The 2009 Formula Palmer Audi championship is set to go down to wire as championship leader Richard Plant suffered at the latest three race round at Silverstone's full Grand Prix circuit.
The Briton, who had previously won four consecutive races, could only muster at tenth, ninth and seventh at the weekend, and his championship rivals capitalised with good results of their own.
However, the title contenders (and even the FPA regulars) had to wait for their turn in the limelight, as the first race was won by Jolyon Palmer. Palmer the 18 year old son of former F1 driver and FPA founder Jonathon Palmer had previously contested two full seasons of FPA in 2007 and 2008 had only started three races this year prior to the Silverstone meeting, concentrating his season on Formula Two, which is in a break before its finale at the end of the month.
Palmer dominated the first race of weekend, leading the entire race and coming home ahead of Tristan Vautier and Kazim Vasiliauskas – himself another Formula Two driver, but one who has raced the entire FPA season.
Palmer's good weekend didn't last, as he slumped to a disappointing 18th in the second race (the same place as he would finish the final race) as it was Frenchman Vautier who took centre stage. Off the start line there was no stopping him, as he made what he described as “the best start of my life”. He had overtaken three cars as he got up to speed, before launching a brave move to move around the outside of both Palmer and Vasiliauskas in the first corner, Copse.
Like Palmer in the first race this was a lead he was never going to give up, leading home Vasiliauskas and Maxime Jousse. The win meant Vautier overhauled Plant at the head of the standings, with a slender one point lead. The question was 'could he keep it through the final race?'
The third and final race was Jousse's time to shine. The younger brother of Julien Jousse (another F2 driver) took his maiden FPA win, with Emma Kimilainen and Paul Rees completing the podium. Jousse was positively beaming after the race. “This was a perfect race for me. I got a great start and was up to second. Then Tristan spun in front of me and I knew what I had to do. I am just so happy for my family, this really means so much to all of us. I love it here in England – I want to stay in FPA next season and try to win the championship.”
The championship battle for this year was further back. Vautier had been unable to repeat his start heroics of the second race and found himself back in tenth, and losing his slim points lead back to Plant, finishing two spots ahead of him.
This gives Plant a slim (FPA awards 25 points to the winner and points all the way down to 19th) two point lead over Vautier ahead of the final race weekend, another triple-header at Snetterton in a fortnight. Vasiliauskas (who retired from the final race) is 17 points behind Plant, and the last of the contenders Adam Foster is a further 7 points behind the Lithuanian.