It was a good weekend for John Martin and the Beijing Guoan team at Brands Hatch as they took race one victory and first place in the final shootout. However, the weekend was marred by a huge accident involving the Olympiacos car of Chris van der Drift.
John Martin who started race one from second on the grid, gained the advantage on pole man Marcos Martinez of Sevilla after the Rolling Start and took the lead going into the first corner on lap one. British driver and crowd favourite Craig Dolby, in the Tottenham Hotspur car also made a good start passing Sporting Lisbon driver Andy Soucek around the outside of Paddock Hill bend to take third on lap one. Martin wasn't going to hang about as he pulled away from the pack and by the time the pit window had opened he had a 3.5 second advantage. The first retirement of the day saw Narain Karthikeyan of PSV Eindhoven take to the gravel on lap 6, but he could console himself with pole position in race two thanks to the fully reversed grid.
The pit stop window opened and John Martin came in for new rubber with a faultless stop allowing him to press home his advantage. There were no significant changes of position by the time the pit window had closed so it was down to racing ability to make up any positions. James Walker in the red Liverpool car was slowly clawing up the field after a poor qualifying session had seen him start 15th but had finished the race in 10th position. This was helped by Julien Jousse experiencing mechanical trouble in the AS Roma car and dropping out. Also it was heartbreak for Martinez as he too suffered mechanical issues and had to retire whilst running second with only 2 minutes left.
As the chequered flag dropped it was Martin who took the win with a lead of 7.438 seconds over the now second placed driver Dolby much to the fans delight. Virgin F1 reserve driver Andy Soucek took the final podium position after holding off championship leader Yelmer Buurman in the AC Milan car who came in fourth. Frenchman Franck Montagny bought home the Bordeaux car in fifth from eighth on the grid well ahead of the youngster Max Wissel (FC Basel). The Olympiacos car of Chris van der Drift finished seventh ahead of Tristan Gommendy of Galatasaray whilst the two remaining Brits of Duncan Tappy for Flamengo and James Walker rounded out the top ten.
This result meant Craig Dolby had retaken the lead of the Championship by a single point from Yelmer Buurman. The Olympique Lyonnais car on its return to the series after missing the last round, still seemed to be struggling a bit as Franck Perera guided it home to twelfth place.
After the race, John Martin spoke to the media saying, “I made a mistake yesterday in quail but made up for it today. The last half of the race I was literally on cruise control; just a case of maintaining the gap and not get caught up while lapping cars. The only bit I was worried about was the start. I knew if we got away well we had a good car. I was hoping to drive right round the outside at turn one but crossed to the inside instead. Pretty sweet! I need some more points in the second so I'll just push hard and see how high up we can get.”
Having taken a solid second place and the championship lead, Craig Dolby said, “We knew we had the pace. The first set of tyres weren't too good. They were brand new but out of balance so we need to have a look at that. The start was good though, to get into third round the outside and nearly touch! As soon as I put the second set of tyres on I closed back in on Martinez and maybe made him make a little mistake into turn one. Me and John were on cruise control at the end and there was no point in trying to close down the gap on someone who's running the same pace.”
Thanks to his early retirement in race one, it was Karthikeyan who was on pole with Julien Jousse alongside. After his disappointing retirement earlier, Marcos Matinez was looking to make amends starting from third. Dolby and Martin had their work cut out starting from the back row.
As the cars came down Brabham straight on the rolling start, Karthikeyan was off like a rocket having saved 2 sets of new tyres after race one's early exit. Martinez had got past Jousse on the first lap and these positions stayed the same until the pit stops, by which time, Karthikeyan had a massive lead of over ten seconds. Dolby had moved up two spots by now and was two places behind Buurman who was looking to retake the championship lead. John Martin was having a lonely race at the back after having to pit for a new nose cone on lap one as it had been ripped off after driving through the gravel at Druids hairpin.
After the pit stops it was the PSV Eindhoven car pressing on thanks to the new rubber and was steadily increasing its lead. Martinez had now dropped down the order in what was a disappointing day for the Sevilla team after grabbing pole on Saturday. Davide Rigon of Anderlecht was now in third place with Duncan Tappy fourth. Chris van der Drift was having a great run and was moving up the order to help his points haul.
