Carlin Break Raikkonen Roberston Stranglehold We were short of Salvador Duran before the grid formed up, the damage done in the morning race proving too much to deal with. The fact that there was a huge gouge out of the rollbar meant that...
Carlin Break Raikkonen Roberston Stranglehold
We were short of Salvador Duran before the grid formed up, the damage done in the morning race proving too much to deal with. The fact that there was a huge gouge out of the rollbar meant that his team. Hitech Racing, wouldn't have been able to do much to get him out there, and so we lost one. And then, on the formation lap we lost another one. Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) was in the barriers after his throttle jammed open, and he just missed ramming his teammate, Karl Reindler, and taking the Australian out as well.
Eventually, they all lined up with a gap where Kennard should have been. As the lights went out to signal the start of the race, James Walker (Hitech Racing) jumped the start - or at least was already rolling - but pole man Oliver Jarvis (Carlin Motorsport) went one better, making a near perfect start that meant by the first corner he had already started to pull out a gap. Further back, Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) and Bruno Senna (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) both got away well too, slotting in to 4th and 5th behind Mike Conway (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) who was being held up by Walker, much to the delight of Jarvis who could only benefit from his rivals fighting amongst themselves. The rookie was delighted to be leading the race, and had every intention of continuing to do so, preferably all the way to the chequered flag. However, no debut win is ever going to be smooth, and so it would prove.
A lap after they all sped away from the grid we had the now almost traditional Safety Car phase, Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing) had clashed with Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3). The resulting shunt left the Angolan in the barriers and needing to be rescued. Hence the need for the Safety Car while they extracted Teixeira, a process that seemed to take a very long time indeed. Khateeb was able to continue. He wasn't the only one in trouble. Juho Annala had had a dreadful start, tripped over Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport) and was now dead last behind the Safety Car.
Anyway, they lined up for a long wait behind the Safety Car. Jarvis had already set a fastest race lap, and so he settled in to wait it out. Behind him Walker was being looked at for a possible jump start, as was Alberto Valerio (Cesario F3) who had taken advantage of the gap left by Kennard's untimely departure and gained four places before the field got to the first corner. In 3rd place was Conway, who was being followed by Bakkerud, Senna, James Jakes (Hitech Racing), Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport), Maro Engel (Carlin Motorsport), Stuart Hall (Fortec Motorsport) and the lucky Reindler. 11th was Valerio, though not for long, ahead of Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Charlie Hollings (Fortec Motorsport), the inevitable National Class leading Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport), Ihara, Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing), Khateeb and Annala.
While they were all behind the Safety Car, the officials called Valerio in for a drive-through penalty for the jump start, much to the relief of Jelley, who'd been caught out by the Brazilian's banzai move and wasn't too pleased to lose a place like that. The result of that was that Valerio was dead last, and because he'd been guilty of speeding when he came in to serve his initial penalty, he was immediately whacked with a second one just for good measure. He was so incensed when he returned to the pit lane a lap later, he was lucky not to make it a hat trick of drive through penalties.
At long last the wreckage was cleared away and on lap six we were racing again. It was Jarvis' big chance to show what he's made of and he grabbed it with both hands, controlling the restart nicely. He was again aided by the fact that behind him the Mercedes-engined duo of Walker and Conway were tangling with each other, Walker resisting Conway for all he was worth. Walker tried to break the tow that Conway had, but he couldn't quite manage it, while Jarvis began to get away, steadily opening up a gap and reveling in finally being out in front in his rookie season.
Behind the top three, Bakkerud and Senna were busy fighting for 4th, but in addition Bakkerud was steadily closing on Conway. Given that Bakkerud is a remarkably determined individual on track there was no way he was about to make it easy for Senna and the Brazilian eventually seemed to decide that staying where he was would be the best policy. That let Bakkerud concentrate in Conway, which might well have been what Senna was hoping for. After all, at the start of the race Conway was leading the series by one point from Senna. Anything that slowed Conway down was likely to be fine with Bruno.
