Round 8: Japanese GPQualifying:
Championship leader FlyingFrome looked to have pole position in the bag for the Japanese Grand Prix as he crossed the line on his second run with a 1:28.403 but it was snatched away from him in the dying seconds by AMK who set a 1:28.307. FTRL_Aaron was just 2 tenths back with a 1:28.598 to line up alongside Raybay on the second row.Race:
AMK and Frome went side by side into turn 1 on the first lap of the legendary Suzuka Circuit but AMK managed to hold the outside line and keep the lead. Aaron needed to fend off Raybay just behind the front 2 as the top 4 all kept in the same positions. Frome was keeping AMK under pressure for the opening lap until AMK went wide into turn 1 on lap 2 as he missed his braking point and allowed the McLaren to sneak down the inside and take the lead. AMK needed to get defensive to block Aaron from following Frome through which allowed his team mate Raybay to get the jump on Aaron into turn 3. Things got immediately worse for Aaron as Boogster also fancied getting in on the action and followed Raybay through around the outside.
Aaron had shown great pace in qualifying and wasn’t going to give up after his lap 2 incidents. He stalked Boogster down the pit straight on lap 3 and pulled a stunning move down into turn 1 on the inside of the Sauber to climb back up to P4. There is a great battle emerging in the Championship for 4th place which Boogster and Aaron are firmly involved in. Behind them, another contender for 4th place, Adventures was trying to go around the outside of Chullo into turn 1. Chullo has shown great tenacity this season when defending and this time was no different. He positioned his car perfectly to cling onto 6th position.
On lap 8 Boogster was on Aaron’s gear box down the pit straight but Aaron went deep in turn 1. Boogster sniffed the opportunity and was immediately down the inside of the Red Bull to bring himself back up into 4th place and only a couple of seconds behind Raybay for a podium. Chullo was right behind the battle and was now all over Aaron. He got a great exit out of the spoon curve and was side by side with Aaron heading towards 130R. Neither driver was willing to back out and both bravely kept their foot in it! Chullo eventually passed on the outside into the chicane but Aaron immediately dived into the pits for fresh rubber.
The gap at the front was now 3 seconds as AMK pitted for what was supposed to be his 1 and only stop. He fitted the medium tyre but Frome stayed out for an extra lap so he could go with the soft compound. Stevo was now leading the race with Shoab behind him as the 2 had yet to make their stops. Frome was on the back of them with fresh tyres and passed the Williams into turn 1 and then the Renault at the end of the Senna esses to be heading the field again.
Stevo pitted at the end of the lap leaving Shoab defending from AMK. The Mercedes man got the move done quickly but seemed to tag the back of the Williams and damaged his front wing. He needed to pit again just 2 laps after his stop for tyres effectively ruining his race and potentially his championship charge. Things went from bad to worse a couple of laps later when he attempted a switch back on ontothepodium in turn 1 and lost his wing for a second time. He decided to retire the car soon after. He now needs other drivers to suffer DNFs to get back in the title hunt but he has shown he has the pace to drag himself back into it.
Frome was now leading comfortably from Raybay. The sole remaining Mercedes had a time penalty to his name and Boogster was hovering around 3 seconds behind him. It would go down the the wire but Raybay managed to hold on to P2 and keep his championship hopes alive. With Frome taking the win, the 2 drivers are separated by 20 points, but with 5 races to go, anything can and usually does happen!
Boogster will be happy with the podium after a season of showing great pace but not always turning it into finishing positions he would have hoped for. Aaron managed to come home in P4 after all his battles. He will have been disappointed after starting in P3. RJ, Chullo and Adventures were next over the line followed by Stevo, ontothepodium and new boy AngryPanda taking the last point available on his F3 debut.
After 2 disappointing races, Frome will be ecstatic to have extended his lead at the top. Raybay still has him firmly in his sights however. The battle for 4th place rages on and will no doubt not be over until the chequered flag in Malaysia.