Julien Jousse had dropped to fifth in the closing stages which meant Chris van der Drift was now behind him and keen to pass. It was at this point disaster occurred. Van der Drift had got a good run out of Surtees and used his 'Push to Pass' device to take the advantage. He was closing rapidly on Jousse and moved to the right to pass him. In an error of judgement, Jousse also moved slightly right and van der Drift collided with the Rear offside wheel of the AS Roma car. Van der Drift was now a passenger has his car launched into the air at 180mph and smashed into the side of the bridge at Hawthorn Hill. Splitting in half, the remains of the car was sent spinning up the track briefly bursting into flames before coming to a halt at the entrance to Hawthorn bend.
The race was stopped immediately as paramedics tended to the driver and Marshalls cleared the mass of debris scattered across the track. Amazingly, the conscious Chris van der Drift was taken away for treatment with only a suspected broken leg.
With the race ended, and results taken from the positions on the previous lap it was Narain Karthikeyan who took the win by nearly 13 seconds over second placed Davide Rigon. Brit Duncan Tappy finished third for Flamengo ahead of Alvaro Parente in the Porto car fourth and Jousse fifth. Van de Drift had sixth with the Spanish pair of Maria de Villota for Athletico Madrid and Marcos Martinez seventh and eighth respectively. The top ten was rounded out Franck Perera for Olympique Lyonnais in ninth and James Walker taking his second tenth place of the day. The Battle for the championship lead was now in Buurman's hand after finishing twelth, one place ahead of Dolby, meant he now had a one point lead over the Tottenham Hotspurs driver.
With his two good results, it was Flamengo driver Duncan Tappy on pole for the Super final with John Martin alongside in second. Dolby lined up third ahead of Davide Rigon, with Alvaro Parente and Yelmer Buurman in the final two spots. Buurman had been handed a chance of more points as it was Chris van der Drift who was supposed to line up in the Final, but for obvious reasons could not take his spot.
It was Beijing driver Martin who again took the lead at the first corner and Rigon followed dropping Tappy down to third. At Druids hairpin, Craig Dolby out braked himself slightly whist alongside Parente, which forced the Porto driver in to the gravel and dropping him down to last whilst Yelmer Buurman took the opportunity to pass both Parente and Dolby for fourth place. These positions remained throughout the 5 lap race giving the Australian Martin a second win of the day for Beijing Guoan and the â‚¬100,000 winners cheque. Rigon finished second head of Tappy in third and Buurman fourth. Craig Dolby came in fifth and Parente took the final place.
It was all smiles in the Beijing garage afterwards as John Martin told reporters, “The first race felt so easy but in the second I made a good start and then had nowhere to go and just touched the front end plate on Craig's (Dolby) car and it was enough to break the front wing. It stuck under the car and I thought I was going straight into the wall, but luckily it broke off as I went through the gravel and I was able to get back to the pits to get a new nose box. I absolutely love it here at Brands Hatch, it's one of my favourite circuits in the world, so to win twice is fantastic. I was annoyed to miss pole position on Saturday, but today we've made up for it.”
Davide Rigon spoke after the race saying, “The weekend started very badly. I crashed the car and it was difficult to have it ready for qualifying. In race 1 it wasn't very good either even though I pushed to the maximum. We had two good sets of tyres for the second race though and I started to be much quicker and I was very happy with second place. In the Super Final, John (Martin) was just a bit faster than me but second again is a great result considering where we were this morning.”
British driver Duncan Tappy reflected on the weekends work, “I'm quite shocked to be here (on the Super Final podium) really! I was really down after qualifying because I didn't think I'd got on top of the car and that there was a lot more to come. I was on the phone talking to my engineer at 10.30pm last night thinking about what we could do. The car still didn't feel that great in the first race and we just did what we could to get ninth, but the second race was much better and I just kept pushing and climbing through the field. P3 was the aim and we got it. I'm a bit disappointed with the Super Final, but I've never done a standing start in a Superleague Formula car before. It's something I will need to work on as I'm hoping to be in a lot of Super Finals from now on.”
After this result, Yelmer Buurman had doubled his one point championship advantage at the end of the day, but Dolby had closed in by six points. With just 2 points separating AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspurs at the top and Anderlecht close behind, it is still all to play for when the Superleague Formula heads to Italy and the Eighth round at Adria on 4th and 5th September,