Brilliant Nurburgring victory extends Sato’s championship lead
Thanks to this result, the Japanese racer increased his advantage at the top of the overall chart. At the start of the race, he took advantage from the issues involving some of the drivers he had in front and improved to third behind Sergio Campana, who was off to a flying start for Ibiza Racing Team, and pole-sitter Roberto La Rocca (Comtec by Virtuosi). Then, thanks to an early pit-stop strategy set up by Vincenzo Sospiri and his team, Sato found some suitable conditions for his tires. When the stops were over, he managed to pass both Campana and La Rocca, who were also overtaken by Vittorio Ghirelli (Super Nova International) and Daniel De Jong (MP Motorsport) ending up outside the podium range. Both Ghirelli and De Jong were off to some steady recovery drives – the Italian took-off from row three, while the Dutchman achieved a stunning podium finish after starting last. Campana wounded up fourth, followed by Race 1 winner Narain Karthikeyan. The Indian racer paid the price of an early contact with Ghinzani Motorsport’s Robert Visoiu, who was later penalized.
In sixth, Hungarian Tamas Pal Kiss, driving for Ibiza Racing Team, recovered after suffering from a damaged front wing at the start to pass La Rocca in the closing stages. The Venezuelan rookie drove an aggressive race with no reverential awe towards his more experienced rivals, and ended up in 7th right in front of fellow rookie Michela Cerruti. At her series debut with the MLR71 team, the 26-year-old female racer brought the Italian squad back to the points zone, accomplishing the feature in both Race 1 and 2 despite her lack of experience with powerful open-wheel machinery.
Rounding out the top-10 were Andrea Roda (Virtuosi UK) and Kevin Giovesi (Ghinzani Motorsport). The latter was penalized 2-spots on the grid after the stewards found tape in an illegal position on his car. After losing contact with the frontrunners, the Italian racer could not repeat his Race 1 podium finish.
Kimiya Sato: “This win hands me back the championship lead at the end of an hard-fought weekend. I beat my most dangerous rival on-track, showing my skills and potential. I thank the team because both yesterday and today we showed to have a very well-performing car”.
Vittorio Ghirelli: “After starting so far back due to the reversed grid, this is the maximum we could achieve. We were very quick in practice, in qualifying and in both races. Now I’m close to the championship’s lead and I will try to attack at Donington Park”.
Daniel De Jong: “After yesterday’s DNF that forced me to start last today, scoring a podium finish is a great result for me. At the start I held onto the inside lane and kept my nose clean, so at the exit of the Mercedes Arena I was already 5th. I couldn’t defend from Sato because I was on colder tires, while Ghirelli was just faster but I’m still very happy”.
source: Auto GP, autogp.org
Brilliant Nurburgring victory extends Sato’s championship lead
Kimiya Sato took a thrilling victory at the Nurburgring this morning to extend his Championship lead to 13 points heading into the penultimate round in two week’s time.
An action packed race saw the Japanese driver start from the 3rd row, sandwiched between his rivals for the Championship; Campana and Ghirelli. Campana took the lead at the start with Sato and Ghirelli slotting into 3rd and 4th places. On lap 5 Sato passed La Rocca for 2nd and Ghirelli dived into the pits to change tyres. Sato followed him a lap later and crucially exited the pit-lane ahead of the Italian. At the end of lap 8 Campana made his stop and rejoined the race just ahead of the Sato-Ghirelli battle. Despite his cold tyres Campana held them off until La Rocca exited the pits ahead of the battling threesome. The Italian tried to pass him around the outside but was forced wide and Sato made the most of the confusion to nip down the inside passing both drivers.
With clear track ahead of him he pushed hard, setting the fastest lap of the race, and by the time Campana and Ghirelli had passed La Rocca he had a comfortable gap over the two drivers. The drama did not end there as on lap 13 de Jong made his pit-stop and rejoined in front of Sato. But Sato took advantage of de Jong’s cold tyres and passed him cleanly at the chicane. The final 10 laps of the race were incident free and Sato took the chequered flag with an 8.5 second gap over the rest of the field.
There was bad luck for Yoshitaka Kuroda who rocketed off the line but got no further than the first corner when a broken gear selector forced him into retirement.
The Auto GP Championship resumes in a fortnight’s time with a double header round at the Donington Park circuit.
Roberto La Rocca impresses on Auto GP debut
Venezuelan youngster takes two top-eight finishes and leads on maiden outing with Comtec By Virtuosi
Roberto La Rocca made an immediate impact and was racing right at the front on his debut in the 2013 Auto GP World Series at the Nurburgring in Germany last weekend (August 16-18).
The Venezuelan pilot, who had been racing in Formula 3, got the chance to make the step up to Auto GP after impressing in a recent test and despite his lack of experience he was a very promising eighth in practice in his Comtec By Virtuosi-run car.
He then set the twelfth quickest time in qualifying, only a couple of tenths off a place inside the-top ten, before proceeding to run strongly in the two races.
Indeed in the opening race on Saturday, the current US F2000 Champion made a good start and moved up to tenth early on. He then slipped back a bit, before hauling his way back up the order to take eighth. That meant he not only scored points in his very first Auto GP race, but also, due to the reverse grid rules, it gave him pole position for the second race the following day.
