Chandhok scores emotional first win
Karun Chandhok was possibly the most delighted man to stand on a podium at the fabled Spa Francorchamps circuit after powering to the win in race two this morning, setting up the win by blasting past Andy Soucek, who held off Lucas di Grassi in the closing stages of the race, to bring home his first victory in the GP2 series.
And although all eyes were on the popular Indian driver at the end of the race, most of the conversation before it revolved around championship leader Timo Glock, who was knocked off track by Ricardo Risatti as the field made their way to the grid, ruining an already seriously compromised weekend for the German and closing his lead over di Grassi even further in the penultimate weekend.
Risatti put his wheels on the grass as he circulated, which threw his car straight into the sidepod of the iSport vehicle: Glock had no chance to avoid him and was pushed straight into the wall, damaging the front of his car and destroying any chance of adding to his solitary point this weekend for fastest lap in race one.
But when the lights went out all that was forgotten for the time being: poleman Ho-pin Tung was slow off the line, allowing fellow front row starter Chandhok to get by, but Soucek was even faster away from third to lead the Indian driver through La Source, while Tung went wide after being caught out of position. Behind them di Grassi made his usual sharp start to follow the leading pair through the turn.
Mike Conway was very slow to get off the line, which bunched up the field a bit, and with Nicolas Lapierre stalling completely there were cars weaving all over the front straight looking for a way to get by. Javier Villa was the next man through the first corner after a very fast start, just ahead of Tung, Vitaly Petrov, Luca Filippi and, remarkably, Bruno Senna from the back of the grid, while Markus Niemela was a little too eager to get through the turn, knocking Adrian Zaugg out of the race as he tried to get by.
The Super Nova pair were on a march, with Filippi blasting by Petrov at the back of the circuit while Conway, desperate to make up for his poor start, sliced his way back through the field to be on his teammate's tail by the end of the next lap: the inter-team fight was set to run for the rest of race. The battle at the front was red hot too: Chandhok was pushing Soucek for all he was worth, but the Spaniard was driving inch perfect lines and would not be denied. The pace was so good in fact that di Grassi couldn't stay with the pair, and soon had Tung pushing for a podium position.
Villa was soon into the pits for a drive through penalty, the result of a jumped start, pushing himself out of contention for another points finish and Conway up into the points. Just behind him Senna was looking comfortable, while Petrov behind him was far less so: Adam Carroll was monstering him all along the top straight, pushing outside and staying there for the next few corners to take the position at Blanchimont.
The fighting all over the circuit was fast and furious, but it wasn't until lap 11 that Chandhok could make the move stick: after getting a huge tow along the straight he went to the outside of Soucek and blew past, just holding the line into the turn and was gone.
Behind them passes were now coming thick and fast: Senna ran straight at the bus stop to allow Carroll by, while Conway's monstering of Filippi finally paid off as the Italian ran too deep at the end of the straight as Conway zipped inside, and with shot tires he had nothing left to defend from Carroll at the end of the straight the next time around.
And so it finished: a deeply delighted Chandhok won by 1.5 seconds from Soucek, with di Grassi just holding on for a podium ahead of Tung, who was comfortably ahead of Conway and Carroll when they crossed the line, while Lapierre showed he still had yesterday's pace despite stalling to take the point for fastest lap. With Chandhok weeping in celebration on the top step of the podium thoughts could finally turn to the championship positions: di Grassi's third place closed the gap going into the final round of the season to just two points behind Glock, 79 to 77.
Eleven winners from ten teams so far, and two points at the top of the table as we go into the final weekend: Valencia promises to be unmissable.
Pos Driver Team Behind Laps
1 K. Chandhok Durango - 18
2 A. Soucek DPR 1.531 18
3 L. Di Grassi ART 2.682 18
4 H. Tung BCN Comp. 2.975 18
5 M. Conway Super Nova 3.728 18
6 A. Carroll FMS 5.636 18
7 L. Filippi Super Nova 6.707 18
8 B. Senna Arden 8.837 18
9 K. Nakajima DAMS 9.305 18
10 R. Rodriguez Minardi 12.919 18
11 V. Petrov Campos 20.241 18
12 A. Zuber iSport 20.379 18
13 K. Hirate Trident 21.096 18
14 G. Pantano Campos 22.765 18
15 J. Villa Racing Eng. 23.033 18
16 A. Negrão Minardi 28.532 18
17 B. Garcia Durango 34.522 18
18 R. Risatti Trident 40.017 18
19 A. Zaugg Arden 53.408 18
20 J. Tahinci FMS 61.477 18
21 N. Lapierre DAMS 100.001 18
22 C. Bakkerud DPR - 12
23 S. Buemi ART - 4
24 M. Martinez Racing Eng. - 3
25 N. Markus BCN Comp. - 0
26 T. Glock iSport - 0