costa (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport).