Weather: Very, very hot, sunny. Changes: For this meeting there are a lot of changes. We have no Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing), but Craig Reiff is back so Nexa are still present. Andy Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport) is still missing while ...
Weather: Very, very hot, sunny.
For this meeting there are a lot of changes. We have no Viktor Jensen (Nexa Racing), but Craig Reiff is back so Nexa are still present. Andy Meyrick (Carlin Motorsport) is still missing while the doctors try and establish exactly what he's suffering from; unlike at Brands Hatch there is no stand-in. Meanwhile Eurotek and Oliver Oakes are back in action. Additionally, as often happens with the "foreign" races, we have a couple of Invitation Class runners, this time in the shape of HBR Motorsport, running the rather rapid young Spaniard Daniel Campos Hull and the neither quite so rapid nor young Lebanese Basil Shabaan.
Carlin Motorsport scored their first ever top 4 in qualifying when Oliver Turvey made the most of the knowledge gained racing here in Formula Renault to out-qualify his equally experienced team mates Brendon Hartley and Jaime Alguersuari. 4th place went to Sam Abay, which was very impressive given that the extent of his circuit knowledge was gained on a Playstation. The National Class pole went to Jay Bridger (Fluid Motorsport) in the absence of Meyrick, and Campos Hull was fastest of the Invitation Class pair.
The session as ever here took a while to warm up, the out laps taking forever around this massive circuit. It was mainly the National Class boys who went out at the start, the charge being led by Bridger, Salman Al Khalifa (T-Sport), and Reiff, with Oakes and Shaaban interloping. Hywel Lloyd (C F Motorsport) joined in next and then the International Class lads decided to join in with Fortec Motorsport's Sebastian Hohenthal and Philip Major coming out to play. It wasn't exactly a rush for the track. Maybe some of them were waiting for a change in the weather, which wasn't likely to arrive any time soon. You had to wonder why Carlin had been collecting wet weather tyres before the session started. Either they knew something no one else did or they really are that paranoid.
At the end of the first flying lap the order was Marcus Ericsson (Fortec Motorsport) from Hohenthal and Major, but clearly it was early days yet. Meanwhile, Stefan Wilson (Fluid Motorsport) was on National Class pole, and looking quite quick, while Nick Tandy (John Tandy Racing) had staked an early claim to the International Class pole. He didn't get to keep it for long and was quickly demoted by Atte Mustonen (Double R Racing), the Finn making up for making a fool of himself in the first free practice session when he didn't complete a flying lap. A bit of a reshuffle and Ericsson was down to 3rd, while Max Chilton (Hitech Racing) was in the top six.
A lap later and Ericsson was benefiting from having done an enormous amount of testing round here and again went fastest, while the National Class reordered itself too, Bridger going back to the top of the order. Elsewhere Shabaan was leading the Invitation Class but only because his team-mate was not out on the track yet. Oakes, meanwhile, shot up to 6th but then got demoted by Al Khalifa.
The Carlin boys were playing it very close to their chests and hadn't set wheel to track yet, leaving the field open to some of the less obvious suspects to begin with. That was one of the reasons Major was 6th and Oakes 7th, which was not quite what you'd expect. Nor was the presence of John Martin (Double R Racing) in 2nd though of late the Australian's performance has improved immensely.
However, with 10 minutes elapsed, it was all about to change. Abay's first real flyer put him on provisional pole, which was impressive, and just for good measure Turvey appeared in 2nd. Michael Devaney (Ultimate Motorsport) then shot up the order to 6th, two places ahead of Sergio Perez (t-Sport), the join series leader (with Alguersuari) in 8th now. The National Class battle continued too, with Al Khalifa back on pole, though it seemed likely that Bridger would have something to say about that. Further changes came when Hartley grabbed 2nd from Turvey, making it a Carlin 1-2-3 ahead of Ericsson, Martin, Tandy, Devaney and Mustonen. A lap later and pole was Turvey's while Alguersuari was 3rd, just behind Abay. With Hartley in 4th it was looking like a Carlin lockout. The only question was which one of them would claim pole.
In the International Class Campos Hull quickly scrambled up the order too, first slotting in to 17th overall and then converting that to 11th a lap later. However, the real interest was at the front as Turvey, Hartley, Abay and Alguersuari battle it out, Hartley going ever faster but Turvey seeming to have too tight grip for the Kiwi to dislodge him. Hartley claimed 2nd, and Alguersuari demoted Abay to 4th, but neither of them had the answer to Turvey. As the session wore on most of the drivers wandered into the pits to save on tyre wear, though Mustonen stayed out, setting a fast lap that initially got him into the Carlin heartland for 4th, but then got his shoved back to 7th after he was deemed to have used the run-off areas in a way that meant he was "not respecting track limits". He wasn't the only one. On the very last lap before he crossed the line for the final time, Tandy set a time that would have put him 5th only to have his best time disallowed for the same reasons. That pushed him back to 9th. The third offender was Bridger, but his penalty didn't alter the fact that he still had class pole, though it did mean he was 19th overall instead of 14th.
So Turvey came home to his first pole of the season, ahead of Hartley, Alguersuari, Abay, Ericsson, Martin, Mustonen, Devaney, Tandy and Perez. Campos Hull was 11th from Hohenthal, Walter Grubmuller (Hitech Racing), Chilton, Oakes, Henry Arundel (Double R Racing), Major, Alistair Jackson (Ultimate Motorsport), Bridger and Ricardo Teixeira (Ultimate Motorsport). Al Khalifa was 21st, from team-mate Steven Guerrero (T-Sport), Shaaban, Wilson, Lloyd, Kristjan Einar (Carlin Motorsport) and Reiff.