Once again Chilton got a good start, and this time no one got ahead of him, Ricciardo settling in just behind him while Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) held his third place. Behind them there was a general sort out that saw Adriano Buzaid ...
Once again Chilton got a good start, and this time no one got ahead of him, Ricciardo settling in just behind him while Renger van der Zande (Hitech Racing) held his third place. Behind them there was a general sort out that saw Adriano Buzaid (T-Sport) and Christodoulou tussling for places. Buzaid lost out and ended up behind Christodoulou as well as Daisuke Nakajima (Raikkonen Robertson Racing). That left Buzaid with Nick Tandy (JTR) all over his back wing, which really isn't something any driver wants to see! In the National Class McKenzie got the drop on Dias and was showing no sign of giving it up in a hurry. He had a cushion between them in the space of Oliver Oakes (Carlin Motorsport), though he immediately set about trying to find a way past McKenzie who would presumably have preferred to keep him there as a cushion.
Meanwhile, Chilton was coming under all sorts of pressure from Ricciardo. The Australian was pushing really hard again, setting an early fastest lap. Everything else was a bit processional at this point, but there was still time for it to change. And change it did with Ricciardo trying very hard to take the lead from Chilton. Basically, Max might have preferred not to look in his mirrors, but even if he didn't he couldn't have failed to know what was going on behind him. Ricciardo was looking at various options to get by but he didn't seem to be ready to make his move yet. Behind them, van der Zande was being pressed hard by Christodoulou, the Fortec driver looking very strong now. And on lap 5, right at the back, Max Snegirev (Team West-Tec) went missing, falling off on his own at Becketts and burying it deep in the gravel. He's very badly out of his depth...
At the front the top four were glued together like a 16 wheeler, with Ricciardo very close to Chilton now, van der Zande holding off Christodoulou. Behind the four of them Nakajima was running on his own, having a nice, quiet drive in the country for now, while behind him Buzaid had lost out to Tandy and Arundel. The top four looked about ready for a sort out, with Christodoulou setting a new fastest race lap, while Ricciardo kept closing on Chilton in the tighter sections and then dropping back again. Something was going to have to give soon. Shortly after that Christodoulou had a go at van der Zande at Vale, but he couldn't quite get through. He managed to get alongside but was about to run out of track. Sensibly, he backed off and bided his time. A lap later and he tried again, and was again rebuffed.
Meanwhile Chilton was getting a taste of his own medicine as doled out in the first race. If he won the race it was good odds he wouldn't care. Ricciardo was still losing out at Luffield each time, but even so Chilton was on ragged edge trying to hold him off, getting the car on the kerbs and trying everything he could think of to defend himself. It was all getting very messy. It was slowing them down too, as proved when Tandy sent a new fastest race lap. However, the front battle wasn't over. Christodoulou made a mad lunge to get through at Club, scrabbling desperately for purchase, ending up dropping back and giving van der Zande some much needed breathing space. It didn't last long however. As the race moved into its closing stages, Nakajima caught up with the van der Zande/Christodoulou scrap, and thus got a bird's eye view of what happened next. Christodoulou sold van der Zande a dummy at Club and fought his way through in a very impressive move. Van der Zande tried to fight back but there was no way Riki was giving him the place back. There were 6 laps left and he was keeping his hard won podium place thank you very much. That left van der Zande to contend with Nakajima and it looked as if he might lose out to the Japanese too before the race was out.
Meanwhile, McKenzie had lost his cushion but soon collected a new one in the shape of Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing) which was fine till the Welshman got past and Dias caught the category leader. They were just behind the train that Henry Arundel (Carlin Motorsport) had built up, including Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), Huertas, Buzaid, Oakes and Boyd. It was getting a bit desperate in there too with Buzaid holding off Oakes, while Arundel held them all off. It didn't seem the scuffle was going to resolve any time soon.
At the front, though, with two laps to go, it all came together for Ricciardo. Chilton messed up a gear change, and Ricciardo saw his opportunity, trying the outside line and failing, but then feinting outwards at Beckets and driving round the outside of Chilton to take the lead from his team-mate. Chilton tried to come back at him but there didn't seem to be any real intent in it. He fell back, and Ricciardo started to pull away, leaving the teenager to try and keep Christodoulou at bay. At the same time this was happening, Tandy was losing ground with what sounded like a very rough engine, and van der Zande was within reach of Nakajima and having to work very hard to stay ahead.
Chilton's misery was compounded two laps from the end, when Christodoulou shot past having sold him a dummy. Whether it was a blond moment or simply a car problem wasn't clear at the time, but Max's self- admitted loss of adrenalin suggests he simply lost heart having had his lead taken away. At the same time, Nakajima got the drop on van der Zande and rapidly caught Chilton. It was beginning to look as if 3rd might turn into 4th for the Carlin driver. It wasn't long, though, before it became clear that getting past van der Zande had been easier than it could have been because the rapid Dutchman was in mechanical trouble, the car slowing dramatically towards the end.
Ricciardo coasted home to a hard-won and well deserved victory, ahead of Christodoulou, and Chilton (whose demeanour on the podium was miserable to put it mildly). 4th went to Nakajima, who came home well ahead of Tandy, while Arundel kept the pack behind him for 6th. 7th was Grubmuller, from Huertas, Oakes and Buzaid. 11th was Boyd from the stricken van der Zande, Lloyd, Dias (who snatched the lead on the final lap from a slightly surprised McKenzie), Victor Garcia (Fortec Motorsport) whose engine change made not the slightest difference, Stephane Richelmi (Barazi Epsilon), and Victor Correa (Litespeed F3).
Fastest laps went to Dias and McKenzie.
Weather: Cool, cloudy, gusty winds.
Next Rounds: Rockingham Motor Speedway, Northamptonshire, May 30th/31st 2009.