On Sunday, the 22-year-old shined again, and in the first half, ran in the top-three – including leading for two laps – until he had to make his mandatory pit stop. He re-joined with the front runners and enjoyed a good dice with Narain Karthikeyan until the final tour, when the former F1 racer pushed him into a half-spin and got by and into P5. Despite that, Roberto recovered well and still crossed the line in seventh as the top rookie.
“It has been a good weekend for me and our pace was very encouraging,” said Roberto. “We were able to run at the front of the field and we were able to set similar times to the top drivers. We can be happy about that.
“We also led a few laps in the second race. Then we came into the pits and when we came out we were with the lead group again. Fighting with those guys on cold tyres – it probably took about two laps for them to come in and get up to temperature – was very tough, but at the same time it was good fun.
“The highlight for me this weekend was battling with Narain Karthikeyan. I was able to hold him off for 10 or so laps until he got me at the end. That is nothing to be ashamed of however. He has got a ton of experience and to be able to be racing against someone like him was excellent, especially in my first weekend in Auto GP.
“It was also my first time doing races with pit stops. That was another new experience, but I really enjoyed it.
“We did have a few issues with the car. We kept getting a lot of rear tyre lock-ups in every braking zone and that cost us quite a bit of time. Unfortunately we weren’t able to fix that, but with only one practice session time was short. I am sure we would have been even quicker but for that and perhaps we could have finished a few places higher up too.”
“Overall though, the experience gained this weekend has been invaluable and the team was excellent. I learned a lot and while I’d rather finish further up than P7 and P8, there is no doubt this is an excellent starting point,” added the Accelerate Driver Development Ltd (ADD)-affiliated youngster.
Roberto now heads to Donington Park in the UK in two weeks time (August 31-September 1) for his second outing in AutoGP, the penultimate round in the 2013 Auto GP World Series.
“I’ve never raced at Donginton, but I keep hearing it is a quick track with some high speed corners and I like the sound of that,” Roberto continued. “We will have three hours on the Thursday for testing and that will be a good thing. It will give me time to learn the circuit and really get the car dialled in. This weekend we only had the one 45-minute practice session and we were the first cars on track and so it was very green and dirty. It made it challenging to find a really good set-up.
“But I think we are looking good for Donington and I am sure we can improve on what we achieved this weekend.”
MANOR MP MOTORSPORT BACK ON PODIUM IN AUTO GP
Leading AUTO GP team Manor MP Motorsport made a richly deserved return to the podium at the Nurburgring in Germany on Sunday, 18th August, thanks to a remarkable drive to third place, from the back of the grid, by Dutch racer Daniël De Jong.
Although the Westmaas-based squad’s AUTO GP campaign this season has been beset with some misfortune, 21-year-old De Jong showed the pace and performance which has always been there and added more silverware to the second place finish he achieved in Morocco back in April.
Lining-up at the back of the grid for round 12 of the season, following a frustrating retirement from race one on Saturday, 17th August, which was caused by opening lap contact from another driver, De Jong made a fantastic launch from the line to gain four places by the time he reached Turn One.
Moving to the inside through the right-hander, as others delayed each other on the outside of the corner, De Jong rocketed up the order and climbed into sixth position by the time he entered the second turn. As the mandatory pit-stops started to take place, De Jong kept pushing and by the start of lap 12 he was in the lead of the race.
Serving his tyre-change stop at the conclusion of lap 13, De Jong rejoined at the front of the pack after great work by the Manor MP Motorsport mechanics. On cold tyres, though, the Dutchman wasn’t able to keep the leading drivers on up-to-temperature Kumhos at bay and so slipped to third within a couple of laps.
“After not finishing Saturday’s race, scoring a podium from the back in race two was a really great way to end the weekend”, said De Jong, “At the start I held the inside, kept my nose clean, and at the exit of the Mercedes Arena I was already in fifth. It was a great race for us, I’m very happy.”
For team-mate Meindert van Buuren, the weekend was one of mixed fortunes with 12th place in race one the highlight for the 18-year-old. His involvement in round 12 on Sunday came to an abrupt end before racing had actually begun due to an unfortunate spin on the lap to the starting grid.
Qualifying seventh fastest for Saturday’s 11th round, van Buuren was shuffled to eighth on the exit of Turn One at the start of the race but quickly made his way back into seventh and settled into a good rhythm in the leading pack.
Climbing into the top six by lap seven as the pit-stops began to be served, the Dutch youngster made his way into fifth but then slipped to eighth following his pit visit on lap 12. Unfortunately for van Buuren he had to serve a drive-through penalty late in the final quarter of the race, having been adjudged by officials to have exceeded track limits. He, therefore, eventually finished in 12th place.
“It’s fantastic we’ve finished on the podium this weekend thanks to a great drive from Daniël, but we’re obviously disappointed for Meindert as he had good pace and deserved much more from the first race”, said team principal Sander Dorsman, “Both guys had some bad luck but we proved the pace is there. Hopefully we can be on the podium again at Donington in a couple of weeks.”
Donington Park Grand Prix Circuit in the UK will host the penultimate event of the AUTO GP season, rounds 13 and 14, a fortnight from now on Saturday, 31st August, and Sunday, 1st September.