Race Report - Round 11: Weather: Hot, sunny. We had the first retirement of the race before it even started. Tom Sisley (Motaworld Racing) was not on the grid, and would not be taking the start. The official version was that the driver didn't ...
Race Report - Round 11:
Weather: Hot, sunny.
We had the first retirement of the race before it even started. Tom Sisley (Motaworld Racing) was not on the grid, and would not be taking the start. The official version was that the driver didn't think the car was quick enough and so the team would go away and do more testing before they appeared in public again. There were mutterings in the paddock about a rift between driver and team, but the party line was being resolutely toed by anyone you asked.
Anyway, with an empty space where Sisley should have been, the remaining 29 drivers lined up to start round 11 of the series. Mark Taylor (Manor Motorsport) seemed to grind to a halt, but then managed to crawl forward, almost taking his proper place. There were arms in the air at various points but finally everyone seemed to sort themselves out and the lights finally went green. There was a suggestion that Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport) had jumped the start, but if he had, he didn't really gain any advantage from doing it, and in all the excitement that followed any minor misdemeanours were rapidly forgotten. James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport) got away well, but Robbie Kerr got away better, the Alan Docking Racing driver trying to get round the outside of the Australian at Copse. He finally outbraked Courtney into Becketts to claim the lead but the battle wasn't over yet. Courtney tried to come back at Kerr as they went through Bridge, needing to win to claim a £15,000 prize fund that would go to the driver who won three first races from pole at three consecutive meetings. If pole-sitter Courtney won this one, the prize would be his. Kerr was determined that it wouldn't be, and slammed the door firmly in Courtney's face.
Meanwhile, Scholarship Class pole position driver Adam Carroll (Sweeney Racing) was up to an impressive 6th overall, from a starting position of 9th on the grid and was showing every sign of being on a major charge. It was as well that someone from Sweeney Racing was doing well, since Billy Asaro, in the second of the team's cars, was promptly taken out of commission by Shinya Hosokawa (Carlin Motorsport) before he could complete the first lap. Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport) was another victim of the first lap chaos, being nudged onto the grass at Abbey by person or persons unknown. By the time he was able to get going again, he was dead last and utterly furious.
At the front the pace was still furious too. On lap two, while Antinucci spun out of contention at Brooklands, Courtney had another go at Kerr, trying to get up the inside at Priory. Again Kerr slammed the door firmly on his rival, making sure he couldn't get ahead. Taylor, sitting comfortably in third, sensibly sat back and let the two of them get on with it. If - or possibly when - it all went wrong, Taylor could well benefit. The rest of the top ten was beginning to settle down too, with Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) in 4th, and Carroll now 5th after Antinucci shot himself in the foot. The two Promatecme International cars of Matthew Gilmore and Bruce Jouanny were 6th and 7th, and Michael Keohane had made one of his trademark blistering starts (which look as if he has some sort of psychic connection to the start lights) and was up from 13th to 8th. Ronnie Bremer (Manor Motorsport) was 9th and Stephen Colbert (Meritus Racing) was 10th (2nd in the Scholarship Class).
However, the interest was not back there; it was at the front. As the leaders went nose-to-tail into Becketts for the fourth time, Courtney managed to get so sideways he was on the grass. He caught it and then once again tried to pass Kerr, but again Kerr shut the door on him. This time there was contact, and Courtney was left with damage to the front wing. He limped round to the pits, blaming Kerr for all of it, though it was hard to see how he could be entirely to blame - unless of course he reversed into Courtney, which seems more than a little unlikely. The lead was now Kerr's and he would keep it until the end of the race, when he would be disqualified, handing the victory to Taylor. Of course, the ultimate responsibility for the incident depended on who you talked to about it, as is so often the case. It didn't alter the fact that the front wing of Courtney's car was now wedged firmly under the floor of his car and his race was over. At the front, things now became very dull. Further back, there was a very fine scuffle for 9th place, between Colbert, Clivio Piccione (T-Sport) and Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport). The trouble was, the first two were also fighting for second in their class. An interested observer of all of this was Karun Chandhok (T-Sport), who would be the first to cheer if the others took each other out. Probably to Chandhok's disappointment, Piccione picked Colbert off at Abbey to move to second in class, and van der Merwe followed through as well, taking advantage of Colbert's momentary confusion. This left the South African to try and pass Piccione, not easy given the Monegasque's pursuit of a podium position. Still, it must have been frustrating for van der Merwe, being caught behind a Scholarship Class car. It took him another three laps to get by and set off after Bremer for 8th place.
At the front Kerr continued on his way to disqualification, opening up an ever-larger gap between himself and Taylor, while Carbone was unable to catch Taylor. Carroll was in 4th and Gilmore slotted in behind him, just ahead of Jouanny. Keohane and Bremer were next up, with van der Merwe in pursuit and Piccione was 10th overall.
It was pretty processional most of the way down the field now, until Adam Carroll made a complete hash of Copse. Maybe he was pushing too hard, though he was so far ahead of his nearest rivals that he had no need to, but whatever the cause the result was a spin that flat-spotted his tyres and left him a very long way down the order. It also handed the lead in class to Piccione, who grabbed the opportunity with both hands and hung on to it. Carroll's attempts to claw his way up the order again came to nothing, though at least they provided some entertainment for the spectators. There was precious little elsewhere, with the possible exception of Ronnie Bremer's repeated, if futile, attempts to take 6th place from Michael Keohane, even to the extent of the Dane taking to the grass more than once. There was also briefly the spectacle of Harold Primat (Diamond Racing), in a Scholarship Class car, holding up Mark Mayall (Alan Docking Racing) in his Championship Class model, fighting over 21st place. The irony of this was reinforced by the fact that Harold and Mark were teammates last year, and Mark really should not have found it that difficult to get past the Frenchman.
Afterwards, Kerr was disqualified, handing victory to Taylor, but the true result will not be known for some time. The whole affair is going to appeal before the RACMSA and it may take a while before a decision is reached. Courtney still leads the championship regardless of the result (and scored 1 point for fastest lap, despite the incident), but Kerr's position could well be improved hugely if he is reinstated and given his 20 points back.