Herbert takes Speedcar win as Johansson and Frentzen clash

Robert McKay watched the Speedcar action from Bahrain and sent in this report.

The second race of Speedcars fourth round was my first exposure to this new series, featuring American-like stockcars racing on permanent tracks in Asia as part of the Grand Racing Series, with a few famous names from Formula 1 thrown in for good measure.

Ukyo Katayama was the man on pole in the top-eight reverse grid, with a rolling start used to get things up and running. The man due to start alongside him, Hasher Al Makhtoum, pulled off the track on the warm-up lap with a technical problem, which was to be the first of many in an attrition-dominated race.

This effectively promoted Johnny Herbert to second, and he wasted no time in carving past Katayama to take the lead by getting better drive out of the first few corners. Behind him the biggest mover was German Uwe Alzen, a man on a mission after having his win in Saturday?s first race stripped from him because he was not wearing the mandatory HANS device.

Demoted to the back of the grid, Alzen scythed his way through the field to find himself in 4th at the end of lap one, behind Herbert, Navarro and Morbidelli. Former F1 champ Jacques Villeneuve, making his Speedcar debut this weekend, retired on the first lap with another mechanical failure.

Herbert immediately set about stamping his authority in the race, pulling away from Navarro and Morbidelli. Behind them three more former F1 men were battling hard, Stefan Johansson being pressured by a hard-charging Jean Alesi and Heinz-Harald Frentzen keeping them company. JJ Lehto and Katayama both suffered engine misfires, dropping them out of the running, and just as Herbert was beginning to look like cruising to victory, a gear-selection problem dropped him out of the reckoning, allowing Navarro into the lead.

Alzen came from a long way back to outbrake Morbidelli into turn one to move into second, and on lap 11 found a way past Navarro to take the lead, before Navarro had his own dramas, his car bucking wildly with what looked like a suspension problem as he dropped back through the field.

Alzen controlled the remainder of the race comfortably, but the race-long battle between Frentzen and Johansson provided plenty of excitement and drama as the two swapped places several times with some aggressive overtaking manoeuvres.

Johansson finally tired of this, nudging Frentzen into a spin on the final lap, as Alzen crossed the line to take his third victory in the series and make up for the disappointment of Saturday. Morbidelli took second, and Alesi?s third position sets up a tense final round in Dubai next week, giving him an advantage of just one point over Alzen.

So Speedcar seems to be an interesting series, featuring some good racing from decent drivers and plenty of touring-car style aggressive overtaking. Too many technical gremlins in the admittedly still-new cars plagues the series somewhat, coupled with a fairly lean grid in terms of numbers, but there is a decent championship underneath these complaints that should hopefully grow with time.

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