Matt Neal continued his recent strong form with pole position in the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship’s qualifying session at Croft Circuit in North Yorkshire.
Reigning Champion Neal, second in the standings, set a best lap of 1m24.900s in his Honda Yuasa Racing Team Civic to grab pole spot on the starting grid for the first of tomorrow’s three races.
The Civics of Pirtek Racing privateer Andrew Jordan and Neal’s team-mate Gordon Shedden, the current championship leader, were second and third fastest as Hondas filled the top three spots.
Frank Wrathall’s Dynojet Toyota Avensis was fourth ahead of Jason Plato’s MG KX Momentum Racing MG6 and Robert Collard’s eBay Motors BMW which just won the battle of the rear-wheel-drive cars as it pipped by Rob Austin’s RAR Audi A4 to sixth by 0.039s.

Plato, who’d set the fastest time of the day in an earlier practice session, was denied the opportunity of going for pole late on when his car stopped with an electrical problem.

Worcestershire’s Neal, who took a victory double at Oulton Park a fortnight ago and also won twice at Croft 12 months ago, commented: “I’m delighted. We played about a lot with tyres in the two practice sessions while working on general set-up and this is the result. But we’ve also seen in the practice sessions that this circuit is very hard on tyres and that will play a factor tomorrow…”
Staffordshire’s Jordan, chasing his first win of 2012 – he achieved his maiden BTCC race victory at Croft two years ago – was satisfied with second. He said: “I put in a very good first lap but that was the ‘banker’ lap done. The next time I went out on track I was going for Matt’s pole but needed to duck around a few slower cars and right at the end there were waved yellow caution flags for the MG at the side of track. I’m still happy, though.”
Fife’s Shedden, who has won an unrivalled five times from the 12 races so far this season, added: “My car’s carrying maximum success ballast, of course, and even though it’s only nine kilos more than Matt’s it does hurt a lot around this particular circuit. I could probably have got a bit more out of the car on my final run but third is OK.”


Evans eases to victory in Valencia
MW Arden’s Mitch Evans wins Race 1 in Spain
New Zealander Mitch Evans raced to his third win of his GP3 career at the Valencia Street Circuit in Race 1. After starting from pole, Evans also claimed the fastest lap making it a perfect start to his weekend in Spain. Aaro Vainio finished in second with David Fumanelli (MW Arden) achieving a career first GP3 podium.
Evans made a clean getaway and retained P1 while Vainio got the jump on Fumanelli to sneak into P2. Tio Ellinas (Marussia Manor Racing) made a great start from fifth on the grid and by the end of the first lap he was into third, displacing Fumanelli. It was a lively start with Robert Visoiu (Jenzer Motorsport) running into the back of Tamas Pal Kiss which ended his race prematurely. Status Grand Prix also had a nightmare at the beginning of their race after Alice Powell made contact with the rear of teammate Marlon Stockinger which brought them both into the pits. Stockinger rejoined a lap down with Powell also losing a lot of time.
Conor Daly who started in P16 after a ten place grid penalty received a penalty for a jump start after he had moved up to P13 in the race. Antonio Felix Da Costa (Carlin), starting from P24 after a technical infringement from qualifying, moved up to 12th position but after trying to pass Dmitry Suranovich (Marussia Manor Racing) on the inside, the pair made contact which forced them both to retire.
Evans continued to lead Vainio and held a steady one second advantage for the majority of the race while further down the field, the action was fierce. All eyes were on the tasty battle between Kevin Ceccon (Ocean Racing Technology) and Daniel Abt, with the Italian keen to find a way past the German. Ceccon was trying every line and managed to get through on the inside on several occasions only to outbrake himself and have to give the position back.
Patric Niederhauser (Jenzer Motorsport) who started in P15 progressed through the pack and reached P9. The action intensified with a battle between William Buller (Carlin), Niederhauser and  Pal Kiss (Atech CRS GP) with the Hungarian finding a way through on the Brit. In the final laps, Evans pulled out a two second margin over Vainio as he headed home to his second win of the 2012 season. Fumanelli was on a mission in the final laps and charged through on Ellinas to steal P3 and his secure his maiden rostrum. The Cypriot finished fourth, his best result in the Series so far, ahead of Matias Laine (MW Arden), Abt, Ceccon, Niederhauser, Pal Kiss and Buller who completed the point scoring finishers.


Gutierrez wins teammate’s race

“The future is so bright I need some shades.” Man from Monterrey Esteban Gutierrez takes GP2 victory in Valencia and is now third in the championship. He was 2008 Formula BMW Europe Champion and won the first GP3 Championship in 2010.

Mexican talent and Sauber F1 reserve driver, Esteban Gutierrez, took victory on the streets of Valencia in Saturday’s GP2 feature race. His second victory since joining the official F1 feeder series. His maiden win came last year at the same venue.

Marcus Ericsson was second only 1.615s behind race winner. The Swede is managed by former Indy 500 winner Kenny Brack.

