Changes The main change is that the sprint race on Sunday morning will include a pit stop. Nothing will happen, the cars will come in, come to a complete stop, and then go straight back out again. This is an experiment which has the potential to...
The main change is that the sprint race on Sunday morning will include a pit stop. Nothing will happen, the cars will come in, come to a complete stop, and then go straight back out again. This is an experiment which has the potential to go badly wrong, so the race could end up being more interesting than we would like.
In terms of cars, Pietro Fantin (Hitech Racing) has finally turned up to a race after spending a lot of time "testing" for Hitech. As he's running in the Invitation Class all on his own he's probably not going to have much excitement unless he mixes it with the International Class boys.
At Rockingham this morning Oliver Webb netted a couple of pole positions for Fortec Motorsport after a less than thrilling qualifying session. It was close at the top, with the top14 separated by less than a second, but the main excitement was over within the first ten minutes of the session. With each drivers' fastest lap counting towards the grid for the 3rd race of the weekend (Round 15), and their 2nd fastest lap determining where they will start Round 13 from, the 2nd and 3rd places on the grid are split between series leader Jean-Eric Vergne (Carlin) and Carlos Huertas (Räikkönen Robertson Racing).
At the start not all the cars were even lined up ready to go so there was a bit of a scramble to get all the cars out onto the track. It didn't take long for the order to start to develop, with Rupert Svendsen-Cook (Carlin) being the first driver to show his hand. It was a bit odd in the first few minutes with James Cole (T-Sport) proving fastest of the National Class runners, and getting up as high as 2nd overall for a short while. Meanwhile, in the main category, Jazeman Jaafar (Carlin) was 2nd from Gabriel Dias (Hitech Racing) and Jay Bridger (in the Litespeed F3 car now running in new livery to reflect their association with Lotus F1 Racing). They were all shuffled around as Alex Brundle (T-Sport) shot up to 3rd. It didn't take long for the times to start tumbling as Daisuke Nakajima (Räikkönen Robertson Racing) went to pole from Huertas and then Felipe Nasr (Räikkönen Robertson Racing).
A further shuffle around saw Fantin go 2nd overall, while Idafar leapfrogged Cole to take charge of the National Class. To further shake things around Daniel McKenzie (Fortec Motorsport) was next to appear near the top, grabbing 2nd. He didn't keep it for long because Huertas then moved ahead of the pack. James Calado (Carlin) was 4th now, but Vergne was still near the back of the field, but he wasn't staying there. Just as everyone started to wonder if he might have a problem, the Frenchman went to pole, with Webb chasing after him and grabbing 3rd. The times were still tumbling as Nasr went ahead of the pack again, only to lose out to team- mate Huertas the next time the Colombian crossed the line. Calado, meanwhile, after a rough couple of races, seemed to be back on form and was 3rd.
One third of the way into the session, the top ten was Huertas, from Vergne, Nasr, Calado, Webb, Jaafar, Dias, Nakajima, Svendsen-Cook and Adriano Buzaid (Carlin), while Idafar was still leading the National Class. And then it all went a bit quiet as the pit-lane filled up and the track emptied, just as McKenzie fell off at Deene and had to be push started by the marshals. That outside assistance basically meant that even though the Englishman managed to drive back to the pits he would not be allowed to take any further part in the session. And almost unnoticed while all that was going one, Webb had gone back out and gone straight to pole.
After a longish hiatus while all sorts of tweaks were applied, they all finally rush back out again. With slightly too many cars occupying the track it was no real surprise when there was another car off, this time Jaafar, to the despair of his mentor Bruce Jouanny. While his Malaysian team-mate was recovering from the spin, Vergne again went for it, snatching pole from Nasr, the latter finally starting to show what all the pre-season fuss was about. Meanwhile Calado went faster though he was still only 6th; it probably wouldn't be enough though at Rockingham you can never be too sure. However, just to prove that some things never change, Alex Brundle (T- Sport) had gone off again, in what is increasingly becoming his default mode as he struggles to cope armed only with experience of Formula Palmer Audi, which is not a category that teaches a young driver anything useful. While he was stuck out on the track, Huertas moved to 2nd, just 0.001 seconds off Vergne's pace, while Fantin was 5th.
The changes had now mostly dried up, though William Buller seemed to suddenly wake up, the Fortec Motorsport boy now 10th. It was an improvement, though not enough of one. Meanwhile Idafar was still leading the National Class although Cole was edging ever closer now. With the top 17 separated by less than a second it looked as if the races might be quite close too. And just to prove it wasn't quite over yet, Buzaid rocketed up to 6th, while Webb snatched pole away from Vergne in the closing stages, just as "JEV" pitted, his tyres having done as much as could be expected from them.
As the crossed the line at the end of the session, Jaafar was finally able to go faster, thus moving up to 6th, while Dias joined him with a last gasp run and was able to claim 7th. The order, then was Webb, from Vergne, Huertas, Nasr, Fantin, Buzaid, Jaafar, Dias, Calado and Nakajima. Buller was 11th ahead of Svendsen-Cook, Lucas Foresti (Carlin), McKenzie, Hywel Lloyd (C F Racing with Manor Motorsport), National Class pole-sitter Idafar, Adderley Fong, Brundle, Cole and Max Snegirev. Bridger, despite the smart new livery, was 21st and last.
Weather Changeable, overcast.