There was mayhem on the exploratory lap, with several drivers apparently unsure of quite where they were supposed to line up. Apparently Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was more confused than most, and although no one was lining up properly, he...
There was mayhem on the exploratory lap, with several drivers apparently unsure of quite where they were supposed to line up. Apparently Ryan Lewis (T-Sport) was more confused than most, and although no one was lining up properly, he made an attempt to go up the pitlane, only to be met by a wall of humanity coming the other way. He changes his mind, headed up the grid and came to a halt by the wall, from where he needed to be dragged back to his proper grid position. It was all getting a bit silly. Cheong Lou Meng (Edenbridge Racing) did pull into the pits at the end of his green flag lap, whether because he thought he had another lap available, or because he really had a problem, no one could say. There was a suggestion that people were just looking for someone they liked and then stopping by them. Maybe Cheong didn't recognise anyone; maybe he just thought he'd be safer starting from the pitlane.
At the start, pole man Alvaro Parente (Carlin Motorsport) made what appeared to be a poor start, at least compared to Mike Conway (Fortec Motorsport), but by the time the two of them reached the first corner, Parente had held his position on the inside line and was ahead of Conway by half a car length, leaving the Englishman to try and catch up. It would never happen, and the Portuguese was never challenged again. Parente dominated the 25-lap race much as he'd dominated qualifying on Saturday, and appears to be on another level all together. Afterwards he claimed to have taken things easy but there was a great deal of work to do overtaking backmarkers before the flag. Conway, meanwhile, was coming under pressure from Steven Kane (Promatecme F3) and Ryan Lewis, both of whom could sniff a podium finish, and both of whom wanted it to be theirs.
The first incident of an incident-packed race came on that first lap when Daniel Clarke (Double R Racing) nudged Marko Asmer (Hitech Racing), who clipped Charlie Kimball (Carlin Motorsport). Afterwards, Clarke would suggest Asmer started it, but that's not how it looked to everyone else. Only Asmer survived, Clarke ending his race in the gravel at Scotsman Bend, while Kimball limped round on three whole tyres and broken suspension, heading for the pits. Just to prove that Charlie has no luck at all, the American didn't get as far as the pits, because the front runners caught up with him just after the Hairpin. Not wanting to inconvenience anyone, he pulled over and ended up stuck off the track. Game over. Ricardo Teixeira, also in a Carlin Motorsport car, was last off the line and took a very long time to get going. You could say Carlin was having a mixed sort of morning.
Parente was very much in control and has already started to build up a healthy lead by the end of the first lap. Behind the top four, Christian Bakkerud (Carlin Motorsport) managed to avoid being involved in the Kimball/Clarke/Asmer incident, and was ahead of Tim Bridgman (Hitech Racing), James Walker (Fortec Motorsport) and his team-mate Ronayne O'Mahony, the former having apparently gone to sleep at the start, while the latter made a rather spectacular jump start that would be rewarded a lap or two later with a drive through penalty. Afterwards he apparently jokingly remarked that "I'd slowed down to 90mph when the lights changed!" Asmer was still hanging on in 9th, while the National Class lead was in Charlie Hollings' possession, and the Promatecme F3 driver wasn't going to let go of it this time if he could help it (unlike at Croft). He was acutely aware of the fact that Salvador Duran (P1 Motorsport), who had started from pretty well last after a bad session yesterday, was already on the move and scything his way through the opposition. He also knew he had a cushion of Championship Class cars between them, at least to begin with. As they included Stephen Jelley (Menu Motorsport) and Bruno Senna (Double R Racing), who were going hammer and tongs at each other, that cushion could well prove rather fragile. Still, that was in the future.
The overall race leader almost ran foul of Cheong at the end of lap 3, when he came round to the Hairpin to find Macanese just completing a three- point turn designed to get him away from the position he had spun into. There was a collective intake of breath from the spectators as the Edenbridge car gradually pulled away, and Parente sailed through untroubled. It's a short enough circuit, at 1.3 miles, but you really have to question the right of some of the drivers to be out there. The fact that Cheong was about to be lapped with another 22 laps still to run, ought to give cause for concern. He tries to stay out of the way, but isn't always able to. He's not the only one either. Someone who should be out there, Senna, is obviously still learning. He came a cropper after an enthusiastic attack on Jelley, and dropped to the back of the field, leaving Jelley a little breathing space. Duran, meanwhile, had hauled himself to 3rd in class, after taking Josh Fisher (Team SWR) in what was turning into a very impressive run. A further obstacle to the Mexican's progress was removed when O'Mahony came in to serve his penalty, though the way Duran was driving he'd probably have passed the Irishman easily.
