Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne took a dominant victory in the opening British Formula Three race, notching up the 100th win for Carlin in the process.
Vergne, running the same Red Bull livery as the previous two F3 champions got off to perfect start at the race at Oulton Park, beating fellow front row qualifier Oli Webb into the first corner – the right hander at Old Hall – and storming into a one second lead over the Fortec Motorsport driver after the first lap, with Adriano Buzaid, running no.1 car in another Carlin entry in third.
However, Vergne's early work was all to be erased when another of the Carlin Dallara-Volkswagens, in the hands of James Calado, ended in the gravel trap after running into the back of Welshman Hywel Lloyd.
The field spent four laps behind the safety car before being given another chance to catch series debutant Vergne, who will spend 2010 in both F3 and the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. Instead he was once more able to jump out to a lead again as the lead runners spread out behind him in a race that was relatively low on overtaking.
At the end of the 19 lap race Vergne held a 3.4 second lead over 19-year-old Webb, with Buzaid, who had started fifth, completing the podium places ahead of Carlos Huertas and Rupert Svendson-Cook who he overtook off the start line.
“A win is never simple, but we had a really good preparation through the winter,” said Vergne. “I was on pole for this race, made no mistakes and the car was really good, so big thanks to Carlin.”
“This is a fantastic result for Jean-Eric and for the team as we take our 100th British F3 victory at the start of a new season,” said Trevor Carlin on his team's website. “It has been a great team effort to get to this point and I’d like to pay tribute to all those that have been involved in all 100 race wins for our British F3 team, and all those that will hopefully share many more with us this season.”
In the lower, National, class the only entries, both fielded by the T-Sport squad battled it out. Menasheh Idafar started the race from the class pole and 14th overall, moving up a place on the start before gaining two more spots at the expense of Calado and Llody en route finishing eleventh overall. The 19-year-old beat James Cole as the latter held off the International Class runners mired further down the field.
“I'm really pleased to have started the season well with a class win,” said British born Bahraini Idafar. “It was tough but I really enjoyed it and can't wait to be back in the car on Monday now for rounds two and three. To win on my F3 debut is a great feeling.”
Under new rules introduced to the series this year the end of the race was followed by the race winner drawing which position would claim pole for the second of the three weekend races. The draw of seventh position put Brazilian Gabriel Dias on pole for the race on Monday, the Hitech driver unwittingly inheriting the spot when Jay Bridger went off in his Litespeed Dallara-Volkswagen two laps from the chequered flag.
Photo Credit: Jakob Ebrey Photography