James Calado gave a demonstration of racing at Thruxton, fighting back from a poor start to lead home a 1-2-3-4 finish for Carlin the first of the weekend's three races.
While the 22-year-old had topped the testing at the Hampshire track earlier in the week he started the race in second, championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne sitting on pole position, which the Frenchman turned into a race lead when the lights (eventually) went out.
The start procedure had caught out some of those behind, Jazeman Jaafar had performed an enormous jump start as the field was held for an abnormally long time under the red lights, the Malaysian punished with a drive-through penalty which left him outside the points scoring positions at the end of the 27 lap race.
Calado, too suffered at the start, describing it as “a disaster”.
“The lights were on for a ridiculous amount of time and I got clutch slip and no drive until the first corner, which allowed several people past,” he said. Rupert Svendsen-Cook had taken advantage of his Carlin teammates slow start to take second behind Vergne, with Adriano Buzaid in third, ahead of Calado. The top four cars already Carlin entered Dallara/Volkswagens.
However, Calado quickly bounced back from his poor start to begin re-arranging the order of the Carlin quartet. He was past Buzaid by the end of the opening lap, choosing the standard Thruxton move at the club chicane to take third. Calado took second from Svendsen-Cook on the sixth lap, but the progress of Racing Steps Foundation liveried car seemed destined to stall there as Vergne, ruthlessly, had already established a two second advantage over his Carlin teammates in the pelaton.
However, it was now that Calado's testing speed advantage returned, gaining on Vergne in the chase for the lead, Vergne surmising that Calado was running less wing on the F3 season's fastest track.
Whatever the details of any advantage Calado's had clawed back the once seemingly insurmountable gap, with pace he modestly described as “phenomenal”, within seven laps and after a few laps following closely behind he was able to simply drive by Vergne as the pair powered up Woodham Hill.
Calado's led Vergne by just over three-tenths at the checkered flag, with Svendsen-Cook 14 seconds behind, but clear of Buzaid in fourth.
Fortec Motorsport's Oli Webb was the best non-Carlin man in the race, once more losing ground to Vergne in the championship points race, suddenly finding himself level with Calado fighting for second in the championship.
Lucas Foresti – another Carlin man, jump-starter Jaafar the only one of their six drivers not to score – finished sixth and Raikkonen-Robertson driver Felipe Nasr took seventh, which was turned into pole position for the reverse grid race two by the random draw.
Daniel McKenzie, William Buller and Carlos Huertas completed the top ten, Huertas driving through the field after a qualifying accident relegated them to the back of the grid.
In the national class, where Menasheh Idafar and James Cole entered the race tied on points, it was Cole who inched ahead after a cruel late race crash for his rival and T-Sport teammate.
Idafar had led the class since the start of the race, but it was to be his pace that proved his undoing as he began to battle with Alex Brundle, driving T-Sport's car in the Championship class. On the penultimate lap a misunderstanding between the two led to contact and instant retirement for both men as Cole swept past.
“I saw them battling ahead but couldn't catch them,” said Cole. “They touched and both went off. I'll take the points!”