Before the race started Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) seemed to have a bit of a problem in the steering area. Certainly he stopped off in the pitlane and waved desperately at the mechanics. They didn't seem to think there was much they...
Before the race started Ricardo Teixeira (Carlin Motorsport) seemed to have a bit of a problem in the steering area. Certainly he stopped off in the pitlane and waved desperately at the mechanics. They didn't seem to think there was much they could do, and duly sent him back out. Maybe he was just suffering from back pain. His rib injury was really giving him a hard time in the race on Saturday, and he found that the vibrations caused by going slowly behind the Safety Car were enough to make him scream with pain. However, he wasn't going to sit the race out, and he duly took up his place on the grid.
He was a long way back, but his teammates weren't. As the lights went out, Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing) bogged down, while Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) and Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport) had no trouble at all getting off the line. The two of them wasted no time stamping their authority on yet another race, the Portuguese pulling away almost immediately, while Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport) also got the drop on Asmer, who managed to lose two places before he even got up through the gears. It doesn't bode well for this afternoon's race, which he starts from pole. It does bode very well for Parente, who will be beside him.
At least today's race weather looked a lot better than yesterday's, although after the torrential downpour of Saturday afternoon you could guarantee that you wouldn't want to drop your wheels onto the grass because it would be horrendously slippery. You also wouldn't want to get in the gravel traps either if you could help it. What you also didn't want was to be put in the wall by your teammate, but that's what happened to Bruno Senna (Double R Racing). Daniel Clarke made a move to block Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) at the start of the race, and when Kane took avoiding action he tangled with Senna, and the two of them ended up in the pitwall, just by the gate. Their races lasted about 10 yards each, while Clarke got away scot-free. Maybe he should stick to surfing.
The result of all this was a pair of cars knitted together, and an instant Safety Car period. It picked the leader up at the end of his first lap, while the organisers scrambled a snatch vehicle to rescue the two stranded cars. Behind the Safety Car, the order was Parente, Kimball, Conway, Asmer and Clarke. Danilo Dirani (P1 Motorsport) was 6th, from James Walker (Fortec Racing), Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport), Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) and - to the astonishment of many - Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing), who was a) still running at the end of Lap 1 and b) in the points. Next up was Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport), in 11th and leading the National Class. The Mexican might have had a dismal time on Saturday, but today was looking better already. Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing) was next up, from Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport), Ronayne O'Mahony (Fortec Motorsport), Ben Clucas (Fluid Motorsport), Alejandro Nunez (HBR Motorsport), Michael Herck (Junior Racing Team), Charlie Hollings (Promatecme F3), Juho Annala (Alan Docking Racing) and Barton Mawer (T-Sport). The final places were taken by Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), Josh Fisher (Team SWR), Teixeira, Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) and Nick Jones (Team SWR). Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing) was out of the race, having pitted with clutch failure just as the Safety Car emerged.
When the race restarted on lap 4, Parente controlled it beautifully, Kimball hanging on to the white, green and red car. A little further back Lewis was trying to go round the outside of Bakkerud as they tore into Copse, but the Dane was having none of it. Meanwhile, Dirani tried to pass Clarke, while Walker looked to see if he could catch both of them. It didn't work but it was worth a try. Of course, all this was playing into Parente's hands, and he and Kimball seemed to be strolling away from the rest. The only real effort needed by the Portuguese was to keep ahead of the American, while all Charlie could do was hang on and hope for a mistake from Alvaro that never came. Conway was being pursued by Asmer, but never looked really likely to catch Kimball, or to break away from the Estonian, and Clarke was holding up what looked like the rest of the field for 5th. And that was mostly how it stayed, although Bakkerud was now on terms with Walker, and found a way round on lap 5. There was a brief rumour of rain, but it turned out to be unfounded, and the sun came out almost immediately it was mentioned, so at least we didn't have that to contend with.