Brazilian Luiz Razia, winner of the season opener in Malaysia, was third man on the podium and is now only 20 points behind championship leader, Italian Davide Valsecchi who was 8th and starts Sunday’s sprint race from pole.

King Calado. James Calado is the official ‘cage rattler’ of the season and was the moral winner at Valencia. The English driver started from pole position and was never challenged. He enjoyed a 15s lead at one time but stayed out while most of the drivers made their mandatory pit stop for tire change.

The strategy would sink his hopes for a win when the safety car was deployed after French driver Tom Dilman lost his rear wing. Two other safety car periods would follow.

Calado made his pit stop as the safety car was deployed for the final time. He would be classified 9th.

Swiss driver Fabio Leimer was fourth; Indonesian Rio Haryanto completed the top five.

Brazilian rookie Felipe Nasr started from the front row but retired on lap 18.

Doing a Pantano. Italian Davide Valsecchi is looking to follow in the racing-steps of his compatriot Giorgio Pantano and win the GP2 Championship in year four.

Standings. The season has been a two horse race since Sepang. Valsecchi leads with 145 points over Razia on 125 points. Gutierrez has jumped into the top three following his victory with 87 points.

Two points behind are two drivers, Dutchman Giedo van der Garde and Englishman Max Chilton.

Calado is the top rookie with 81 points. Leimer and Ericsson are both in their third season of GP2, and are seventh and eighth in the championship with 53 and 52 points respectively.

The teams’ championship is led by the French team DAMS (Valsecchi/Nasr) with 173 points. Lotus GP (Calado/Gutierrez) is second on 168 points.

Christian Horner-owned Arden International (Razia/Trummer) is third with 126 points.


— Nasir Hameed

Photo. GP2 Media

British Formula 3

Harvey by half a second at Brands Hatch

Jack Harvey this afternoon became the first man to win consecutive races in the 2012 Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series, the Lincolnshire 19-year-old following up his commanding Rockingham win of a fortnight ago with another, altogether more closely fought, victory at Brands Hatch.

Harvey led all the way from pole position to chequered flag, making an impeccable start at the wheel of his Racing Steps Foundation-backed and Volkswagen-powered Carlin Dallara. But ever-present in his mirrors for the 22 laps was car 22, that of his team-mate and championship leader Jazeman Jaafar.

Jaafar survived an opening-lap skirmish with Fortec’s Alex Lynn to assert himself in second spot, and the Malaysian never gave up hope of snatching the win. The furthest behind he slipped was 1.5s on the second lap; thereafter the gap came down to less than a second for the duration.

Harvey crossed the line half a second clear for his third win of the year. “I made a good start,” said Jack, “but Jaz was really fast; he caught me up and put loads of pressure on. He was that close that any mistake from me would have meant losing the lead. He did a really good job and it points out some areas where we need to do some work before tomorrow.”

Jaafar made a relatively poor start and that allowed Lynn to sneak through on the inside through Paddock Hill Bend. Jazeman fought back up Druids Hill into the hairpin and regained the advantage around the outside. “Alex made a better start than I did,” he said. “Then I saw an opportunity around the outside at Druids and I went for it, and after that it was just a case of trying to catch Jack.”

Lynn held off Carlos Sainz for the duration for the final step on the podium, and was more than pleased given that he was unhappy with the balance of his car in Friday testing. “The car is definitely better now. If you’d said on Friday that I’d finish third I wouldn’t have believed you, so I’m quite happy.”

Sainz shadowed Lynn from start to finish but could not find a way past the Essex man, and the Spaniard was followed home by Devon driver Harry Tincknell. After a stellar qualifying performance, Nick McBride held sixth for much of the race in the Nissan-powered T-Sport car but was bumped back to seventh four laps from the end by Fortec’s Felix Serralles.

Brazilians Pietro Fantin and Pipo Derani filled positions eight and nine, head of Double R’s Geoff Uhrhane and Fahmi Ilyas. Hannes van Asseldonk followed up his qualifying off with another four laps from the end.

Championship returnees Adderly Fong and the CF Racing team marked their comeback with a National class victory, increasing the advantage over class points leader Spike Goddard (T-Sport) to nearly 10 seconds by the end. Double R’s Duvashen Padayachee missed out on the third step of the National podium with a final-corner visit to the gravel trap.


