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James Calado led home a Carlin/Volkswagen 1-2-3-4 at Thruxton this afternoon in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, denying championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne his 10th win of the season in the process. Calado recovered from a “disastrous” start to battle back up on to Vergne’s tail, the pole-sitter having enjoyed an easy run to lead the early stages, before James passed Jean-Eric for the lead on the 15th of the 27 laps.
It was a thrilling battle throughout on the championship’s quickest track of the year, with Vergne’s second place earning him valuable points as he bids to nail down the title. Calado’s win elevates him to championship second, tied on points with Fortec’s Oli Webb.
In the National class, James Cole was gifted a last-lap win after his T-Sport team-mate and title rival Menasheh Idafar crashed out.
Twenty-two-year-old Worcestershire racer Calado had the edge in yesterday’s testing but had to cede the pole to the flying Frenchman, who dominated qualifying. Then, while Vergne made an impeccable getaway from the grid, Calado floundered. “It was a disaster,” said James. “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.”
The start procedure caught out Calado’s team-mate Jazeman Jaafar also; the Malaysian anticipated the lights being extinguished by several seconds and was handed a drive-through pit penalty for his transgression.
But there were no errors from Vergne, nor from Rupert Svendsen-Cook, who slotted into second place. Calado recovered his composure quickly to snatch third from Adriano Buzaid into the Club chicane at the end of the opening lap. James then set about narrowing the gap to Svendsen-Cook, finding a way past his team-mate on the sixth lap. By this stage Vergne was two seconds in front and looking comfortable.
But Calado’s Racing Steps Foundation car was clearly the quicker of the two: “I think James was running less wing than me,” said Jean-Eric. Within seven laps the Englishman was on the Frenchman’s tail and then, on the 15th tour motored past him up Woodham Hill and into the lead. “My pace in the mid-race was phenomenal,” said Calado. “The car was great and I was able to catch and pass Jean-Eric…”
Vergne was disappointed but not too downcast to cede victory to Calado by three-tenths: “I think I increased my championship lead again, so it’s all good…”
Svendsen-Cook’s third and Buzaid’s fourth place gave the Carlin team its first 1-2-3-4 of the season. They might have had five in a line but for Webb’s spirited defence of fifth for the Fortec team, which denied Lucas Foresti the chance to pass.
Felipe Nasr, who shunted his Raikkonen Robertson car in testing yesterday, placed seventh ahead of Daniel McKenzie and Hitech’s Will Buller, with Colombian Carlos Huertas driving manfully from dead last on the grid after a qualifying crash to secure 10th for Raikkonen Robertson.
Idafar led the National class from the outset, with Cole unable to get on terms and make a race of it. But near the end of the penultimate tour, at the Club chicane, a misunderstanding between Menasheh and T-Sport’s International class runner, Alex Brundle, led to a collision and the retirement of both cars. “I saw them battling ahead but couldn’t catch them,” said Cole. “They touched and both went off… I’ll take the points!”
The podium pole-drawing ceremony to decide who will start tomorrow morning’s sprint race from top spot saw Calado draw seven from the bag; he will thus start from P7 and Felipe Nasr from the pole.
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