Jefferies stays in the title hunt

Date posted on August 17, 2009 · Published by Mark Goddard

Axcil Jefferies kept his title hopes alive by taking two second places, one third and a fourth place finish over the four race Sentul round of the Formula BMW Pacific Series. Team mate, Chris Wootton, suffered a character building weekend with two non-finishes on Saturday but bounced back to finish sixth from last on the grid in the final race.

Qualifying had been an exciting affair with the top spot constantly changing between Jefferies, Haryanto, Fahmi and Thompson. Jefferies held top spot with a couple of minutes to go only to be pipped at the post by Haryanto and Fahmi. “My last lap was going to be quicker but I was baulked by a slower car” reported a disappointed Jefferies. Sepang pole position holder, Chris Wootton, secured fifth place on the grid, just five tenths off fastest lap.

Jefferies finished a disappointed fourth in race one, after an exciting drive through the field. Jefferies was in third place after the first lap right on the tail of Rio Haryanto when the safety car was deployed to retrieve a car from the turn three gravel. At the re-start Axcil drew alongside Haryanto and, in his attempt to pass around the outside of his title rival in turn one, ran out of road and dropped to ninth place. He then produced a measured drive through the field to finish a chastened fourth. Chris Wootton had made a good start from fifth on the grid but a trip through the gravel on lap four damaged a brake line. Perhaps fortunately his engine expired at the following corner allowing Chris to coast to the pit lane before he ran of brake fluid.

Race two saw Haryanto take the lead from Fahmi and Jefferies. Axcil was frustrated as Fahmi’s pace allowed Haryanto to pull away but he kept his head and waited for an opportunity to pass, which he did at Turn six in a daring out braking maneuver. Jefferies finished the race just 1.7 seconds behind the leader and proved he had the pace to win but the race had been lost in the laps stuck behind Fahmi.

Chris Wootton was again right with the leaders in the early laps before another trip through the gravel resulted in retirement with damage to the car. It was bitter moment for drivers and team, the mechanics having changed the engine in just over an hour between he races.

Race three, on Sunday morning, saw Jefferies start fourth and Wootton tenth, starting positions being determined by the finishing positions of race one. Jefferies had been in contention in the early laps but on lap three he ran wide and the ensuing moment saw him drop to seventh place. Another drive through the field saw him finally take third spot, demonstrating again he had the speed to win. Wootton meanwhile completed a measured drive to finish seventh.

The final race saw Haryanto and Jefferies pull away from the field and for many tense laps Axcil put tremendous pressure on the leader. The tactic almost paid off when Haryanto made a mistake in turn six, allowing Jefferies to draw alongside. Axcil perhaps demonstrated his inexperience by giving too much room to his rival and a wheel on the grass saw him drop back. Haryanto, who has a season and a half of Formula BMW and Formula Renault under his belt, did his best to pull away but Jefferies was soon back on his tail. A sideways moment with two laps to go blunted the attack and Jefferies took the flag in second place. “Every race I am adding to my experience and I am sure at Singapore I can add to my Formula BMW race win tally” remarked Jefferies.

Chris Wootton started eleventh on the grid and in another mature drive fought his way up to sixth place. Team and driver were disappointed with the results in an event where Wootton was expected to shine but the manner in which he was able to bounce back after his disastrous Saturday demonstrates he should be back on form for the next event which supports the Singapore GP.

The driver’s championship is now between three drivers, Jefferies, Haryanto and Thompson with 22 points covering first to third.