Soggy Spa dishes out half measures as Bacheta retains championship lead
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Comma's standard bearer, Luciano Bachetta held on to his points lead at the half way stage of the 2012 FIA Formula Two Championship, albeit in the most frustrating of circumstances at Belgium's iconic Spa circuit on June 23rd/24th.
Jettisoned out of Saturday's race in a first lap melée, 'Luchi' responded like a pro with a new qualifying record for Sunday's re-run, and was stretching his lead at the front of the field by over a second a lap when Spa's notorious weather did its worst and terminated proceedings for the day after just four laps. With the race less than half run, the regulations only allowed for half points to be awarded to the depleted field of finishers, but the Brentwood driver will still be carrying a 40.5 points championship lead over Christopher Zanella into the second half of the season.
Marcus Pommer finally found the perfect set-up that has eluded him since the start of the season at Silverstone, and annexed pole position for the weekend's opening encounter on Saturday. Britain's Daniel McKenzie also found the 'sweet spot' to join the German on the front row. Nurburgring Race 1 winner Mihai Marinscu was next up, the Romanian just edging out Poland's Kevin Mirocha, with Switzerland's Matheo Tuscher and Italy's Vittorio Ghinelli on row three. Bacheta was untypically almost half a second off the pace, posting his lowliest qualifying effort of the season to date in seventh position. Fancied runners Alex Fontana and Christopher Zanella – Nurburgring's Race 2 winner – fared even less well in eight and ninth positions, with India's Parthiva Sureshwaren rounding out the top ten.
Motor racing's famous 'red mist' descended on the opening lap, with Mirocha forced onto the grass by Marinesu as they powered out of Radillon. The Pole was pitched into a spin which scattered the following pack into a star-burst of evasive manoeuvres, with Bacheta receiving a nudge which launched him into the barrier and out of the race with wrecked right rear suspension.
Pommer meanwhile was off and away, quickly building a convincing cushion over McKenzie who was never close enough to 'put the boost into' the race leader and finished in the winner's wake by a little over five seconds. Matheo 'The Kid' Tuscher is maturing impressively with every race, the fifteen year old keeping McKenzie honest throughout, but never quite able to put one over the Brit and finishing a couple of seconds back in third place for his fourth podium of the season. It elevates him to third in the championship, just two points shy of Zanella. There's some well-informed hot money on him winning a race before too long!
Marinescu and Zanella - the season's only other winners to date – kept their heads down to finish fourth and fifth respectively, well adrift of Tuscher, with Ghirelli sixth and Dino Zamparelli improving four places on his starting position to take seventh spot. Fontana finished where he started in eighth, with Britain's Hector Hurst getting on the scoreboard in ninth from way back on
Determined to put Saturday's forgettable events aside, Bacheta bounced back in convincing style to blitz qualifying in his rebuilt car with the only lap under 2minutes 4seconds, almost 4 seconds faster than the existing Spa F2 record. Race 1 winner Pommer held his form to complete the front rank, with Fontana improving and Mirocha again showing strongly on the second row. Ghirelli and Zanella occupied row three, ahead of a disappointed McKenzie who found himself surprisingly accompanied by relative newcomer Axcil Jefferies from Zimbabwe on row four. With times more separated than is usual in closely fought F2 qualifying, fifth row men Hurst and Sureshwaren were both over 1.5seconds adrift of pole, while Tuscher was completely unable to account for his sudden loss of pace outside the top ten in eleventh place.
Rain was forecast to arrive an hour before the race and did so even earlier with its customary Spa vengeance. Prudence dictated that the race commenced under the Safety Car, but the impenetrable spray made conditions almost impossible for all but Bacheta, who was quickly building on his front-running lead by over a second a lap when the Safety Car was once more deployed after McKenzie crashed in turn 1. With conditions worsening, the race was red flagged at the end of lap four, and with uncertainty in the air about a re-start accompanied by the rain which was still sheeting down forty minutes later, the contest was abandoned under the regulations and half points
"It helped so much being at the front and having better visibility in the spray. My plan was just to get my head down and build up a gap", said Bacheta, who mustered a rueful smile about the outcome. "I was actually really enjoying it, and there was only one place where the track was really bad where there was quite a lot of aquaplaning, but the rest of it was ok for me. I understand though that the rest of the guys had a lot of spray to deal with. From my point of view I would have loved to have carried on rather than stop the race because I was enjoying driving and the car felt really good, thanks to my engineer who had done a cracking job. I was happy to carry on......but I understand the decision and I'm still happy with the points and the win."
So, next stop Brands Hatch, when battle resumes on Luciano and Comma's home ground at Brands Hatch on the weekend of July 13th/15th.
Get your tickets soon folks*. It's going to be a cracker.
In addition to sponsoring Luciano Bacheta's No 4 car in the series, Comma has been Technical Partner to FIA Formula Two, and the exclusive supplier of engine oils, coolants and maintenance chemicals to the championship since it was launched in 2009. All of the identical 500bhp Williams F1 designed Formula Two race cars are lubricated, cooled and serviced with maintenance products supplied by Comma.
You can read detailed race reports, view the complete championship standings and keep up with all the other latest FIA Formula Two news at the excellent official Formula Two website at www.formulatwo.com
* There's still time to get hold of FREE tickets to Brands Hatch in Comma's great £2 million Performance Motor Oil and Coolants promotion. Return to the Home Page banner and click on 'Find Out More' for full details. But do it soon. Applications close on Thursday, July 6th.
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