Photo: Auto GP
Two drivers were a cut above the rest in the Auto GP season opener at Monza, taking a race win each and sharing the points lead…
Comitting to Auto GP was a pretty last minute decision for both Adrian Quaife-Hobbs and Pal Varhaug, but the pair ended up becoming the stars of the opening round of the season at Monza. Both had been chasing drives in other categories (FR3.5 and GP2 respectively), but were forced to settle, for now, with Auto GP.
Quaife-Hobbs took pole position in qualifying, just about resisting the efforts of 16-year-old Russian Sergey Sirotkin. British driver Quaife-Hobbs duly converted pole to victory in the first race, the GP3 race winner finishing ahead of Italian F3 champion Sergio Campana and Varhaug.
Campana was later penalised after his team changed the front tyres on his car instead of the required rear tyres at the mandatory pitstop. This handed second to Varhaug, with Daniel De Jong taking the final podium spot. Argentina’s Facu Regalia was fourth, ahead of Chris van der Drift and Giacomo Ricci.
Sirotkin lost out after stalling his car at the start, recovering to 14th place a lap down but taking the bonus point for fastest lap.
The second race saw the top eight on the grid reversed, but it would be fourth-row starter Varhaug who would take advantage of a quick pitstop to win. Van der Drift took second place, with Quaife-Hobbs coming through to third after picking his way through a messy scrap between a number of drivers.
Sirotkin also worked his way through to take fourth right behind Quaife-Hobbs, with polesitter Antonio Spavone fifth and early race leader Max Snegirev sixth.
Neither driver may have wanted to be racing in Auto GP this year, but judging by this weekend it seems as though title attacks could do wonders for both Quaife-Hobbs and Varhaug before moving on up for 2013.
The duo are tied for the points lead on 38 points, 13 ahead of van der Drift. The second round takes place at Valencia in three weeks’ time.
PaddockScout Driver of the weekend: Pal Varhaug – Norwegian GP2 reject began the weekend slowly but improved as it went on to deliver a fine performance in Sunday’s race. The perfect way for him to bounce back after a difficult 2011.
PaddockScout Index update: Varhaug is the top scorer of the weekend using our points system, with him and Quaife-Hobbs taking up 13th and 14th places behind the Toyota Racing Series gang. Click here to view the rankings.