Hyderabad Blackbirds powered by MP driver Mari Boya won Formula Regional Middle East’s night race at Yas Marina Circuit, profiting from drama as the main title contenders collided.
Andrea Kimi Antonelli and Taylor Barnard, the top two in the standings, started together on the front row and a fast start from the latter allowed him to pass the poleman straight away.
Sami Meguetounif managed to go from fifth to third on the opening lap, passing Rafael Camara and Boya. The eventual race winner reclaimed fourth from Camara around the outside of turn one on lap two, then cleared Meguetounif on lap four.
A lap later he found himself in the virtual lead as the two title contenders ahead got too close to each other. Antonelli tried a pass first at Turn 12, but could not make the inside line work, then dived down the inside of Barnard at the Turn 5 hairpin. But a big lock-up of his front-left tyre meant Barnard was able to get back ahead at the exit.
Barnard weaved all the way down the straight to the Turn 6/7 chicane, the final corners of the lap for FRegional due to using the support paddock’s pitlane and grid, and it was where the drama culminated. A light tap from Antonelli to Barnard’s rear spun the leader around and put Antonelli ahead, but he was swiftly handed a 10-second penalty for the contact.
Antonelli managed to extend his on-track lead over Boya to 1.345s over the next three laps, but Boya then set fastest lap and eventually brought the gap down to 0.827s. Although Antonelli then managed to move 1.4s clear, the gap to Boya was not the one he was worried about and his worst fears were realised when Giovanni Maschio suffered an engine failure and the race was forced to finish behind the safety car.
Any hope of a points finish were dashed for Antonelli, and he was classified one place behind the recovering Barnard in 15th.
Meguetounif and Camara ended up completing the podium behind Boya, and Lorenzo Fluxa was fourth.
Tim Tramnitz lost a points finish to a 10s penalty too, after spinning around Aiden Neate and hitting Sebastian Montoya at the Turn 6/7 chicane on lap one, and he spent much of the race battling with Pepe Marti and Nikhil Bohra over seventh place.
Nikola Tsolov scored on his FRegional debut in ninth, and Michael Shin survived a hit from Martinus Stenshorne – who came from last on the grid – to finish 10th.
Race result (16 laps)
|R&B Racing (GRS)
|Andrea Kimi Antonelli
|Fastest lap: Boya, 1m51.300s