Bird Swoops on Second Race Win Sam Bird ( ...
Bird Swoops on Second Race Win
Sam Bird (#3 Carlin Motorsport) took his second win of the season, beating Jonathan Kennard (#2 Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Stephen Jelley (#1 Raikkonen Robertson Racing) to the flag in a typically thrilling Spa race. Sergio Perez (#31 T Sport) took the chequered flag for the sixth time in the National Class, well ahead of 'Frankie' Cheng (#39 Performance Racing).
Championship leader Marko Asmer (#7 Hitech Racing) drove from the back of the grid to finish in an incredible 6th place, claiming a further six championship points in the process.
As the lights went out the 30 car grid sped off down the hill towards Eau Rouge for the first of twelve laps. Sam Bird, who started in third, dived to the right, with his wheels up against the concrete wall, to get alongside pole position holder Stephen Jelley. Bird got ahead but lost out on the run up the hill to Les Combes. Maro Engel, who had started on the front row, started to drop back as a lack of sixth gear hampered his progress. At the end of lap one it was Jelley from Bird, Jonathan Kennard, who had gained two places, and Rodolfo Gonzalez, who had also gained two spots on the opening lap. Marko Asmer had swept through the back of the field to finish lap one in 14th after starting in 29th.
Jelley was now under pressure from Bird, who tried to tow around the Double R Dallara out of Eau Rouge but Jelley held on. Kennard was hanging onto the leading pair, with Gonzalez just behind. In the National Class 'Frankie' Cheng had closed the gap to Sergio Perez but then dropped back as he was mobbed by a gaggle of championship class cars and he ran wide onto the grass dropping him down the order but still 2nd in class. Perez was able to maintain his pace and was holding 8th place overall at the end of lap 3. Meanwhile Asmer was still making progress and was already in the points as he passed the line for the 3rd time.
Lap 3 saw Bird finally get past Jelley after he crossed the line with the nose of his Carlin Dallara glued to the rear wing of the Raikkonen Robertson Racing Dallara. Alberto Valerio (#22 Carlin) became the second driver to retire after he was hit from behind and resulting in broken suspension.
Another driver moving up the order was Esteban Guerrieri (#14 Ultimate) who was lying in 6th place behind Atte Mustonen (#26 Raikkonen Robertson Racing) and Gonzalez. Mustonen and Guerrieri moved up a place when Gonzalez slipped to 6th on lap 5 when he ran wide at the last corner, with the Mygale able to keep pace with the Finn's Dallara.
At the front Bird was able to move away from Jelley, who was now coming under pressure from the flying Kennard. Kennard swept past Jelley on lap 6 but the driver from Leicester fought back and regained the place on the very next lap. Because of this great battle for second the gap continued to widen to the leader and by lap 9 Bird was 3.7 seconds up the road and was pulling away by two tenths per lap.
Marko Asmer had continued to make progress, picking off Greg Mansell (#50 Fortec), Michael Devaney (#15 Ultimate) and then Sergio Perez to end lap 9 in 8th overall.
Brake failure then blunted Guerrieri's run, dropping the Argentinean to 8th as he struggled to maintain his race pace and gain some valuable points with just two laps of the race remaining.
As the cars crossed the line to start the final lap Sam Bird had a comfortable lead while Kennard was lining up his teammate for a pass on the run out of Eau Rouge. Kennard got in the tow as the two cars went up the hill and moved ahead of Jelley. However the race wasn't over and Jelley attacked but was unable to find a way around Kennard as the chequered flag came out. Sam Bird took his second win of the year with Jonathan Kennard getting his best result of the season so far and setting a new British F3 lap record in the process. Stephen Jelley was disappointed to finish in 3rd but knows what is possible in race 2. Atte Mustonen was 5th, ahead of Rodolfo Gonzalez and Marko Asmer, who got ahead of Niall Breen (#21 Carlin) on the final lap.
The result puts Sam Bird back into second place in the championship ahead of Maro Engel, with Marko Asmer's lead reduced to a still commanding 69 points.
Sergio Perez finished at the head of the National Class in 9th overall, five places ahead of Frankie Cheng. Perez also set the fastest lap, which gives him a 6 point lead in the championship over his rival. Hamad Al Fardan (#39 Performance Racing) scored his 6th podium finish in 3rd place, ahead of Michael Meadows (#55 Newnet Raikkonen Robertson Racing).
SAM BIRD: "Everyone knows I had a bit of a problem starting at Brands Hatch, and I was keen to put that behind me and prove I could have a legitimate and very quick start! I had enough speed to pass Stephen [Jelley] into the second corner and I must thank him for not squeezing me into the wall. Stephen then got a good tow on me and led the next couple of laps but then I got a good tow on him and was able to pass him. I thought we would then pull away from the rest of the pack, but unfortunately for Stephen and I suppose fortunately for me, he then began to suffer from handling problems and I was able to break away. What can I say? It was just brilliant to take another victory. I'm starting the next race from third again, so it would be amazing if I could do the same thing in race two, but I'm sure Stephen and Maro are going to want to get revenge tomorrow."
MARKO ASMER: I got a good start and managed to get a couple of cars away from the line, then another through Eau Rouge. Then they all seemed to queue up going over the hill so I managed to pass a few more there, it's hard to remember who I passed where as there were so many! Sixth is a good result, but for the championship we still need to win races. I hope that after starting 30th and finishing sixth I can win race two from seventh on the grid, but tomorrow is a different race and we'll have to see. It's a good result after the start to the weekend we had. The car was good in the race and hopefully will be even better tomorrow, so we'll see.