Rao fights back to take title fight down to the wire at Donington
Matt Rao victory on Race 2 prevented Hongwei Cao to take the title.
At Donington Park this morning Matt Rao (Fortec Motorsport) denied team-mate Hongwei Cao the opportunity to wrap up the 2014 title, and he did it in fine style taking both the win and the extra point for fastest lap of the race. Third place went to Camren Kaminsky (Double R Racing) though it might have been very different.
At the start Rao made a tremendous getaway and was alongside poleman Kaminsky by the time they reached Redgate. Before the race was a lap old he was through into the lead, and Cao was on the American’s tail. He too powered through for 2nd but by then Rao was starting to open up a gap, something he would continue to do for most of the rest of the race.
That left Kaminsky to the tender mercies of his own team-mate, Max Marshall, the Double R duo battling it out for 3rd. At the Melbourne Hairpin Marshall tried to dive up the inside of Kaminsky, but the two clashed and Marshall sustained a puncture to his front right hand tyre.
Marshall pitted for a new tyre, leaving 3rd to Kaminsky, although Li Zhi Cong (Carlin) did attempt to relieve him of it shortly afterwards. The move came to nothing and that was it for overtaking for the remainder of the 21 laps. However, there were still points of interest as the race developed.
Rao set about pushing very hard, opening the gap to Cao by around a second a lap, and netting himself a series of fastest laps as he did so, no doubt fully aware that he needed to score as many points as possible to keep his championship hopes alive to the final race of the championship this afternoon. Certainly Cao couldn’t live with his pace this morning.
Meanwhile, at the back, Marshall had rejoined around 50 seconds down and was revelling in having a clear track in front of him as he pushed to catch up with Li and Kaminsky. He was certainly considerably faster than both of them. In fact he was faster than everyone as proved when he set a new fastest lap of the race as he played catch up.
The gap at the front was still growing and was now over 4 seconds but Rao was going to need to push to get that fastest lap back from Marshall. If he couldn’t, and they finished in the current order, Cao would go into the final race with a 21 point lead, which Rao was keen to avoid.
The message must have got through because suddenly Rao was showing purple sector times (fastest overall in that sector) as he pushed ever harder. The effort paid off and with two thirds of the distance done, he was again the fastest driver out there. That would at least reduce Cao’s advantage by a point. Now the question was could Marshall go any quicker. As it turned out, he couldn’t, despite reducing his deficit to Li by half by the time they crossed the line for the final time.
And so Rao claimed a dominant victory over Cao, though it may turn out that he was merely postponing the inevitable. He starts the last race from pole, but because the field is so small, even if Rao wins again and scores another fastest lap point, all Cao has to do is finish the race.
Stranger things have happened but it does seem highly likely that the Chinese driver will be crowned 2014 Champion by around 4.30 this afternoon. 3rd was Kaminsky, from Li with Marshall around 25 seconds adrift in the end though you had to wonder what he might have done had he not had that puncture.
Fastest lap – as already mentioned – was set by Rao.
Race 2 Results:
1st – No. 7, Matt Rao, GBR, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 21 laps, 29:53.805
2nd – No. 57, Martin Cao, CHN, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, gap 17.891
3rd – No. 34, Camren Kaminsky, USA, Double R Racing, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, gap 22.561
4th – No. 1, Li Zhi Cong, CHN, Carlin, Dallara F308, Volkswagen, gap 23.522
5th – No. 18, Max Marshall, GBR, Double R Racing, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, gap 49.778
Fastest lap: No. 7, Matt Rao, GBR, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F312, HWA Mercedes, 1:24.429, lap 14, 106.05mph, 170.68kph
Cao benefits from Rao's startline error at Donington
Rao wins race but Cao takes title at Donington