Race 2 at Croft today saw Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) finally finish a race without controversy or crashing, and in fact the New Zealander led the winner of the first race, Sergio Perez (T-Sport) all the way home, but not before dramas ...
Race 2 at Croft today saw Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) finally finish a race without controversy or crashing, and in fact the New Zealander led the winner of the first race, Sergio Perez (T-Sport) all the way home, but not before dramas further down the field that led to a marshal being injured, a lot of cars being wrecked, and a restart. 3rd place went to Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport) after he pulled a very neat move on Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing) going through Tower late in the race. In the National Class it was deja-vu all over again, with Andrew Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport) once more claiming both the win and the point for fastest lap. He was miles ahead of Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) and Hywel Lloyd (CF Racing), the latter seeming rather surprised to find that with the aggregated result he may have finished behind Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) on the road but he was actually ahead of him in the race.
This was one of those races where it was just as well we started with 29 cars, because we really didn't get that many of them back. Everything started well enough, unless you were Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport), the Angolan starting from the pit lane after repairs needed after he crashed out of the first race of the day took rather a long time to complete. Mind you, he might have been in the safest place. As the lights went out, Hartley got away beautifully, edging Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) out as they ran down to Clervaux, with Perez and Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport) just behind them. Turvey made a less than stellar start, dropping back from 5th, but otherwise they all made it through the first corner without incident, despite Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) going off like a rocket when the race started. He was at the back after a disastrous qualifying session and he wasn't planning on staying there. He'd made up at least five places by the time they came out of the second corner, and he obviously wasn't done yet.
A lap later and it was all academic, after Perez attempted to pass Ericsson at the Jim Clark Esses and the two clashed. Perez escaped with damage to the nose cone, but Ericsson wasn't quite so fortunate, spinning wildly. It was now a question of damage limitation. With the rest of the field following closely, it was almost inevitable that some of them would be affected by the incident, but not on the scale that actually resulted. When the dust finally cleared, not only was Ericsson out, but so were Abay who spun in avoidance and was struck amidships by Henry Arundel (Double R Racing), Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport) who ended up in the barriers, Oliver Oakes (Eurotek) and Niall Quinn (Team Loctite), the latter hitting the former and sending him into one of the marshals 'post. Additionally, one of the marshals was injured and was ambulanced to the medical centre, apparently with a broken leg. The remainder of the field reassembled on the grid, and eventually were sorted out into the order that they finished the 2nd lap in for a restart over 18 laps. Hopefully with rather less drama.
At the restart, Hartley knew what he had to do and promptly did it, again claiming the lead and leaving Perez to settle in behind him. Devaney was relegated several places for the restart and promptly did another demon start, hacking past a number of National Class competitors as if they were standing still. At the end of the first lap he was up in 11th, and looking for a way past Alistair Jackson (Double R Racing). It was to prove his undoing. An attempt at Tower failed, and a later lunge saw the Ultimate Mygale bouncing across the kerbs and the grass and into retirement a lap later.
After that things calmed down a little, though the last survivor of the Ultimate orange wave, Teixeira, was making up ground at the back, and had made up 6 places in 3 laps. He then threw it all away again, ending up back behind Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), the Austrian looking rather unconvincing as he tried to work his way past the National Class guys. Apart from that, and the battle developing between Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport) and almost anyone that got near him, including Al Khalifa, Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport), Bridger and the hapless Teixeira who eventually retired after spinning off at the Chicane. It hadn't been the best of races for Ultimate, and they will want to move on from this as soon as possible. The upshot was damage to Wilson's front wing, a spin from Einar that let Al Khalifa through, and then to add insult to injury Lloyd came through for 3rd, just behind Bridger on the track, but ahead of him when the times were aggregated.
Another one in trouble was John Martin (Double R Racing) who wandered into the pits and out of contention after a spin as the race reached its mid-point. By the time he came back out he was dead last. It was all happening at the back! Wilson was now just ahead of Martin, the car scraping horribly as he wrestled in through the corners with the wing attempting to wedge itself under the car. He wasn't the only one not having a good time. Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing) was struggling just as badly as he had in the first race, and compounded that by demolishing a batch of floppy markers and generally trying - and apparently failing - to wrestle the car into submission.
As the race moved towards its conclusion, Perez was still hanging on to Hartley, though he couldn't get quite close enough. However, no one else was anywhere within sight of the pair of them. Mustonen, it's fair to say, had problems of his own, in the shape of Turvey, who was edging ever closer to the Finn as the race wore on. He was certain he could get past and he thought he knew where as well. He was right, but first he tried to sell Mustonen a dummy at Clervaux. When that didn't work the pair of them were side-by-side on the run to Tower, and then Turvey was through. It was move he'd pulled in the past in Formula BMW and the Finn simply didn't have an answer. His podium position was snatched from him with two laps to go. And that was that, really.
Hartley came home to his first win, while Perez now leads the championship by 4 points with his 2nd place. Turvey was of course 3rd from Mustonen. Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport) was 5th after holding off Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing) for the latter part of the race, after Tandy had demoted Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Racing) to 7th. Meyrick was 8th overall and claimed the National Class win, and was followed home by Jackson and Max Chilton (Hitech Racing). Grubmuller, in the other Hitech car, was 11th, claiming the last point in the International Class, with Al Khalifa next up, then Lloyd, from Bridger, Jensen, Steve Guerrero (T- Sport), Einar, Wilson, Craig Reiff (Nexa Racing) and Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport). Martin was the last classified runner in 21st.
It's to be hoped that at the next meeting at Monza there is rather less chaos and confusion.
The extra point in each class for fastest lap of the race went to Perez (who broke Takuma Sato's 7-year old lap record in the process) and Meyrick.
Weather: Cold, dry.
Next Races: Rounds 5 & 6, Monza, Italy, 16th/18th May.