Thruxton today produced a real thriller of a race, with the victory finally going to Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) who put in a storming drive to first claim the lead and then defend it from all comers. In 2nd, after an equally ...
Thruxton today produced a real thriller of a race, with the victory finally going to Brendon Hartley (Carlin Motorsport) who put in a storming drive to first claim the lead and then defend it from all comers. In 2nd, after an equally impressive effort was Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport), while 3rd eventually went to Oliver Turvey (Carlin Motorsport) who had led in the early laps. The National Class was won - for the 7th time - by Carlin Motorsport as well in the shape of Andy Meyrick. He was under massive pressure from Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) in the closing stages of the race, but he hung on to maintain his series lead. 3rd was Steven Guerrero (T-Sport) after a chase through the ranks by the Colombian.
At the start, Sam Abay (Carlin Motorsport) didn't get away with the rest of them on the warm up lap, but was able to edge back to take up his place on the grid. Possibly this fired him up good and proper, as events would show. Meanwhile, there was a race to get underway. The lights went out and Jaime Alguersuari (Carlin Motorsport) and Hartley both tore away from the line, with Turvey getting a superb start and making it three abreast as they tore into the first corner. The resulting sort out saw Turvey get into the lead, with Hartley pushed onto the grass to end up 3rd and Alguersuari coming out of it 2nd. Just behind them John Martin (Double R Racing) had grabbed 4th ahead of Sebastian Hohenthal, Abay and Ericsson. As the lap developed Martin saw his chance and drove round the outside of Hartley at the Chicane to grab 3rd from the Kiwi, while Abay did the same to Hohenthal to get on Hartley's tail. Further back Alastair Jackson (Double R Racing) and Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing) were having a fierce fight too, though to very little effect given how far back they both were.
The second lap was no calmer. Hartley wasn't taking the loss of his place lying down. In a repeat of what Martin had done to him, he came back at the Australian at the Chicane to reclaim 3rd. He wasn't the only one making progress. Sergio Perez (T-Sport) was trying to regain the series lead from Alguersuari and was determined to move up the order if he could. This season's discovery, Ericsson, meanwhile was looking to demote Martin further. And as if that wasn't enough, Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing) was proving as entertaining as ever as he dived down the inside of Hohenthal at Cobb.
The entertainment was a long way from over too. Hartley now snatched 2nd from Alguersuari at the Chicane, setting the fastest lap of the race so far as he did so. The decision to run very few laps on Saturday and thus save his tyres was proving to be the smart move. And just for good measure Ericsson finally managed to make his move on Martin stick. Needless to say that with Hartley now 2nd, the Red Bull backed youngster was now in hot pursuit of team-mate Turvey and was beginning to size up the recent Cambridge graduate with a view to using the tow you can get round here to claim the lead. Actually, there were some tense moments at Carlin generally, as Abay was now all over Martin, while Ericsson was relentlessly piling the pressure on Alguersuari.
If the International Class battle was fraught, things were much calmer in the National Class, at least at this stage, as Meyrick was leading International Class runner Max Chilton (Hitech Racing) providing a cushion between himself and Bridger despite Bridger's best efforts to get past. It was probably just as well for the spectators whose attention was probably riveted to what was happening in the top ten. Ericsson was on Alguersuari's tail now whenever they reached the Chicane, though he kept losing ground in the faster flowing section round the back, while Hartley thought he'd seen his opportunity to pass Turvey as they came round to start another lap. The lanky New Zealander made to go round the outside and then came through the Chicane side-by-side, Turvey just holding his position, while, Ericsson pulled a similar stunt on Alguersuari but made it stick, squeezing through into 3rd and setting the fastest lap of the race. That left Martin holding off Abay, who was being attacked by Hohenthal, while Hartley was now really on the offensive, trying everything he could think off to get past Turvey, especially as he now had Ericsson with him.
