Early insights into pace led many to believe that Torro Rosso were the team to beat this weekend. Both Jase and millen looked quick in practice and were able to string together some great session times. Likewise, E.T in the Red Bull was at the pointy end of pace and proving he is always one to watch. Lotus driver Ploddy showed good consistency, whilst not being particularly pacey. Elsewhere, teams across the competition were spending extra time getting back into the groove of this track and put in many hours, with Williams and Sauber clocking up the laps.
Come the business end of the weekend, the threat of rain played havoc with the team bosses in a search for strategy. With only a 16% chance, it was hard to pick an approach, with many going for the 'suck it and see' approach.
As the teams headed out on track, the body parts started flying and many drivers aborted the first run. E.T. was the first to post a time, a decent 1:17, before Ploddy crossed the line, upping the ante to 1:16.761. rogue then split the field to round out the top 3 from the first runs.
This didn't last long, as Jase posted a blistering time of 1:15.671. E.T also bested Ploddy's time with a 1:16.539 as the top 3 kept changing hands. From there it was rogue, Toggsie, zdevio and fredz.
Jase then bested his own time to set a smoking hot 1:15.371, which would remain the benchmark for the rest of the session. Meanwhile, millen starts to show form and sneaks his way into 4th with a 1:16.8, pushing rogue and his Williams further down the list.
But there were more surprises ahead. Not breaking into the 1:15's all practice, Ploddy manages a 1:15.673 from out of nowhere to take 2nd spot. Then, with the session concluded, the news comes down that pole sitter Jase has been relegated to 10th after running into the back of a crashed car at the first corner.
And so the scene was set for a thrilling race, with good pace spread throughout the field. Ploddy starts at the front, ahead of E.T, millen, rogue, Pessimist, Toggsie, fredz, Effsea, zdevio and sora bringing up the rear.
There are a few certainties in this world: death, taxes and first lap crazies at Monaco. Sure enough, when the lights went off on race day, mayhem ensued. Ploddy got a fast start but slowed considerably to make the corner, with E.T doing the time warp into 2nd, and millen sensibly cutting the corner to move safely into 3rd. Pessimist had a very nice start, shooting past rogue to take 4th.
But behind them, it was messy. Very messy. Rogue bogs down behind ET's warpy ghost car from hell, backing the pack up. Effing collected the back of Toggsie, causing Sora to collect the back of him. Meanwhile, rogue tries to be the first car ever to successfully drift around turn 1, failing miserably and putting the Williams into the inside barrier, denying fredz a clean getaway. Fredz slips to 9th and the 11th place Jas capitalises by jumping to 10th, ahead of a sore and sweary sora bringing up the rear (excuse the alliteration from hell, couldn't resist).
Up at the front of the pack, Ploddy was being chased by ET going through the bendy bits, and by the time they hit the flats he was on his tail. Feeling the pressure of being out front, Ploddy takes too much curb at the swimming pool chicane and noses into the left wall, leaving ET to shoot through, followed by a capitalising millen. Ploddy, not to be outdone, dives into the corner at Rascasse inside millen, the two cars touch and its neck and neck going into the final corner. millen relents and Ploddy takes 2nd. There would be much to discuss about the move after the race, but in the end both drivers showed respect and good nature - millen in particular - blaming the ever-present bubble.
Fast forward to lap 4, and ET is being harassed by Ploddy for a couple of laps but manages to break away, only to bin it into the wall at the swimming pool to let Ploddy through into the lead. millen is holding 3rd place but being harassed by Pessimist. Some supreme driving by millen creates the necessary gap, only to find Jase charging through the pack like a man possessed. Some truly inspiring driving and clean passing putting Torro Rosso teammate back into contention in 3rd place.
A scare for the Torro Rosso camp was next, when Jase and a slow moving Fredz connect in the tunnel, sending Jase sideways into the wall and millen back through into 3rd place. Not Jase's night.
Meanwhile, sora, zdevio, effing, grey g and toggsie were battling it out in the middle pack, with the occasional errors from the drivers causing positions to change hands. It was a theme that would continue for the rest of the race, with those with the least errors resulting in better positioning.
millen and Pessimist continued their epic battle for the minor podium spots, but Jase wasn't to be outdone, making yet another charge. On lap 12 Ploddy pits from P1, inserting back into 3rd ahead of Jase.
The next great challenge for the drivers was the rain. Coming in around lap 30, with only 9 laps to go and only moist, it was a hard call to go in for inters. All drivers decided to stay out and brave the conditions, with the front runners faring best in the conditions.
Race leader Ploddy's mettle was truly tested and it was showing in longer lap times, allowing millen to close a significant gap to under 10 seconds. A big factor in that was a huge incident up the top of Casino, when on lap 35, zdievo goes sideways and gets stuck, right in front of a P1 placed Ploddy. slamming on the brakes, it was too late, and Ploddy slaps the tank, mercifully bouncing around and carrying on, with no damage or penalty.
Heartbreak then struck the Williams driver, with Zdievo being disqualified, only a scant few laps from the finish. Absolutely gut wrenching for the young driver to have come so close and yet be denied a finish at the toughest circuit on the calendar.
From there, with the track drying up, the positions were set and it was a procession home for the pack. Ploddy, in his maiden win, crosses the line for victory, with a hard fighting and classy drive from millen bringing him home in 2nd. ET, recovering from his mishaps came home for a stellar 3rd to round out the podium.
Pessimist was the bubble boy, followed by the pacey but inconsistent Jase, then EffSea, rogue, sora3 then Fredz. Toggsie was next with his DNF, with zdievo last due to the DSQ.
So that's it from the Principality. A hearty congrats go to Ploddy and the Lotus team for the first win. The season is really hotting up now, with SoJ holding a slim lead in the WDC ahead of millen and Ploddy. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks pan out before SoJ and the prancing horses make their triumphant return. One thing's for sure, there are quite a few teams and drivers looking to capitalise on the reduced field.
|6||7||Effing Sea||Lotus||+1 lap||38||01:19.000||8||8|
|7||9||rogue eclipse||Williams||+3 laps||36||01:17.420||4||6|
|9||13||Fredzfrog||Red Bull||+4 laps||35||01:19.390||7||2|