Before the start Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) and his team had decided he wouldn't be taking part in this race; apparently the car had some sort of technical problem. The unkind among us suggested that the problem was that the car was slow.
Before the start Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) and his team had decided he wouldn't be taking part in this race; apparently the car had some sort of technical problem. The unkind among us suggested that the problem was that the car was slow. However, if they don't run the Lola in race situations it's never actually going to get any faster.
When the race started (after the Belcars had cleared the pit area and headed back to Belgium presumably) Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) took off from the line like a rocket, and all Stephen Jelley (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) could do was try to hang on as the Estonian tried to break away and open up a lead. A little further back Niall Breen (Carlin Motorsport) made a poor start and lost a place to his teammate Maro Engel. In the ensuing chaos Walter Grubmüller (Hitech Racing) took to the grass, tore through a gravel trap, and eventually came back onto the track, almost last. Meanwhile, Breen was now fighting to hold off Esteban Guerrieri (Ultimate Motorsport). While the Argentinean got the better of the Irishman by outbraking him into the Old Hairpin, further down the order there was trouble brewing and it wasn't in the shape of Sam Bird and Mario Moraes, the Carlin duo fighting for 10th. It was in the shape of Leo Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), and Juan Pablo Garcia Samano (Fluid Motorsport). Mansell seems to be making a habit of covering himself in gravel not glory, and today was no exception. This time he and the unfortunate Garcia were off at Coppice and squarely beached in the gravel. Sean Petterson (Fluid Motorsport) was also caught up in drama and was now in the pits while mechanics swarmed all over the car and John Martin (Alan Docking Racing) was off in the gravel at Redgate.
Needless to say we were in a Safety Car situation yet again. It didn't go too smoothly to start with either, picking up newcomer Francesco Castellacci (Alan Docking Racing) instead of the leader, and having to wave the Italian past. Eventually everything settled in to place, with Asmer leading the field round in procession. Behind him was Jelley, from Greg Mansell (Fortec Motorsport), Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport), Jonathan Kennard (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Engel, Guerrieri, Breen, Atte Mustonen (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Moraes. 11th was Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), Bird (who has lost out to both South Americans), National Class leader Michael Meadows (Master Motorsport), Sergio Perez (T- Sport), Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing), Alistair Jackson (Raikkonen Robertson Racing), Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport), "Frankie" Cheng (Performance Racing), Alex Waters (Promatecme F3) and Alberto Valerio, the Carlin driver having started last because his times were disallowed yesterday. He'd made quite a start to gain 11 places inside two laps. 21st was Hamad Al Fardan (Performance Racing), ahead of Salman Al Khalifa (Promatecme), Viktor Jensen (Alan Docking Racing), Max Chilton (Arena International Motorsport), the recovering Grubmüller, Albert Costa (Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Castellacci.
All of this must have come as a bit of an annoyance to Asmer, because he'd started to build up a healthy lead and now he could only watch as it evaporated and everyone caught up with him. Even behind the Safety Car there was trouble. Suddenly Meadows was forced onto the grass after Bird swerved rather too hard in front of him. The knock on effect was that Jackson braked hard and Devaney ran into the rear of the Double R car, damaging the nose of his Mygale. It all got a bit silly, and left Devaney with no option but to pit.
At the restart Asmer controlled things nicely, and Meadows held back, leaving a sizeable gap between himself and Bird, bunching the second half of the field up while he tried to hold off Perez.
In the leading pack there was more excitement. Engel was having to defend. His 6th place against Guerrieri, eventually having no choice but to let the Mygale driver through. It was a massive disappointment for the Carlin driver. At the very front, Asmer was pulling away again, setting a new fastest lap as they began to race again. Valerio was probably the only other man going quite as fast, and he was now 16th which was pretty impressive from the back of the field. He didn't look as if he was about to let up any time soon either and seemed determined to make up for his offences of the day before.
Jelley, meanwhile, responded to Asmer and promptly bettered the leader's fastest lap time, though Asmer as promptly took it back again. While they were scrapping for the lead, and consequently being caught by Greg Mansell, Moraes and Mustonen were also having a scrap that was to run most of the way to the chequered flag. Valerio was also still moving and on lap 11 he forced his way past Teixeira, and set off after the National Class front running pair of Meadows and Perez It was all getting a bit fraught, though in a very entertaining fashion. Further amusement was provided by Kennard, who was now hunting down Hohenthal. Just behind them, there was a rather alarming bunching up behind Engel, a cluster that included everyone up to and including Bird. It looked as if Engel might lose more ground if he wasn't careful. It didn't take long for Valerio to get on the tail end of the group too, which meant further changes were likely. The lanky Brazilian was now 13th and pushing on enthusiastically.
Back behind them, Grubmüller was now attempting to get back ahead of the National Class boys too. He wasn't getting any help from Jackson, and that allowed Cheng to catch up too. Nothing was slowing Asmer down any though. Jelley might have done another fastest lap, but Asmer responded by going even faster. Further back, though, Gonzalez was now having to defend himself from Bird, who was trying all sorts of moves on the Venezuelan. Luckily for Gonzalez, experience beats enthusiasm most days and this was the case now. Grubmüller, meanwhile had got ahead of Jackson, who was having to fend off Cheng, the Chinese driver very keen on the idea of another podium finish in the National Class. He was certainly proving highly entertaining to watch as he tried everything he could think of to get past.
In a bit of an unexpected shift, Guerrieri suddenly seemed to slow (later investigation would reveal a problem with the car), and it now looked as if Engel might be able to come back at his rival. The fight behind Jackson was also hotting up, so it was hard to know where to look next.
And with 6 minutes left of the race, the leaders were now coming up to lap the backmarkers. This was beginning to look very interesting now. Engel was all over Guerrieri at Redgate, Castellacci was busy having a hairy moment at the Old Hairpin, and Breen and Mustonen were sizing each other up, ending up with a coming together at the Chicane that put Breen out of the race after what had been a very fine effort by the youngster. While Asmer set another fastest lap, Breen was stranded on the track with the marshals trying to shift him to a place of safety. Moraes took advantage of Mustonen's temporary embarrassment, and got ahead of the Finn, setting off in furious pursuit of Engel.
Meanwhile, Asmer had a bit of a moment trying to lap Jensen, who seemed to have run into mechanical difficulties and had to slow drastically. The result was an aggrieved Estonian indulging in gestures of international friendship aimed at the Icelander. It also allowed Jelley to close right up on the leader as they tried to pick their way through the traffic. As they came up behind more backmarkers on what was to be the final lap, Jelley tucked right in under the rear wing of Asmer's Dallara and made a lunge up the inside at the Schwantz curves. It didn't quite work and Asmer slammed the door decisively on Jelley, holding his lead all the way to the chequered flag and his second victory of the season. Greg Mansell finished 3rd, ahead of Hohenthal, Kennard and the stricken Guerrieri. On the run to the line, Moraes made a mad lunge at Engel for 7th, but it didn't quite come off. Engel held his place and Moraes slithered across the line all crossed up and sideways in 8th. Mustonen and Bird were 9th and 10th respectively. 11th was Valerio, from Gonzalez, Meadows who won the National Class, Grubmüller, Perez, Teixeira, Jackson, Castellacci, Cheng and Waters. 21st was Chilton, from Al Fardan, Al Khalifa, Costa, Jensen, Devaney and Garcia.
Later on Castellacci was penalised for overtaking under yellow flags and was dropped to 22nd.
Fastest laps went to Asmer, Meadows and in the Invitation Class to Chilton.