Holland’s Nigel Melker got his 2011 GP3 campaign off to a dream start at Istanbul on Saturday.
The RSC Mucke pilot jumped straight into a commanding lead from the second row of the grid, following a sluggish start by poleman Tom Dillmann (Carlin).
Dillmann was also passed neatly into the first turn by fellow front row habitant, Andrea Caldarelli, with Lotus-ART contender, Valtteri Bottas fending off Antonio Felix da Costa to assume 4th place. With Dillmann out in front, Caldarelli struggled to challenge, yet was not truly challenged himself.
It was not as easy a run for Dillmann – as he fell away from Caldarelli, da Costa faded somewhat, leaving Bottas to charge hard right up to the flag, giving Dillmann much to think about come Saturday evening.
The leading five remained so for the distance, with much of the action coming in the lower points positions – much of which was provided by the MW Arden’ Mitch Evans and Lewis Williamson.
The duo battled hard for 6th early on, but it was a battle that came to nought for Williamson. A hasty move into turn 12 around the outside of Evans, would see the 21-year-old spin gently into the run off area.
A second collision in turn twelve would see Williamson’s luck run out. Come the fourth tour, the MW Arden man was running alongside Leonardo Cordeiro (Carlin), when the pair clashed, sending the damaged Cordeiro into a slight spin.
Williamson, tripped up by turn 12’s shallow gravel trap, was flipped onto his rollbar, bringing out the safety car instantly for a short period. Thankfully, both emerged unscathed.
Also on Evans’ trail was Alexander Sims. The Briton had initially qualified 2nd, only to receive a ten-place penalty later. Sims battled his way back into contention for 6th, spending much of the race swapping positions with the young Kiwi – eventually to be decided in Evans’ favour.
Sims would lose another spot before the race was done. With his pace deteriorating, both Dean Smith (8th, Addax) and Michael Christensen (9th, RSC Mucke) closed in.
It would culminate in a three-way battle on the final lap, only resolved as the trio clattered their way through the last set of turns. As they filtered out, Christensen secured 7th ahead of both Sims and Smith.
With 8th place confirmed, Sims took the final point and guaranteed pole for the second race of the weekend. For his troubles, Smith took home 9th and no points.
Some way behind, Gabby Chaves came home 10th after starting on the eighth row. For a time, it appeared as if Rio Haryanto would occupy 11th, only to be scuppered by a slow puncture late on.
Outside the top dozen, Nick Yelloly started 22nd following a post-qualifying penalty – at the end of fifteen laps, the ATECH CRS runner came home 13th.
James Calado got off the line poorly, dropping from 5th to 20th by turn one – he would cross the line 17th.
Race Rating: 2 out of 5
2011 GP3 Round of Turkey (Rd 1, Race 1) Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Nigel Melker RSC Mucke 28m13.773s (15 laps) 2. Andrea Caldarelli Tech 1 + 0.605s 3. Tom Dillmann Carlin + 2.942s 4. Valtteri Bottas ART + 3.840s 5. Antonio Felix da Costa Status + 4.410s 6. Mitch Evans MW Arden + 7.214s 7. Michael Christensen RSC Mucke + 10.608s 8. Alexander Sims Status + 11.713s 9. Dean Smith Addax + 11.928s 10. Gabby Chaves Addax + 19.559s 11. Nico Muller Jenzer + 23.673s 12. Zoel Amberg Atech CRS + 24.192s 13. Nick Yelloly Atech CRS + 24.977s 14. Ivan Lukashevich Status + 26.180s 15. Aaro Vainio Tech 1 + 26.354s 16. Tamas Pal Kiss Tech 1 + 27.239s 17. James Calado ART + 27.507s 18. Matias Laine Manor + 29.871s 19. Simon Trummer MW Arden + 30.222s 20. Dominic Storey Addax + 30.644s 21. Conor Daly Carlin + 31.336s 22. Pedro Nunes ART + 32.066s 23. Maxim Zimin Jenzer + 53.931s 24. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Manor + 1m03.096s 25. Vittorio Ghirelli Jenzer + 1 lap Retirements: Rio Haryanto Manor 13 laps Luciano Bacheta RSC Mucke 8 laps Leonardo Cordeiro Carlin 3 laps Lewis Williamson MW Arden 3 laps Marlon Stockinger Atech CRS 1 laps Pos Driver Team Points 1. Nigel Melker RSC Mucke 10 2. Andrea Caldarelli Tech 1 9 3. Tom Dillmann Carlin 8 4. Valtteri Bottas ART 5 5. Antonio Felix da Costa Status 4 6. Mitch Evans MW Arden 3 7. Michael Christensen RSC Mucke 2 8. Alexander Sims Status 1