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Ghirelli moves into championship lead with Donington victory

by Valentin Khorounzhiy

Photo: Auto GP World Series

Italian driver Vittorio Ghirelli has taken the championship lead in the Auto GP series, following a victory in race one at Donington, which also saw former points leader Kimiya Sato record a non-finish.

There was nothing in the beginning of the race to suggest that Ghirelli was on route to take his second win of the year, as the Italian lost out to Kevin Giovesi off the line for second place, while his teammate and poleman Narain Karthikeyan confidently held the lead. The leading trio then pulled away from the rest of the field and, eventually, Ghirelli wrestled the position back from the Ghinzani driver.

Sato, who got bogged down at the start and found himself in seventh, opted for an early stop, which proved to be the right call, as, having left the pits, the Japanese driver began putting in quickest laps. With the leaders being slowed down by traffic and older tyres, Sato started making up a second per lap on the trio at the front, which prompted race leader Karthikeyan to come into the pits.

With the Indian opting for his mandatory stop, Sergio Campana soon followed suit, rejoining ahead of Sato, but almost immediately surrendering the position to the Euronova driver. However, a lap after his overtake, Sato lost control of the car into turn seven, beaching it in the gravel, which marked a premature end to his race.

As Giovesi was closing in on Ghirelli on the final laps, the duo opted to stop later than anyone else. Giovesi was impeded by a very slow stop, rejoining in third, while, crucially, a quick job from the Super Nova mechanics allowed Ghirelli to rejoin ahead of Karthikeyan and subsequently take the race win.

Having also opted for a late stop, Robert Visoiu took fourth, ahead of Campana and Daniel de Jong. Tamas Pal Kiss took seventh, while Meindert van Buuren secured eighth and the reverse-grid pole with a last lap pass on Andrea Roda. Yoshitaka Kuroda rounded out the top ten.

In the standings, Ghirelli now leads with 181 points. Sato sits at nine points behind, with Campana a further four down, while Karthikeyan remains an outside factor in the title fight with 147 points.

Race results
Pos. Driver Team Time/Gap
1 Vittorio Ghirelli Supernova International 21 laps in 28:06.082
2 Narain Karthikeyan Supernova International +0.479
3 Kevin Giovesi Ghinzani Motorsport +6.354
4 Robert Visoiu Ghinzani Motorsport +8.382
5 Sergio Campana Ibiza Racing Team +9.862
6 Daniel de Jong Manor MP Motorsport +10.708
7 Tamas Pal Kiss Ibiza Racing Team +14.510
8 Meindert van Buuren Manor MP Motorsport +35.074
9 Andrea Roda Virtuosi UK +36.257
10 Yoshitaka Kuroda Euronova Racing +40.971
11 Roberto La Rocca Comtec by Virtuosi +41.342
12 Maxim Snegirev Virtuosi UK +52.684
13 Michele La Rosa MLR 71 +1:04.529
Not classified
Kimiya Sato Euronova Racing +4 laps