With the Raikkonen Robertson Racing drivers having dominated qualifying for Round 7, it was no surprise when they looked set to do the same in the race. Bruno Senna capitalised on his pole position and shot into the lead the...
With the Raikkonen Robertson Racing drivers having dominated qualifying for Round 7, it was no surprise when they looked set to do the same in the race. Bruno Senna capitalised on his pole position and shot into the lead the moment the race started. His team-mates, Stephen Jelley and Mike Conway were left to squabble over second place. That went to Conway when he made the better start and squeezed Jelley hard as they went into the Honda bend for the first time. Behind them Oliver Jarvis was leading the Carlin Motorsport charge and was on the tail of Jelley with both Maro Engel and Christian Bakkerud following close on his heels, the three of them desperate to get on terms with the Double R boys, but having to settle for second best. Behind them all hell was breaking out. Going into Honda, Cristiano Morgado (Fluid Motorsport) was hit by Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing), the Macanese just missing hitting his own team-mate, Juho Annala. Morgado spun off onto the grass but recovered, while James Walker (Hitech Racing) and Salvador Duran (also of Hitech) got into serious trouble at the next corner. Alberto Valerio (Cesario Formula) and Walker touched, which pitched Walker into a spin. Duran had no place left to go apart from into Walker, which he duly did and was launched into the air, landing upside down. The Mexican was fine if shaken, but the car was seriously damaged and will not be repaired in time for this afternoon's round.
The not at all surprising result was an instant Safety Car (just add Hitech). Senna was comfortably in the lead from Conway, Jelley, Jarvis, Engel, Bakkerud, Jonathan Kennard (Alan Docking Racing), Yelmer Buurman (Fortec Motorsport), Valerio and Karl Reindler (Alan Docking Racing). Stuart Hall (Fortec Motorsport) was 11th from National Class leader Rodolfo Gonzalez (T-Sport), James Jakes (Hitech Racing), Charlie Hollings (Fortec Motorsport), Juho Annala (Performance Racing), Alex Khateeb (Promatecme F3), Keiko Ihara (Carlin Motorsport), the recovering Morgado, Ricardo Teixeira (Performance Racing) and Rodolfo Avila (Performance Racing), who had a quick pit stop to check for damage. Walker was now tailing the field after being pushed back onto the track and calling in for a rapid pit stop.
Three laps later we finally got a race. Senna controlled the restart beautifully, though Conway was stuck to his rear wing like glue, hoping to capitalise on the fact that everyone's tyres would have cooled somewhat. Conway was aided in his attempt to get to the leader when Jarvis started looking for a way past Jelley. Bakkerud, on the other hand, was having a reasonably quiet time because Kennard, who was behind him, was having a hard time holding off Buurman, the incredibly aggressive Dutchman. A lap later and Buurman was through, after muscling past at the Dunlop Bend in a fairly wild way.
Meanwhile, Jelley was having all sorts of trouble with Jarvis, who really, really wanted to get ahead. When the Double R Racing driver went wide, Jarvis tried again, but got the door slammed fiercely in his face. If he wanted to get past he was going to have to try and force a mistake. Jelley looked unlikely to make one. It was all a bit tense at the front as Senna tried to figure out how to get rid of Conway, while Conway kept on coming at him, setting an albeit short lived fastest lap on the way to Velcro-ing himself to the rear of the Brazilian's gearbox. Senna promptly responded to Conway by setting a fastest race lap of his own, and starting to open up a gap, though you wouldn't exactly have called it a comfortable one.
A little further back, Kennard was holding up everyone else for 7th, starting with Valerio and Reindler who were also scrapping with each other and thus not getting on terms with Kennard. All of that allowed the men in front to get away, and saw Engel start to close on Jarvis, who was now running very wide through Dunlop Bend.
Even further back, Walker was now starting to carve his way up through the National Class boys, having caught up the rear of the pack under the Safety Car. Presumably for once he wasn't blaming "those Carlin drivers" for his misfortune. He was having a bit of trouble with Annala though, and was stuck behind the Finn for quite a long time before he could find a way past safely. Once he got past Annala, he found himself with Jakes and Hollings to deal with, the two of them fighting for 13th.
With what was potentially half distance already run, the field finally seemed to settle down, with Jelley breaking away from Jarvis at last, and Jakes passing Hollings. Kennard was continuing to resist Valerio, who was still being harassed repeatedly by Reindler. Hall, who'd been on the tail end of the group, went missing at this point, his car's electrics fried beyond redemption. He really wasn't having a good day, and it got worse later when an awning fell on him in the paddock, cutting his arm open and necessitating stitches.
Ahead of this group, Buurman was all alone in 7th, while Bakkerud was trailing Engel for 5th. In the National Class, Avila had managed to get past Khateeb who then made a couple of mistakes and suddenly dropped right down the order, and Ihara (who of course is a Championship Class runner), but now Teixeira was trapped behind her and was probably not at all happy at being in that position yet again.
With the top seven now apparently evenly spaced, the main interest was in the battle for 8th between Kennard, Valerio and Reindler but even that wasn't generating a huge amount of excitement. They'd been joined by Jakes, but on this narrow track it's very hard to actually find a way past a determined opponent. Jakes was not going anywhere, though he clearly wanted to.
Someone else who wanted to move up was Buurman, who was now on Bakkerud's tail and looking for a way through. Christian is one of F3's harder racers, and he was having none of it, holding Buurman off for lap after lap, the Dane resisting the Dutchman effectively.
Meanwhile, the leaders were coming up fast behind Khateeb, and would certainly have to lap him before the end of the race. It might provide Conway with the opportunity he'd been aiming for since the restart. Senna was still holding the fastest lap but he couldn't get rid of his annoyingly persistent team-mate. With a lap to go, Senna came up on the Lebanese and scrabbled by, but got a bit messy, putting his wheels on the grass. Conway closed on him and as they went round for the last time, they were nose-to- tail, Senna having to defend for all he was worth. They crossed the finish line with the Brazilian just ahead, his victory secured by a mere 0.537 seconds. It was close alright. It was also enough to keep Conway 1 point ahead of Senna at the top of championship table. Jelley came home 3rd, just ahead of Jarvis, and Engel who'd run a lonely race after the restart. It should have been Bakkerud in 6th, but an ill-timed lunge by Buurman shoved the Dane into the gravel within sight of the chequered flag. Buurman recovered to limp over the line with damaged suspension, while Bakkerud could only sit there frustrated while Kennard, Valerio, Reindler and Jakes claimed the remaining points. By the time he'd got going again, he would cross the line in 11th, ahead of Hollings and Walker. Gonzalez claimed his 6th National Class win from Annala, Morgado and Avila. Ihara was next home, ahead of the 5th and 6th placed National Class runners, Teixeira and Khateeb, who were both a lap down.
The extra points for fastest laps went to Senna and Gonzalez.