Further back Perez was also looking grimly determined, despite messing up the Chicane. The Mexican was lucky to get away with it, but was assisted by the fact that Tandy was now getting pretty messy as well, allowing Perez to catch him easily.
Lap 7 was when it all changed again, with the minor consideration of Jensen retreating to the pits, and the major one of Hartley finally finding his way through by forcing his way round the outside at the Chicane. Turvey nearly lost out to Ericsson as well, but managed to hold him off, while Alguersuari held off Martin yet again. That was more than Tandy could say, as he finally lost out and ended up 11th behind Perez, Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing) and Mick Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport).
And we still weren't done. Ericsson's attempts to pressure Turvey finally paid off on lap 8, the Swede snatching 2nd at the Chicane, while behind the pair of them Alguersuari was locking up in his efforts to hold off Martin, who decided that his opportunity had arrived. He turned out to be wrong - perhaps inevitably it happened at the Chicane. Martin tried to get around the Spaniard, who slammed the door aggressively (and would later be reprimanded for causing an avoidable collision) and spun Martin off, the Australian ending up on the grass a long way off. Alguersuari was able to continue without losing a place, while Martin had to sit and watch most of the field scream past before he could rejoin. Elsewhere in the top ten, Devaney managed to lose the place he'd gained when Tandy came back at him, while Bridger managed to pass Jackson to get back on Meyrick's tail as the National Class battle raged and it got even closer when Guerrero joined in as well, after he too passed Jackson. Meyrick was now behind Chilton but was piling the pressuring on and was clearly keen to repass the youngster to give himself a cushion.
However it was even more intense at front. Alguersuari was now looking as if he might have sustained some damage in the clash with Martin, and that was enough to allow Abay to find a way through. Certainly the Red Bull liveried car was proving a handful in the left-handers, most probably as a result of a puncture.
Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport) pulled into the pits and out of contention, to be followed into retirement by Jackson whose Mercedes- powered Mygale was losing power, thus leaving only Devaney to defend Ultimate's honour out there. It looked as if they might be joined in there by Alguersuari, who now lost a place to Hohenthal, and then was overtaken by Perez and Mustonen as well. And just for good measure Tandy went through as well, before Alguersuari finally pitted with what turned out to be a front left puncture. That effectively handed the championship lead back to Perez, even though the Mexican had just lost a place to Mustonen. He tried to fight back, but the Finn wasn't having any of it, not after he'd had to start from 12th. Perez seemed to think that discretion was the better part of valour, and Mustonen made the break to finish reasonably well ahead.
Things finally calmed down a little in the closing stages of the race, at least in the International Class. In the National Class, things were still tense. Bridger managed to pass Chilton (who seemed to be having all sorts of handling problems given the way the back-end kept getting away from him) to get back on Meyrick's tail again, and proceeded to set about trying to get past to claim the class lead. Meyrick was having to work very hard to hold onto his lead, but was resisting manfully and showed no inclination to make it easy for Bridger. On the final lap Bridger had a go at the Chicane but he couldn't quite manage it, and Meyrick hung on to come home the winner, while Bridger got it all sideways and nearly lost out to Guerrero as well. Just for good measure Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport) lost ground on the final lap, ending up several places further back, behind Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport), Hywel Lloyd (CF Motorsport) and Jordan Williams (Team Loctite).
At the front, Hartley came home a happy winner, ahead of Ericsson, while Abay got close to the podium when he caught up with 3rd-placed Turvey at the last minute. 5th was Hohenthal, from Mustonen, Perez, Tandy, Devaney and Henry Arundel (Double R Racing). 11th was Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), from Meyrick, Bridger, Chilton, Guerrero, Philip Major (Fortec Motorsport), Martin, Einar and Lloyd. 20th was Williams, from Wilson while the last two classified runners were Jensen and Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) who both had spells in the pits before rejoining.
The fastest laps of the race went to Ericsson and Bridger.
Weather: Warm, sunny, breezy.