There was also activity in the National Class. Duran was safe enough in the lead, because he had Jelley and O'Mahony between him and any threat, but as that threat was Clucas, who had got the drop on Kennard, he couldn't be too confident of success. He wasn't helped by O'Mahony dropping places as the race wore on. He was helped by the fact that Mawer, the series leader, was in some trouble and was a lap down after something happened out of sight of the commentary team and dropped him to last in class, well behind Cheong and Jones who were having another of their fierce but slow battles, swapping places a number of times before the chequered flag. The honours finally went to Cheong, who seems to have done a great deal of work on his fitness since Monza.
Things got rather more heated in the National Class once Jelley found his way past Duran, and Clucas tried to go with him. It was never really on though and the Mexican's run to the flag was relatively untroubled; his series standings were improved when Mawer pitted for a quick check of his rear wheels, which he thought might be damaged. They weren't and he was sent back out again to try and score some points. Clucas was now happy enough in second too, as Kennard had all his attention taken up by Herck, who was trying to get past the National Class runner to put distance between himself and Nunez. On the last lap, Kennard lost the place to the Belgian, though it made no difference to his position in class.
The only other interest now came from the battle behind Bakkerud, who was clinging on to 7th place for dear life. He certainly seemed to be at the head of a 16-wheeler. Probably what saved him was the fact that the three behind him were as busy squabbling with each other as they were trying to find a way past the Carlin car. The order shifted when Lewis was passed by Walker after Walker tried to find his way past Bakkerud and failed. As if that wasn't bad enough, Bridgman came past Lewis a lap later, to record his best finish of the season, increasing his points score by 150% and claiming 8th place.
At the front, everything was steady, though Parente kept upping his pace, setting a number of fastest race laps before he was done. Kimball couldn't quite live with him, despite his best efforts, but he too seemed secure in his position. By the time they finished, the 3rd placed man, Conway, was almost 8 seconds back, with Asmer still on his rear wing. It was dominant performance by Carlin, and you have to wonder whether anyone will want to drive for any other team next season. The only faint sign of error was when Parente appeared to be expecting the chequered flag a lap earlier than it came out, the Portuguese veering towards the pit-wall as if to celebrate, before realising his mistake. It was the 5th 1-2 for the pair, and Parente's 8th win of the year from 13 races (he missed the first two races at Donington, because the budget wasn't in place), an impressive record by anyone's standards.
Conway was a distant 3rd, from Asmer, while Clark held Dirani off, and Bakkerud held onto 7th, from Bridgman, Walker and Lewis. 11th was Jelley, ahead of National Class winner Duran, Clucas, Herck, Kennard, O'Mahony, Hollings, Nunez, Ihara and Fisher. Annala was 21st, from Teixeira, Cheong and Jones, while last man home was Mawer.
The extra points for fastest laps went to Parente, Kennard and Herck.
Afterwards, Parente couldn't stop smiling at everyone: ""Yesterday I had used tyres and Charlie had the opposite. This time I had new ones, because I knew I had to challenge him today. I pulled away at the first corner, and after that I just kept on pulling away. There was a strong wind round at Becketts, but it was the same for everyone I guess."
Kimball, on the other hand, was in a philosophical if whimsical mood afterwards. "I had a better run today and I did some good solid laps to try to run him down, but my car was handling very badly. We will have to make some big changes for this afternoon. Today the wind contributed partly to the different conditions and my tyres weren't so good either. Of course, yesterday was Spa and I've always like Spa better than here."
The Championship Class isn't won yet, but it would take a brave person to bet against it going to Carlin to match their 2001 and 2003 titles.
Duran was now squarely back in contention in the National Class, having closed the gap to Mawer with his morning's effort, though it hadn't been easy: "It was not very straightforward, it was very difficult.in the first lap, the wind was blowing very hard on the straight and it was difficult to keep the car on the track."
Clucas had had no answer to the Mexican, and he knew it, so he wasn't too disappointed at being 2nd in class. "I had a lot of pace at the start of the race and managed to overtake seven or eight other cars, then I lost a lot of grip and just hoped I could make up ground on Barton so I'm happy with second. We made up a lot of time and made a lot of changes after first qualifying and that seemed to improve matters."