Weather: Cloudy, cool, dry. This got interesting very quickly. Nelson Piquet was on pole, in his Piquet Sports run Dallara, but with series leader Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) alongside him, he couldn't afford to make any mistakes.
Weather: Cloudy, cool, dry.
This got interesting very quickly. Nelson Piquet was on pole, in his Piquet Sports run Dallara, but with series leader Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport) alongside him, he couldn't afford to make any mistakes. Now Piquet is good, and getting better, but if there's one weakness in his armoury it's his ability to start rapidly on cold tyres. Alan, as has been demonstrated more than once this year, is very good at getting off the line when the rubber hasn't warmed up. Judging by what happened next, Piquet was feeling the pressure, because the lights turned green, van der Merwe took off like a bat out of hell, and Piquet slammed his car into 3rd gear instead of 2nd, spun his wheels horribly, and thus messed up his start completely. Van der Merwe needed no further prompting, and was gone, pretty much as he had been at Snetterton. Richard Antinucci (Carlin) went with his teammate, and Adam Carroll (Menu Motorsport) hung onto the American's rear wing, after a superb start of his own. His teammate was spitting feathers afterwards; Rob Austin has made some excellent starts this year, but this wasn't one of them. He was annoyed with himself afterwards, feeling that he had been in such a good grid position that he was kicking himself for wasting it, especially as he was now 5th, behind Jamie Green (Carlin) as well.
The inevitable midfield incident wasn't long in coming either although they did have the decency to wait until Lap 2. This time it happened at Brooklands, the main victim being Christian England (Promatecme F3), whose race ended there. The other party involved was Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing), the Scot managing to keep going but right at the back of the field. Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport) also tangled with Michael Keohane (Promatecme F3), and had to pit for some new bodywork bits. He would spend the rest of the race diving in and out of the pits, startling van der Merwe in the process. The tiny Italian seemed to be trying to see how much of the race he could spend in the pits and still be classified. Keohane trundled around for a while near to the back of the field before calling it a day shortly before the race ended. With Tor Graves also out of the race in Lap 3, Manor Motorsport had to rely on Clivio Piccione to uphold the team's honour. He was doing his best, but he back in 10th, and was having to hold off Ronnie Bremer (Carlin), the Dane making a determined effort to improve his position and at least get himself a point.
Karun Chandhok (T-Sport) was leading the Scholarship Class, but was under a lot of pressure from Ernesto Viso (P1 Motorsport), though that evaporated when Viso took half his rear wing off in a clash with Billy Asaro (also P1) and had to pit for a new nose. Asaro was now last, behind Thompson, who was having a lot of trouble getting past Farriz Fauzy (Team SYR).
At the front, van der Merwe could have been out for a leisurely drive in the country, were it not for the fact that he was pulling away from Antinucci at about half a second a lap. He was helped in this by the fact that Carroll was all over Antinucci like a rash, which meant that the American needed to drive a very wide car in order to keep his place. The other Menu driver, Austin was attacking Green with some enthusiasm, while just behind them Piquet was also coming back as his tyres warmed up, and was giving Danny Watts (Hitech Racing) a very hard time indeed as he tried to relieve him of 6th place. The Brazilian was trying every angle he could dream up, but Watts is never easy to pass, and he wasn't about to make an exception for an upstart teenager! Getting a front row view of this was Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing) who had enough sense to sit back and wait and see what would happen. This also allowed him to keep an eye on Ernani Judice (Promatecme F3's only representative still in the running) who was beginning to loom large in his mirrors.
The Keohane line at Copse claimed Sergio Hernandez (Azteca), the inexperienced Spaniard having a seriously grassy moment before he was able to regain control. This let Thompson through and onto Justin Sherwood's tail. As far as Justin was concerned this was an improvement as he's just spent a couple of laps with Keohane behind him. At least Thompson is predictable.Thompson didn't seem at all impressed though, and struggled to get by for a long time.
Closer to the front, Antinucci was still holding off Carroll, while Watts was stubbornly resisting Piquet. The Brazilian was locking up in his efforts to pass the Englishman, and while it was exciting, it really wasn't very pretty to look at. Antinucci was able to break away briefly after the battling pair passed Fabi, back out from the pits after his initial visit, but it wasn't long before Carroll was back and just as persistent as ever. Piquet, meanwhile, tried to squeeze up the inside of Watts at Copse, only to get the door slammed forcefully in his face. Danny must have been wondering what he needed to do to persuade Nelson that he should give up! Piquet then discovered that Davison was too close for comfort, which at least gave Watts a bit of breathing space. The third of the scraps, that between Green and Austin, was also hotting up again, with Austin setting about Green with enthusiasm.
Chandhok was still hanging on to his class lead, but had attracted the attention of Eric Salignon (Hitech), who was having his best race so far. He soon got past the T-Sport car, which left Chandhok to fall back inexorably into his teammate Steven Kane's clutches. Given what happened at Croft, when Kane took both of them out of the race on the last lap, this was a bit worrying. However, Steven was so embarrassed by the incident that it's unlikely ever to happen again.
And then it all went to pieces for Carroll. A huge lunge at Antinucci as they sped into Becketts went badly wrong, and Carroll had to let Green past, followed by the rest of the front runners. By the time he had sorted himself out, he was 12th, and furious with himself. The real beneficiary was Austin, who got the drop on Green as they came round to Copse. He got himself alongside, and then made it stick at Becketts. He had at least managed to get back into the top three, though Antinucci was too far away by now for him to make any further progress, and van der Merwe was nearly six seconds ahead of Antinucci and missing out on all the excitement. An infuriated Carroll was now stuck behind Scott Speed (Alan Docking Racing) and there was nothing he could do about it. He was trying though, as attested to when he took a trip through the Copse gravel, and was lucky not lose any more places.
At the front van der Merwe coasted round to what looked like an effortless victory, increasing his championship lead to 40 points over Green, helped by the extra point for fastest lap, who is now 4 points ahead of Piquet; Antinucci is 4th, from Austin and Bremer. Piquet was lucky to finish where he did (6th) because he spent the final laps having to fend off Davison, who really wanted to have a go. The Brazilian probably had to work even harder in Round 10 than he had in Round 9, and for a lot less points.
Chandhok won the Scholarship Class but Kane set yet another fastest lap, as the two of them came home well ahead of Ivor McCullough (Meritus Racing). Kane still leads the category, from Viso, and Chandhok, though Chandhok is doing everything he can to redress the balance.
-Stella-Maria Thomas and Lynne Waite, Guest Writers