Premat Wins Dramatic Race One
|By David Cameron||Saturday, August 20th 2005, 13:52 GMT|
Alex Premat held his nerve under intense pressure from Giorgio Pantano to take the first ever race win at the new Istanbul Park circuit, winning race one by just three tenths of a second.
Pantano threw everything he had at the Frenchman, with the pair trading fastest laps and running together for sixteen laps. They were joined on the podium by an overjoyed Borja Garcia, who overtook Nelson Piquet Jr for third with just three laps remaining.
Pole-sitter Nico Rosberg led the grid off the line at the start of the race, with fellow front row starter Scott Speed pushing left to hold a fast starting Pantano at bay, allowing Jose Maria Lopez into second at the first turn.
Speed blew back past the Argentinean going up the hill, while behind them Premat passed Piquet for fifth place and Hiroki Yoshimoto powered by Garcia to put himself just outside of the points in ninth.
As the field came around to complete the first lap, Neel Jani oversteered off the track and solidly hit the pit entrance wall. With the Swiss driver's car stuck in the entrance there was no choice but to bring out the safety car.
In the next two laps every driver bar four - Rosberg, Speed, Lopez and Mathias Lauda - came in for their compulsory pitstops.
When the race went green again, the four were at the front of the field, and Rosberg and Speed started trading fastest laps in an effort to pull out a gap to the rest of the field, aided by the comparatively slower pace of the Austrian driver.
And then there was just one. On lap eight Rosberg dramatically slowed, limping his way back to the pits with a bent exhaust and damaged gearbox, the result of a collision with Speed. The impact didn't seem to slow the American, who continued setting fastest laps as the rest of the field struggled to find a way past Lauda.
Three laps later Yoshimoto, who had been on a charge all race, passed both Garcia and Heikki Kovalainen, who was struggling to find any pace, and was shaping up to make a move on Juan Cruz Alvarez before outbraking himself and spinning off harmlessly, dropping back to nineteenth position.
Back at the front Speed also spun, but his gap over second placed Lopez was so great that it made no difference to his position. The American was immediately back on the pace and setting fastest laps again.
On lap sixteen the running order was Speed, Lopez, Premat, Pantano, Piquet, Alvarez and Lauda. Behind the Austrian was a queue of drivers - Garcia, Clivio Piccione, Nicolas Lapierre, Gimmi Bruni and Adam Carroll - and they had clearly had enough of seeing the rear of Lauda's car.
In the tight complex of corners between the long back straight and the front straight four drivers ran past the Austrian, with Garcia, Bruni and Lapierre running three wide into the final corner.
It was never going to work - Bruni tapped the back of Lapierre, and the Frenchman spun in front of him as Garcia squeezed by. Both men were out on the spot, and the safety car was back on track to allow their cars to be removed from the front straight.
Speed and Lopez were straight into the pits, but the gamble to go on a different strategy to the rest of the field didn't work - they came out in seventh and eighth places respectively.
Premat led Pantano and Piquet away at the restart on lap 20, with Alvarez, Garcia and Piccione following the trio through. It was the moment Premat was waiting for - he started to push for all he was worth, and Pantano was the only man who could stay with him.
Speed was able to overtake Piccione and Alvarez over the next two laps, but Garcia was able to pull away slightly as his pursuers slowed a little with the passes. It was enough to give him a cushion which was to remain for the rest of the race.
Premat and Pantano were setting a blistering pace out front, and Piquet had no answer for it. With Speed pushing hard behind him, Garcia had the incentive to push his car to the maximum, and he was soon able to catch up to the Brazilian in third place.
With Speed now setting new fastest laps each time around Garcia knew it was a case of eat or be eaten - on lap 31 he forced his way past Piquet to claim the final podium position, putting the Brazilian between himself and his fast pursuer.
Further back Yoshimoto, furious at himself for the spin which had undone all of his good work, was also on a blistering pace - with three laps to go he was in ninth place and on the tail of Olivier Pla.
With time running out Pantano was getting increasingly desperate to find a way past Premat - on the final lap he tried to force his way up the inside at turn one but locked his wheels, losing vital tenths in the move.
The Italian pushed to the maximum, getting back onto Premat's rear wing by the final corner, but it was not enough - Premat took the win by just three tenths over Pantano, with Garcia coming across the line nine seconds later to claim his first GP2 podium finish.
Piquet, whose tyres were absolutely shot, had just enough in him to hold off Speed for fourth place, with Lopez and Carroll following them across the line. Behind them Yoshimoto covered himself in glory, claiming eighth and tomorrow's pole position by muscling his way by Pla on the final lap of the most dramatic race so far seen in the series.
CLASSIFIED: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Premat ART Grand Prix 1h 1:27.680 2. Pantano Super Nova International + 0.336 3. Garcia Racing Engineering + 9.486 4. Piquet Jr. Hitech Piquet Sports + 10.987 5. Speed iSport International + 13.076 6. Lopez DAMS + 18.449 7. Carroll Super Nova International + 19.558 8. Yoshimoto BCN Competicion + 21.128 9. Pla DPR + 21.615 10. Kovalainen Arden International + 28.630 11. Artam iSport International + 30.582 12. Negrao Hitech Piquet Sports + 38.315 13. Mondini DPR + 40.033 14. Viso BCN Competicion + 48.068 15. Alvarez Campos Racing + 50.424 16. Lauda Coloni Motorsport + 52.408 17. Rosberg ART Grand Prix + 2 Laps NOT CLASSIFIED/RETIREMENTS: Driver Team On lap Monfardini Durango 26 Piccione Durango 23 Lapierre Arden International 16 Bruni Coloni Motorsport 16 Fauzy DAMS 10 Hernandez Campos Racing 2 Jani Racing Engineering 0 Fastest lap: Scott Speed, 1:38.288 on lap 34 2005 Championship Standings, Round 9 (Race 16) Drivers: Teams: 1. Kovalainen 79 1. ART Grand Prix 127 2. Rosberg 74 2. Arden International 92 3. Speed 56 3. Super Nova International 72 4. Premat 53 4. iSport International 58 5 Jani 40 5. Racing Engineering 50 6. Carroll 36 6. Coloni Motorsport 36 = Pantano 36 7. Hitech Piquet Sports 31 8. Bruni 33 8. DAMS 28 9. Piquet Jr. 29 9. DPR 20 10 Lopez 28 10. BCN Competicion 16 11. Pla 18 11. Durango 15 12. Piccione 14 12. Campos Racing 3 13 Lapierre 13 14. Yoshimoto 11 15. Garcia 10 16. Viso 5 17. Hernandez 3 = Lauda 3 19. Artam 2 = Negrao 2 = Sharp 2 22. Monfardini 1