After a great deal of confusion, caused by the officials initially trying to line the grid up on a two-by-two linear formation, as opposed to the correct staggered grid line up, the race finally got underway. Interestingly, perhaps, pole sitter ...
After a great deal of confusion, caused by the officials initially trying to line the grid up on a two-by-two linear formation, as opposed to the correct staggered grid line up, the race finally got underway. Interestingly, perhaps, pole sitter Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) promptly messed up his start when he crept prior to the lights coming on. Realising his mistake, he promptly slammed the brakes on, crept a little more and braked a second time. It was all the man alongside him needed in the way of invitation. As the lights on the gantry blinked out, Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) didn't hesitate in the slightest. The white, green and red liveried car shot off the line and was ahead of Kane before they reached the first corner, Honda. If you give the 2005 Champion an inch, he'll show you exactly why he is this year's top driver and will make off with the mile as well. Behind them, Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) lost out to Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) for 3rd. Elsewhere, Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) was out on track with a nice new engine - one which didn't have a hole in it, thus meaning it was far better than yesterday's power unit. This meant Bakkerud was at least in the points, even if he was only 10th. He's turning into a fiercely effective racer, and he seemed to be having fun again at last. In the National Class, Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3) led from Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport), Barton Mawer (T- Sport) and Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing).
At the front, Parente couldn't quite shake Kane off, but was pushing hard setting a fastest lap early on. He wasn't the only one pushing; Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), who had started from the back of the grid, was busy bumping and barging his way up the order, and was now looking threatening just behind the lead National Class runners. In fact, there was generally a great deal of pushing and shoving going on towards the back end of the field, with Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport) an early casualty.
Meanwhile, in the mid-field, Bakkerud had got the drop on Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport) for 9th, leaving Jelley to fight with Bruno Senna (Double R Racing), so it was all a little fraught back there. It made the tussle at the front look like a Sunday afternoon's drive for Parente, despite the fact that Conway was charging now, trying to get past Kane and get on terms with the leader. In his efforts he set a faster lap than the Portuguese had already set.
While all this was going on, and Senna and Jelley traded places, Bakkerud took another place, this time from Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), the local hero finding that local knowledge was of no help to him. However, it was all about to be rendered academic. Duran attempted to get past Hollings for the class lead, outbraked himself and shoved Hollings deep into the gravel traps at Honda. We needed the Safety Car yet again. This time the order was Parente, from Kane, Conway, Kimball, Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport), Dan Clarke (Double R Racing), James Walker (Fortec Motorsport), Bakkerud, O'Mahony and Jelley. Senna was 11th, ahead of Kennard, who was somewhat surprised to find himself unexpectedly leading the National Class. 13th was Barton Mawer (T-Sport), Asmer, Josh Fisher (Team SWR), Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing), Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing), Ryan Lewis (T-Sport), Nick Jones (Team SWR) and Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing).
The Safety Car eventually stayed out for 5 laps, including one when everyone expected he would come in. The lights went out on his fourth lap, but he didn't pull in and kept on heading the pack. Luckily no one did anything silly, and when the car finally did pull in to the pit lane and let them go racing again, Parente controlled the restart beautifully, not letting anyone get the drop on him. He had no intention of losing out on his eleventh win of the year. With Kane being kept honest by Conway, it didn't seem that Parente had anything at all to worry about, and so it turned out. Other people were the ones doing the worrying. Bakkerud was now setting about Walker, who held the Dane off for a while but eventually had to give ground. That let Bakkerud into 7th, with Clarke his next target.
In addition, Asmer was now 12th having passed all those annoying National Class boys. This meant he had a clear run at the next Championship Class car, that of Senna. The Brazilian wasn't being helped because he was bottled up behind O'Mahony and Jelley, the bunch of them running in close formation for much of the rest of the race.
The National Class was still being led by Kennard, though it looked as if one of the points - for fastest lap - was going to go elsewhere. Duran had limped back to the pits after his incident. Although he was sporting left front damage, the P1 boys worked hard to get him back out. With 7 laps of the race run, the Mexican emerged from the pits to set off in pursuit of the fastest lap if he couldn't salvage anything else. He was almost bound to fall victim of the 75% ruling, and would be unclassified and thus out of the points.
The Championship Class fastest lap was now back in the hands of Parente and now it would stay there all the way to the chequered flag, while behind him Kane and Conway had swapped places. It wasn't the best of days for Kane, going from pole to third, and there didn't even seem to be anything he could do to come back. He lost ground almost immediately, and found himself being harassed by Kimball, the American really not wanting to let Conway eat into his lead in the points table. Meanwhile, Bakkerud was chasing down Clarke, who'd been having a quiet morning till then. Suddenly his wing mirrors were full of harrying Dane, and his peace and quiet was over. The real battle was the one developing around Asmer, however. Senna really wanted to keep the Estonian behind him, and Asmer really didn't want to stay there. There might be a point or two in this if only he could find a way through. Eventually he made it, putting in a series of wildly determined laps that in the end netted him nothing at all in way of point or places. It was a dreadful day for Hitech, and it would get worse before it was done.
A little further back, there was a bit of an inter-Class incident, when Fisher was attacked by Reindler, who was trying to make up for a poor qualifying session. Unfortunately, the result of his enthusiasm was an early exit into a handy gravel trap. Even more unfortunately, he also caused Fisher to fall way back, ending up just in front of Cheong. As the Chinese driver had managed to lose around a third of a lap on the pack behind the Safety Car, this gives you some idea just how far back we're talking here. However, Fisher's misfortune promoted Annala into the top three, behind Mawer and class leader Kennard. At least Fisher didn't have to deal with Jones, as the American went missing four laps from the end of the race. It wasn't as if anyone except his sparring partner Cheong would have noticed, of course.
Back at the front Parente carried on serenely, untroubled by the chaos behind him. Conway couldn't get near him, but Kane and Kimball were still all over each other, and they also had Dirani wanting to join in. Clarke had been closed right down by Bakkerud, but we were running out of time now. In fact, on a track as tight as Mondello, it's very difficult to pass, and most people would have needed another couple of laps before they could think about attempting a move. It wasn't going to happen, at least not at the front. It did happen in the National Class though, when Championship Class runner Lewis made a move on Kennard, letting Mawer through to claim the class lead from the now very angry Englishman. On the slowing down lap Kennard made his feelings about the matter perfectly clear, but there was nothing for it; he had to settle for second.
And so Parente claimed his 11th win of the year, from Conway, Kane, Kimball, Dirani, Clarke, Bakkerud, Walker, Jelley and O'Mahony. Asmer was 11th from Senna, a delighted Mawer, Kennard, Lewis, Annala, Fisher and Cheong.