Gutiérrez scorches to dramatic feature victory
Mexican takes second GP2 win in Valencia
Esteban Gutierrez has shrugged off the pressure of a slow start with a superb win in an action packed feature race in Valencia, adding his first feature win in the Series at the location of his first sprint win as he held his nerve to lead home Marcus Ericsson and Luiz Razia under the scorching Spanish sun this afternoon.
The race, which looked for a long time to belong to Lotus teammate James Calado, was broken up by three safety car periods as the extreme heat seemed to be affecting everyone adversely, although the start was smooth enough with poleman Calado easing away while fellow front row starter Felipe Nasr dropped back into the pack, handing a clean line through for Giedo van der Garde and Gutiérrez.
Behind them though, Davide Valsecchi had almost stalled at the start, with the pack bunching up into turn 2. Fabio Leimer and Jolyon Palmer came together at the next turn, with the Briton spun around and losing his front wing in the process while the Swiss driver continued on in P5, behind Nasr but in front of Ericsson and Razia, but the Brazilian from DAMS clearly had some mechanical gremlins and he was soon falling backwards.
Calado was looking untouchable out front, but the battle for second was intense, and soon spilled over when Gutiérrez and van der Garde came together at the hairpin: both men ran wide and continued, but not until Leimer and Ericsson had snuck through. The Dutchman’s misfortunes continued when he pitted next time through, when his right rear gun stuck to the wheelnut, and he very nearly hit a mechanic crossing the pitlane when he was finally released.
Two laps later and most of the field had pitted when Rodolfo Gonzalez ran over a rival’s rear wing endplate left in the middle of the circuit, breaking his own front wing and sending carbon fibre shards across the track: the inevitable safety car period saw everyone pit except for Calado, who was now out of sync with his rivals and would need a miraculous performance to salvage the rest of his race.
The race ran live on lap 17, but Nasr’s gremlins struck again as he lost drive on the bridge, scattering his rivals as they looked for a path by the Brazilian: Palmer went inside as his rivals went outside, and he met Fabrizio Crestani on the other side of the bridge, pitching the Italian into a roll that saw both drivers out on the spot, with the safety car returning once more to the circuit.
The order at the front was now Calado, Leimer, Gutiérrez, Ericsson, Razia when the race went live again 4 laps later, but Gutiérrez got inside his Swiss rival at the final turn as they looked to start the lap: the pair clashed and ran wide, with Leimer struggling to get back onto the circuit as his rivals beared down on him and the Mexican disposing of Razia, who briefly took the opportunity to pass the pair, at turn 2 with Ericsson following behind at the next corner.
Further back the action was just as hot, as Gonzalez and Giancarlo Serenelli came together at the chicane: the latter was pitched into a spin which saw the safety car return yet again, and Calado had no choice with the clock ticking down but to pit and give away his win.
Gutiérrez made a hasty getaway when the race went live once more, and although Ericsson gave it his all the Mexican was not to be denied, claiming his second victory in fine form ahead of the Swede and Razia, who had Leimer all over his rear wing as they crossed the line together.
Rio Haryanto held on behind them for a fine fifth position ahead of Nathanaël Berthon, with Max Chilton and Valsecchi crossing the line in P7 and 8 respectively, ahead of the unlucky Calado, and Stefano Coletti. The win promoted Gutiérrez to third place in the championship on 87 points, behind Valsecchi (145) and Razia (125) but ahead of van der Garde and Chilton (85) and teammate Calado (81) ahead of tomorrow’s sprint race.

Formula One

Vettel flies to European Grand Prix Pole.

“It will be a difficult race and difficult to predict, We have seen too much this year to sit here on Saturday afternoon and predict what is going to happen. It is easier to predict football than the ranking for the race!

It will be hotter tomorrow and there will be a lot of cars to look out for. Ferrari is very competitive, Williams is quick, Lotus proved [its speed] in Bahrain.

This year, grid position is obviously important, but perhaps not as important.

Q1 and Q2 were not to our liking and we were struggling to find the balance that we had early on this weekend during practice. But we made a good recovery.

“I had to use a second set of options in Q2 as it was very tight and my [first] time was not good enough, but with the second set it was good to go again.

I knew that in qualifying, if I go at the end and the track comes in a bit more, then it should be good enough for pole. But in the end it was a surprising gap.

The guys have worked really hard this weekend in the garage to make sure that we brought a couple of new parts to the car. They seem to work and I am looking forward to the race tomorrow.

Pos Driver Team Time Gap 
 1.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault     1m38.086s
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.410s  + 0.324
 3.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault     1m38.475s  + 0.389
 4.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault        1m38.505s  + 0.419
 5.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault        1m38.513s  + 0.427
 6.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes             1m38.623s  + 0.537
 7.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari       1m38.741s  + 0.655
 8.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes 1m38.752s  + 0.666
 9.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes     1m38.801s  + 0.715
10.  Paul di Resta         Force India-Mercedes 1m38.992s  + 0.906
Q2 cut-off time: 1m38.703s Gap **
11.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari              1m38.707s  + 0.218
12.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes             1m38.770s  + 0.281
13.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari              1m38.780s  + 0.291
14.  Bruno Senna           Williams-Renault     1m39.207s  + 0.718
15.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari       1m39.358s  + 0.869
16.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault     1m40.295s  + 1.806
17.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m40.358s  + 1.869
Q1 cut-off time: 1m40.087s Gap *
18.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari   1m40.203s  + 1.378
19.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault     1m40.395s  + 1.570
20.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault     1m40.457s  + 1.632
21.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth         1m42.171s  + 3.346
22.  Narain Karthikeyan    HRT-Cosworth         1m42.527s  + 3.702
23.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth    1m42.675s  + 3.850