At Thruxton this afternoon there was still no denying Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin). Before the race he had announced his intention to "kick everyone else's arse" in the race and he promptly set about doing just that. The only other man to get a sniff...
At Thruxton this afternoon there was still no denying Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin). Before the race he had announced his intention to "kick everyone else's arse" in the race and he promptly set about doing just that. The only other man to get a sniff of the lead was James Calado (Carlin), and he eventually had no choice but to surrender the position to the Frenchman, eventually finishing the race 3rd behind Oli Webb (Fortec Motorsport). The National Class was won by Menasheh Idafar (T-Sport) who spent most of the race battling the International Class runners, and finished well ahead of second placed James Cole (T-Sport), the latter getting dragged into someone else's accident in the early stages of the race.
Initially, Vergne grabbed the lead as the lights went out on the starting gantry, and getting away well but then finding he had Calado all over him, the latter making his move on lap 2 just as things got a bit messy back in the pack. The first problem came when Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport) spun, having been nudged by someone else, and then there was a mass tangle at the Chicane, started by Alex Brundle (T-Sport), and involving Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport), Cole, Adderley Fong (Sino Vision Racing) and Max Snegirev (Fortec Motorsport). Brundle short-cutted the Chicane, while McKenzie recovered somewhat later and Cole had to dive into the pits for a quick repair to his now mostly missing rear wing. Fong and Snegirev were nowhere near as lucky, the Chinese driver's car riding over the back of the Russian's car, the pair of them out on the spot and left to stare morosely at the wreckage. While they were waiting to be rescued, William Buller (Hitech Racing) was awarded a drive through penalty for starting out of position, and meanwhile Vergne had come back at Calado and was lucky enough to be in the lead when the officials decided they would have to scramble the Safety Car so they could retrieve Fong and Snegirev.
As the Safety Car began what would be an extended tour of duty, then, the leader was Vergne, from Calado, with Adriano Buzaid (Carlin) having squeezed past Webb for 3rd just before. Next up was Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin), followed by Felipe Nasr (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), Lucas Foresti (Carlin), Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin), Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) and Daisuke Nakajima (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), the latter two having both overtaken Jay Bridger (Litespeed F3) under waved yellows, pushing Bridger down to 11th.12th was Idafar, the National Class leader just ahead of Carlos Huertas (R?ikk?nen Robertson Racing), Brundle, Buller (who had completed his drive through), McKenzie and a rather distant Cole, back on track but two laps down.
Eventually the two wrecked cars were craned aboard a pair of flatbed trucks and removed, and on lap 11 we finally got to go racing again. Vergne controlled the start beautifully, though he still couldn't quite shake off Calado, at least to start with, Calado again pulling alongside as they rocketed towards the Chicane next time round. Vergne shut the door, determined that he wasn't going to cede the place to anyone if he could help it. The challenge evaporated at that point, and the Frenchman started to open a gap at the front. Meanwhile, 3rd place was being fiercely disputed by Buzaid and Webb, the latter keen to get through partly to get on the podium and partly because he had Svendsen-Cook and Nasr both looming so large in his mirrors that he likely couldn't see anything else. The one saving grace was that Foresti was slightly adrift now and Jaafar had fallen right back, while Nasr and Svendsen-Cook swapped places twice before ending up in the same positions they had started the move from.
Webb wasn't about to relax though and eventually he found his way past Calado for 3rd, at the same time as Nakajima was awarded a drive through penalty for overtaking under yellow flags. Of Dias nothing was said, but that apparently was because Bridger failed to mention it to the team and thus it didn't get passed on to the officials. Dias, in the mean time, was continuing on his merry way, holding off Bridger and Huertas, both of whom seemed quite keen on getting past.
At the front Webb was now closing on Calado, who couldn't hang onto Vergne at all. The Frenchman set a series of fastest laps and now looked untouchable in the lead. In fact the front runners were now starting to spread out, Vergne a long way ahead, with Calado also managing to maintain a gap to Webb. Buzaid was having a very quiet afternoon now, through Svendsen-Cook was still being trouble by Nasr. Foresti had fallen back somewhat and despite Dias and Nakajima being glued together, if you wanted entertainment you needed to look further back, especially once Nakajima served his penalty and dropped right back. In fact it was Bridger who really had his hands full. Huertas was all over him, locking up and smoking the tyres in his efforts to get past. Idafar was fully engaged in the scrap as well, even though he might have been better off staying out of it. However, he couldn't seem to help himself, hold off Brundle at the same time, while Brundle was trying to fight off the recovering McKenzie and Buller (on his way back from his drive through penalty). It was all a bit wild back there and highly entertaining for the massed spectators.
The battle for 2nd began to hot up again in the middle of the race, Calado beginning to look less than comfortable as Webb started to edge ever closer, having a look up the inside of Campbell, but then finally managing to make it stick at the Chicane on Lap 20. He was through and it didn't take him long to pull away, putting some clear air between himself and Calado. The question was could he catch Vergne. It seemed unlikely, but he seemed keen to try nonetheless.
Further back, though, Dias was still holding off Bridger, Huertas, McKenzie and co, the pack sorting itself out a bit further when Idafar dropped back behind Brundle, mindful perhaps of what happened the day before. Nakajima had now lost touch completely with the group he had been part of and was now having trouble with the Chicane, cutting it twice, thus prompting the officials to post a warning to let him know they were watching him. It was all a bit desperate looking, as was Huertas attempt to pass Bridger, a move that led to McKenzie passing the Colombian instead. A lap later and Bridger got past Dias, who then lost another place to McKenzie, and then just for good measure to Brundle as well. It was proving a miserable afternoon for all at Hitech, though life at Double R wasn't a great deal better - especially when Buller passed Huertas to settle in on Idafar's tail, while Nakajima took another trip through the Chicane.
With less than three minutes left Idafar went on the attack, trying to pass Dias just as everyone else had done. In a National Class car it wasn't quite so easy and ended with him not just behind Dias but also back behind Buller as well. It didn't affect his lead in the category, but it probably annoyed him more than a little.
And so Vergne came home for his 11th win of the season, leading the series by 104 from Webb, who is 1 point ahead of Calado. Webb was 2nd, from Calado, Buzaid, Svendsen-Cook, Nasr, Bridger, McKenzie and Brundle. Idafar finished 11th overall after a last lap clash between Dias and Buller, Dias pulling into the pit lane instead of crossing the finish line at the end of the race. That left Buller in 12th, from Huertas, Nakajima and Cole. Afterwards Dias was fined ?100 for "inconsiderate driving".
Fastest laps went to Vergne and Idafar.
Weather: Hot, sunny, clear skies.
Next Rounds: Rounds 22-24, Silverstone, Northamptonshire, August 14th/15th
See also: Vergne outclasses rivals at Thruxton