Vergne fends off Huertas in race one

Championship leader Jean-Eric Vergne just held off Colombian racer Carlos Huertas to win a thrilling British Formula 3 race at Rockingham this afternoon

Vergne fends off Huertas in race one

The French Carlin driver started third but led by the time the cars emerged from the Deene hairpin for the first time. He took advantage of a sluggish getaway from poleman Oli Webb (Fortec) to jump into second, and when front row starter Huertas left the door open on the run down to Deene, Vergne dived down the inside on the brakes and took the lead.

Vergne's Dallara-Volkswagen looked particularly rapid in the early stages of the race and he led Huertas by 1.5 seconds after four laps as Webb struggled to keep pace.

The impetus see-sawed between the first two for another half a dozen laps until Huertas found his groove and began chipping away at Vergne's advantage. Huertas' Raikkonen Robertson Dallara-Mercedes made large gains under braking and through the slower sections of the track, and the Colombian relentlessly hunted down his rival.

He got a couple of good runs coming into Deene in the closing stages, but Vergne defended the inside line expertly and held on to win by just two tenths of a second.

The chequered flag appeared to fall with 18s of the race time still to run, potentially denying Huertas a third and final opportunity to wrest the lead from his rival.

"I should have won that race," said a slightly disappointed Huertas. "But second is a good result, good points, and we were the fastest car out there so it's good for tomorrow."

"That was not easy," said race winner Vergne. "He was really fast."

Webb cursed his poor start and fell gradually away from the lead duo and into the clutches of Carlin driver James Calado. The Racing Steps man looked faster than his fellow Briton, but could not get close enough to mount a challenge for the podium.

Northern Irishman Will Buller headed a train of five cars across the line to claim fifth for Hitech Racing. Buller looked to be struggling badly for pace and eventually finished over 15s adrift of Calado, with team-mate Gabriel Dias, Raikkonen Robertson's Felipe Nasr, Fortec's Daniel McKenzie and Carlin's Adriano Buzaid all right behind him.

Seventh was a disappointing result for reigning Formula BMW Europe champion Nasr, who ran fifth early on and threatened to challenge Calado for fourth until dropping back on lap seven.

McKenzie did well to rise to eighth after going off at Deene in qualifying, stalling and then not being allowed to resume after receiving outside assistance to get back to the pits. He started 14th and achieved his pre-race aim of making into the top 10 to try and get a good grid spot for tomorrow morning's reversed grid race.

Raikkonen Robertson's Daisuke Nakajima rounded out the top 10, while T-Sport's Menasheh Idafar just edged team-mate James Cole to take National Class honours in 13th overall.

Pos Driver Team Car Time/Gap 1. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin D/V 29m38.641s 2. Carlos Huertas Raikkonen Robertson D/M + 0.282s 3. Oli Webb Fortec D/M + 4.600s 4. James Calado Carlin D/V + 5.241s 5. William Buller Hitech D/V + 20.595s 6. Gabriel Dias Hitech D/V + 21.197s 7. Felipe Nasr Raikkonen Robertson D/M + 21.728s 8. Daniel McKenzie Fortec D/M + 22.380s 9. Adriano Buzaid Carlin D/V + 23.116s 10. Daisuke Nakajima Raikkonen Robertson D/M + 24.966s 11. Rupert Svendsen-Cook Carlin D/V + 35.194s 12. Lucas Foresti Carlin D/V + 35.574s 13. Menasheh Idafar T-Sport D/H + 37.075s 14. James Cole T-Sport D/H + 39.524s 15. Maxim Snegirev Fortec D/M + 47.359s 16. Alex Brundle T-Sport D/V + 49.806s 17. Pietro Fantin Hitech D/V + 53.487s 18. Adderly Fong Sino Vision D/M + 55.308s Retirements: Jay Bridger Litespeed D/M 19 laps Hywel Lloyd CF/Manor D/M 16 laps Jazeman Jaafar Carlin D/V 12 laps 
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