A lap later O'Mahony was called in to serve his drive through penalty, which must have been frustrating for him as he was running reasonably well for a change this season. However, his guilt wasn't ever in question, so in he came.
At the front, Parente was still pressing on though it was being made easier for him, because Lewis and Conway were having their own personal battle for 2nd, and Kane was trying to join in. That left Parente to coast magnificently on his way to what looked like certain victory, even with a handful of backmarkers to pass. In fact, despite a bit of a wobble at Clark, Lewis eventually got the better of Conway, grabbing 2nd place from the Fortec driver. That left Conway to try and fend off Kane, who was very determined in his efforts to haul the Lola up the order. Conditions weren't improving any, but still Parente sailed effortlessly on, eventually opening up a 3.2 second gap, which was a reasonable cushion to have in these circumstances. He was far enough ahead to feel safe from Lewis, but not having to push so hard that there was a risk of crashing out through an unforced error. He had a bit of a scare when he came round to lap his team- mates, Teixeira and Ihara, as the two of them were battling each other. The only solution was to go between the two of them, which was alarming, but ultimately paid off.
Anyway some of the others drivers were making quite enough errors to go round.
A little after the halfway point it all started getting very messy. Walker and Asmer had a clash, with Walker hitting the Estonian up the rear. While all this was happening, Bridgman developed a fascination with the gravel at the Hairpin, spinning into it but managing to get going again. At the same time, Bakkerud, who had been going well, managed to run into trouble too, as part of the Walker/Asmer reshuffle, though he was at least able to get going again. Walker wasn't and ended up sitting in the gravel, while Asmer limped into the pits looking a tad second hand.
Meanwhile, the front runners were still picking their way through the back markers, and an aggrieved Lewis was finding himself having to fight to hang onto his second place when Ihara seemed very reluctant to allow him past. A little later, Steven Kane made a new friend, when he encountered Senna, attempting to lap a recalcitrant Jones. Senna possibly wasn't expecting Kane to be there, or wasn't paying attention. Whatever the cause, the result was inevitable. Kane lost the ground he'd made up and his chances of a podium position in one fell swoop. He wasn't at all impressed, and afterwards, he administered a rather abrupt rebuke to the Brazilian by banging wheels with him on the slowing down lap. Jones ended up on the grass too, which could be regarded as payback for attempting to baulk a Championship Class runner. It's not a good way to make friends and influence people.
Back in the National Class, Duran was still going forwards at an impressive rate, and was now on the tail of class leader, Hollings. For the remainder of the race he would loom menacingly in the Yorkshireman's mirrors, making repeated attempts to get past. In the end, he would have to settle for second, though he did get an extra point for fastest lap, after Hollings' fastest time was disallowed because it was set under yellow flag conditions.
And as the race came to a close, Bridgman was another driver in trouble: he seemed to be again finding the gravel at the Hairpin very interesting. This time he went off terminally, ending the race sitting on the outside of the track looking distinctly less than amused. It may well have been caused by the amount of water that kept splashing onto the track from people skittering through the gravel and sending tidal waves over the kerbs. It would certainly be a factor later on. The dirt that was littering the edges of the track now nearly caused Parente to come a cropper towards the end too, the Portuguese making a mistake that left him wondering if he'd collected a puncture. As it turned out, he hadn't, and he coasted over the line after 25 sodden laps, to claim his second victory of the season, and his third podium position in three races. For a man who looked like he might not be able to race this season, he's already beginning to look like a potential challenger for the title. Conway, meanwhile, come home behind Lewis, but again scored points, as he has in every race so far. He's proved the most consistent driver in the Championship Class so far, and that may well count in his favour at the end of the season. Fourth was Kane, who felt he'd been robbed of a podium, and Dirani, who'd done a fine job with the Lola after a somewhat indifferent qualifying session.
In 6th place, with a car that was rattling alarmingly, was Bakkerud, while Hollings claimed class victory and 7th overall. Just behind him was Duran, the rapid Mexican having given it all he had in his efforts to catch Hollings. Fisher came home just behind them, and 4th in class, and still leading the title chase, was Mawer. He was also the last man to be lapped by Parente. Jelley staggered home 11th overall, and 7th in the Championship Class, while the Alan Docking Racing pair of Juho Annala and Jonathan Kennard were 5th and 6th in the National Class, and were also ahead of Senna, and O'Mahony, both of whom had also been lapped once. Ihara was next, two laps down, and Teixeira was the last finisher, 17th and three laps behind.
Fastest laps went to Kane and Duran.
Weather: Rain. Cold. Just as horrible as usual.