British F3 champions Carlin enjoyed a strong finish to the 2010 RTL GP Masters of Formula 3 this afternoon, in a chaotic race which saw Jean-Eric Vergne set the fastest lap and finish fourth. Lucas Foresti put in a mature drive to take an impressive seventh place while Rupert Svendsen-Cook finished 13th, despite serving a drive-through and making a pit stop. Jazeman Jaafar failed to finish after an early excursion into the gravel.
Following hot and dry conditions yesterday, light rain just minutes before the F3 drivers took to the grid caused chaos for the teams this afternoon. Several drivers deliberated over tyre choice with some opting for a last minute change to wets. With the drivers having had no experience of wet running so far this weekend, officials decided that the cars would leave the grid behind the safety car with a rolling start to commence racing.
With less opportunity to make up places under a rolling start, the Carlin drivers had their work cut out to advance their starting positions. Vergne dropped a place to ninth originally, while Jaafar made up two places and was 11th at the end of lap one. Svendsen-Cook meanwhile had made up one place and was 15th, while Foresti had already made up two places and was 17th.
As the race got underway, the rain continued to fall, with the weather favouring those drivers who had chosen grooved rubber. Of the top nine drivers on the grid, only Roberto Merhi had started on wet weather tyres and subsequently took an early lead. Of the Carlin drivers, only Svendsen-Cook was on wets.
Jaafar saw his race end early on lap two as he attempted to overtake two cars round the outside and found himself beached in the gravel. As the race continued, the race eased, handing the advantage back to those on slick tyres. Vergne was clearly on the pace, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap eight. The Red Bull Junior had stayed close to the first four cars in the opening stages and broken away from the rest of the field, with a 35 second gap from sixth placed driver Gabriel Dias.
Behind Vergne, Foresti was continuing to make impressive progress and had moved up to ninth place by lap12, while Svendsen-Cook had pitted for slick tyres from 14th place and returned to the track in 15th. Foresti continued to move up the order, and by lap 18 was eighth, while Svendsen-Cook was back up to 13th. As the race entered the final stages, Vergne held a comfortable fifth place, with the gap back to sixth now up to 48 seconds. There was more action to come however when Edoardo Mortara suffered a problem on the penultimate lap and dropped down the order from third place, elevating Vergne to fourth. Foresti also made up one more place on the last lap and crossed the line seventh, with Svendsen-Cook 13th.
Fourth place man Vergne said, "I had a good fight with Mortara on the first lap, I nearly passed him but didn't want to risk going off. I'm really pleased with the work we've done this weekend; we've come along way from the first practice session. I think with a little more time, we could have really challenged the Euro Series teams on the Kumho tyre. I think we can be pleased with a fourth place here this weekend."
Trevor Carlin added, "The team did a great job this weekend to keep improving every session, and our race results as a team are very respectable. Both Jean-Eric and Lucas managed the slippery conditions perfectly on the slick tyre in the early stages and drove very mature races. Rupert kept his head down and drove very well despite having a challenging race. It's a shame that Jazeman wasn't able to show his potential but he impressed the team with his performance in qualifying and can build on the experience he has gained here."