At Spa this afternoon Carlin Motorsport dominated the International Class of British F3, their drivers occupying the first four places and also netting the point for fastest lap. A delighted Oliver Turvey held off Brendon Hartley after...
At Spa this afternoon Carlin Motorsport dominated the International Class of British F3, their drivers occupying the first four places and also netting the point for fastest lap. A delighted Oliver Turvey held off Brendon Hartley after briefly losing the lead to the Kiwi at the start, while Jaime Alguersuari ran a somewhat lonely race for 3rd, and Sam Abay fought off John Martin (Double R Racing) to snatch 4th. In the National Class, Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport) held the lead for most of the race, only to lose out in the closing stages to Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport) after he and team-mate Jay Bridger battled almost all the way to the finish in what could not really be considered too friendly a manner. The Invitation Class didn't have a winner, after the two drivers in it variously failed to complete 75% of the race distance. And as for the actual race distance, well, that was a whole other story in and of itself.
At the start it looked as if things might not turn out so well for Turvey, the pole man not getting away as well as he might have hoped. That allowed Hartley to out-drag him into la Source and get ahead, with Alguersuari also trying to take a look, but Turvey was having none of it came back at the Red Bull sponsored youngster, reclaiming the lead on the run up through Radillon. It was a brave move, and it stuck. Thereafter Turvey was kept honest by the sheer speed of Hartley, but Hartley never looked likely to threaten his lead. Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) made a mightily impressive start, and was up to 3rd briefly, though Alguersuari and Abay both came back at him somewhere out in the countryside. Sergio Perez (T-Sport) also made a good start, scything up the middle into the first corner to follow the Swede before having the door slammed on his efforts by the Carlin pair, both clearly in no mood to give ground if they could avoid it. Max Chilton (Hitech Racing) was also up there with them, though he shouldn't have been. A jump start saw him awarded a drive through penalty that he served immediately the first lap ended, presumably knowing full well that he'd made a mistake. Behind them, the National Class got a bit messy with a lot of bumping and barging, and Bridger, who started on class pole, managed to get boxed in, thus losing ground to both Al Khalifa, who shot into the lead, and Wilson, who was blocking his chances of coming back up the order. Someone else who didn't come out of the first lap at all well was Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing), his car trailing round well after the pack and sounding more than a little rough.
By the time the field finally reappeared at the end of lap 1, Ericsson had been pushed back down a place by Abay, and was about to start something of a decline, while the leader, Turvey, was towing Hartley behind him as the pair of them left the rest of the squabbling pack in their wheel- tracks. It was an impressive display from both of them, and certainly suggests that after a couple of years apparently in the wilderness (at least by their own very high standards) Carlin Motorsport is well and truly back on form. Having four drivers occupying the top four was as good an answer as any - certainly apart from the relatively inexperienced Abay, none of their International Class drivers were at all under pressure apart from each other for the rest of the race. Sam, on the other hand, having seen off Ericsson, was soon having a lot of trouble with John Martin (Double R Racing) in the fight to be the fastest Australian. Despite Martin's best efforts, Abay held him off even when he cut the Bus Stop chicane to try and get the drop on the run down to La Source. Abay has matured as a driver this season, and now he was able to show it.
The end of lap 1 also saw the exit from the race of the first of the Invitation Class runners, when Basil Shaaban (HBR Motorsport) pulled into the pits and got out. That only left his team-mate, Daniel Campos Hull to defend the team's honour and he was locked into a scrap with Walther Grubmuller (Hitech Racing) and Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing). Grubmuller eventually found a way past the Spaniard, which left him with Mustonen and Sebastian Hohenthal (Fortec Motorsport) both looking for a way round. The National Class was more than a little fraught too, with Al Khalifa leading, after Bridger dropped back to 3rd when he and Wilson clashed. Bridger was clearly not a happy bunny at this point, and he came back at Wilson, apparently leaving Al Khalifa in the clear. It didn't quite work out like that, however, but that was later.
Ericsson continued his slide when Perez snatched 6th from him, but seemed to recover sufficiently that he spent the remainder of the race glued to the Mexican's rear-wing, never giving him a moment to relax. The joint championship leader must have been wondering what he had to do to get rid of the annoying orange car that seemed to be joined to him by invisible elastic. He would pull out a small gap round the Bus Stop and La Source only to have it vanish again by the time they were heading up Eau Rouge, and this went on for lap after lap.Just behind them Mustonen was now all over Campos Hull and he finally got past as the race reached its halfway mark, the Finn then being treated to the sight of the Spaniard and Hohenthal colliding and wiping themselves out of the race. Just for good measure there was also a battle for 12th place going on, the combatants being Henry Arundel (Double R Racing), who usually has a fairly lonely race, and Oliver Oakes (Eurotek Racing), the latter trying all sorts to get past the youngster and failing to make it stick each time.
And as Turvey (or as the programme had it in a classic typo, Turkey) pulled ever further ahead, towing Hartley with him, Ericsson made yet another attack on Perez, and Perez once again resisted with all he had, the two providing great entertainment for the spectators, and also demonstrating how impressive a pair of racers they are. It was just as well because impressive though Turvey and the Carlin boys were, they weren't exactly providing wheel-to-wheel racing. If you wanted excitement you had to look further back. Abay was still holding his 4th place from Martin, and Perez was still hanging on for dear life, while behind him Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) played a waiting gain. Arundel was still hanging on to. Meanwhile, in the National Class, Al Khalifa had, by his own admission, probably allowed the prospect of his first win to affect his concentration. It was all Wilson needed, and just after the halfway point the lanky Yorkshireman was through to claim the class lead - and he wasn't going to give it back either!
And so lap 12 came around, the final lap of the race. Except it seemed no one had told the man with the chequered flag. So he didn't bother to show it; which was not at all what anyone was expecting, especially the leaders. They very sensibly kept racing - unlike some in the past, but someone who couldn't was Devaney, the Irishman crawling across the line with a broken driveshaft. He lost a place there and then, and inevitably was even further back by the time they completed lap 13. He wasn't the only one. A full lap of Spa at racing speed was too much for some, and several drivers were obviously running out of fuel by the time they finally saw the chequered flag. Abay was among them, the Australian making it round in 9th when he had been 4th. A lot of shoulder shrugging and general bafflement followed, before the organisers admitted they'd made a mistake and the results were declared at the end of Lap 12, to the relief of all concerned and the great joy of Carlin, having locked out all four of the top slots.
The order when they crossed the line was Turvey, from Hartley, Alguersuari, Martin, Perez, Ericsson, Grubmuller, Abay and Mustonen. 11th was Oakes, ahead of Alistair Jackson (Ultimate Motorsport), Wilson, Bridger, Chilton, Arundel, Al Khalifa, Hywel Lloyd (C F Motorsport), Steven Guerrero (T-Sport) and Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport). 21st and last was Tandy.
However, what really happened was this: Turvey won from Hartley, ahead of Alguersuari, Abay, Martin, Perez, Ericsson, Devaney, Grubmuller and Mustonen. 11th was Jackson, then came Arundel, Oakes, National Class winner Wilson, Al Khalifa, Bridger, Chilton, Guerrero, Lloyd and Major. 21st was Einar from Reiff and Tandy.
The fastest laps of the race went to Hartley, Bridger and Campos Hull.
Weather: Warm, breezy, overcast.