Further back, Annala was staging a recovery drive in the National Class, and had hacked past Khateeb before setting about his own team-mate, Avila. It didn't take long for him to get past the Macanese as well, but then he started to catch Ihara. Now, she may not be a National Class runner, but she's developed a nasty habit of late of holding them up to the point of being dangerous. A moment's thought was all Annala needed to decide that it wasn't worth being punted off from a certain third in class by trying to get past her. After all, she's had both of his team-mates off already this season, and she might have fancied collecting the full set. Annala eased off and settled for coming home safely with some more points in the bag. You could see his point.
At the sharp end, Jarvis was pressing on, setting fastest laps on his way to his maiden win. It no longer looked as if Walker could stay on terms with him, although the threat from Conway had faded a little too. Bakkerud was looming ever closer in the Double R Racing driver's mirrors and Senna looked set to join in too if Conway gave either of them the slightest opportunity. It can't have been comfortable, though Conway is clearly more than capable of handling that sort of pressure.
Speaking of uncomfortable, behind them Jakes was now coming under considerable pressure from Buurman, who had more than adequately demonstrated both his turn of speed and his aggression in the morning's race. Jakes would have his hands full if the Dutchman got any closer.
There was another group behind them, with Engel holding up Hall, Reindler and Jelley. The German wasn't a happy bunny, finding that the tyres were causing him problems. They might theoretically have been the same as the ones Jarvis was using, but in practice there was something wrong with this set. They simply never seemed to want to come on song, and Carlin's normally rapid rookie was deeply frustrated at only being 8th. That group got a bit of a reshuffled when Jelley went on the attack. He was all over Reindler until a mistake on his part saw him lose a place rather than gain one. That let Hollings through, and worse than that, dropped him back into the clutches of Gonzalez. Luckily for Jelley, Gonzalez wasn't overly interested in passing anyone as he cruised to his 7th National Class win of the year, but that didn't stop Jelley from deciding enough was enough, and being passed by a man in a two-year old car with a Mugen-Honda engine would be one embarrassment too many! He pulled himself together and set off in pursuit of Reindler and Hollings.
While Jarvis set yet another fastest lap, Bakkerud was still busy trying to force a mistake from Conway. The trouble was Conway was not in the mood to oblige. And the Dane was still having to watch his rear view mirrors for Senna as well, the dark blue car an ever present menace. As it turned out, that was the order they would cross the line, the nature of the Mondello Park track making overtaking pretty near impossible unless someone makes a mistake. The professionalism being shown at the front meant that just wouldn't happen.
No one seemed to have explained that to Hall though. He was all over Engel - which given the accident-prone day Hall had been having, might not have been the safest option. It also wasn't to be. Hall would have to settle for 9th, Engel not giving an inch despite his tyre problems.
And so it came to a processional end, an absolutely delighted Jarvis taking Carlin Motorsport's first win of the series, and breaking the Double R Racing stranglehold at last. And incidentally proving that actually the Mugen-Honda engine is competitive whatever everyone else thinks. As he poured Champagne over his race engineer, you could see the weight of frustration lift from his shoulders. This should be the first of many wins for the Englishman. Behind him Walker was 2nd and Conway came home 3rd to consolidate his Championship lead. In 4th was Bakkerud, for once having some good luck, then came Senna, Jakes, Buurman, Engel, Hall and Reindler. Just outside the points in 11th was Hollings, from Jelley. 13th and winner of the National Class was the now habitual Gonzalez, with Morgado 2nd, a long way ahead of Ihara (15th overall). 17th overall was Valerio after his multiple penalties, then came Annala who was 3rd in class, while Khateeb and Avila brought up the rear.
Fastest laps went to Jarvis and Gonzalez.
Next Race Meeting: Rounds 9 & 10, Snetterton, Norfolk, July 15th/16th.