Bamber wins after Perera penalized
Earl Bamber (FC Porto) ended his incredible fairytale story with victory in the most exciting Super Final in Superleague Formula by Sonangol history to collect a check for €100,000 after a thrilling battle in the six-car, five-lap, dash-for-cash weekend-ending race at Ordos International Circuit.
However his win was only confirmed after the race when Franck Perera (Bordeaux), the winner on the road, was penalized three seconds for lining up in the wrong position on the grid.
The Frenchman should have started fifth, but took the sixth-place grid slot by mistake meaning Bamber had to line-up out of sequence just behind. Perera was immediately into second place at the first corner when Ben Hanley (Olympiacos) ran into the back of pole sitter and GU Racing team mate Max Wissel (FC Basel), while Davide Rigon (RSC Anderlecht) spun in avoidance.
What followed for the next few laps was an incredible three-car battle as Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan) led but immediately began to struggle with a slow puncture which allowed both Perera and series debutant Bamber to close up.
Perera and Bamber continuously swapped places as Buurman defended his lead, but the Dutchman’s pace was so slow that Rigon, who had lost eight seconds in his first corner rotation, caught up to make it a four-way battle for the win.
After several failed attempts, Perera eventually found a way through Buurman’s defenses on the fourth lap and was soon followed through by both Bamber and Rigon.
That order remained the same at the chequered flag as Perera enjoyed a first Super Final win for Bordeaux, but his celebrations soon turned sour when the stewards announced their decision.
The revised result means Bamber, who originally flew to China to provide co-commentary for the series’ television coverage and had to borrow all his race kit from fellow competitors, leaves Ordos with a check for €100,000.
Perera had to settle for €75,000 after dropping to second place post race, while Rigon was pleased to recover to take third, maintain his points lead and extend his total prize money this season to €650,000.
Earlier, in race 2, Frederic Vervisch (Liverpool) made it 15 different winners from this season’s 20 feature races with a comfortable 7.625 second victory ahead of Wissel.
The Belgian, who retired early from race 1 with an engine failure, rewarded his team’s hard work in changing the powerplant between races with a near-faultless drive from third on the grid.
With front row starters John Martin (Beijing Guoan) and Robert Doornbos (Corinthians) both absent at the start due to the accident damage they sustained in race 1, Andy Soucek (Flamengo) started on pole position and the Spaniard led the early stages before a mistake on lap 6 saw him spin on the exit of the chicane and drop down the order.
That handed Vervisch the lead and, apart from a grassy moment on the lap prior to his compulsory pit stop, the 24-year-old was consistently fast, pulling out a ten-second advantage before easing off at the finish.
Second place went to Wissel after a breathtaking drive from 18th on the grid. He made up seven places on the first lap alone and then picked off all his rivals one by one prior to the stops. He collected two more spots after pitting and second at the line saw him collect a massive 90-point haul from the two main races to move him into the thick of the championship race.
A disappointed Soucek recovered from his earlier spin to take third, but felt he should have won the race save for the mistake.
Further down the field the order changed constantly in what was one of the most entertaining races of the season so far.
Race 1 winner Hanley did a fine job to climb from the very back of the field to finish fourth, making a whole host of passing moves en-route, including a late one on Adrian Valles (Sporting Lisbon) who came home in fifth.
Perera took sixth ahead of Yelmer Buurman (AC Milan) and Rigon, while Marcos Martinez (Sevilla) fell away to ninth after running second prior to the pit stops.
For Craig Dolby (Tottenham Hotspur) the race was a tail of what might have been. The British driver made a stunning start to go from 16th on the first lap to fifth and ahead of all his championship rivals, but threw away his hopes of an incredible result a couple of tours later when he spun off while trying to go around the outside of Valles for fourth. He ultimately fought back for tenth.
In the championship race, Rigon still leads but Wissel has jumped into second place just seven points behind. Dolby and Olympiacos are tied on 616 points in third and fourth with Buurman still in contention, 44 points off the lead in fifth.
Earl Bamber (FC Porto): “I started this weekend as a co-commentator and I’m ending it by winning the Super Final! It’s crazy. It’s been a big learning experience because I haven’t raced much for 18 months, but it’s great to be back and to race in Superleague Formula. The cars are really challenging to drive and you have to be right on the limit. The Super Final was one of the best races I have ever been involved with and I’d like to do a few more of them!”
Franck Perera (Bordeaux): “The Super Final was a big fight and I don’t really know what happened at the start. I’ve had a difficult few years and haven’t been able to do a full season. The team have worked so hard this weekend. They didn’t sleep at all on Friday and I’d like to say a massive thank you to them for this result even though we lost the win.”
Davide Rigon (RSC Anderlecht): “I’ve had a lot of bad luck this weekend unfortunately but the important thing is that I have scored a lot of points, even though FC Basel has caught me up a bit in the championship. I made a good start to the Super Final but Max braked too early and Ben too late and I spun to avoid them. The championship is still wide open but I’m leading at the moment and if I have some luck then I can win it.”