FR3.5 » 1 May 2005
WS Zolder 2005: Kubica's strategy pays dividends.
A breath-taking second World Series by Renault event held the full attention of the 52,000 spectators present at Zolder, with pre-season pace-setter Robert Kubica eventually coming out on top.
In daring to adopt a different tyre-change strategy to the leaders, the Epsilon Euskadi team helped the Pole take victory ahead of Andreas Zuber - who collected his second runners-up spot in as many outings - and Markus Winkelhock.
The formation lap got underway without Christian Montanari, Winkelhock's Draco Multiracing team-mate falling victim to engine problems before racing had even begun. The San Marino driver joined Ivan Bellarosa on the sidelines, after the Avelon driver had been forced to withdraw when repairs could not be made to the engine he broke in the first race. Alx Danielsson, Colin Fleming, Stefano Proetto and Daniel la Rosa were all frustrated spectators, having been ruled out after a qualifying accident on Saturday.
Polesitter Will Power failed to capitalise on his qualifying pace by getting off to a poor start and allowing race one winner Enrico Toccacelo to take the advantage. Right from the word go, Power was unable to attack the leader, as Jaap van Lagen, racing for the Belgian-based KTR team, was right on his tail. Adrian Valles, Kubica, Tristan Gommendy and Winkelhock were also in close attendance, the leading septet breaking away in a compact group.
By the third lap, Toccacelo and Power had finally managed to create some breathing space back to van Lagen and the chasing pack, which continued to provide its own excitement, Winkelhock passing Gommendy for sixth on lap four.
After the earlier sprint event, race two added the unpredictability of mandatory tyre changes, which had to be performed between the fifth and 18th laps. Toccacelo and Power were still nose to tail at the point pit-lane opened, but the Australian made a costly error two laps later, allowing van Lagen to close in and eventually take second place.
Toccacelo, Valles, Karun Chandhok and Frederic Vervisch were the last drivers to make their compulsory stops, with Toccacelo and Valles not coming in until the 16th lap. However, it was Kubica, who had stopped very early on, who inherited the lead, leaving Toccacelo holding on to second place in front of Winkelhock, van Lagen, Zuber, Simon Pagenaud, Valles, Celso Miguez, Damien Pasini and Patrick Pilet.
Whilst the final few stoppers, including van Lagen, were in the pits, Eric Salignon suffered a high-speed impact with the tyre wall, requiring the safety car to hold the pack until lap 18 while the wreckage was removed. With the field now bunched up, the remaining five laps promised to bring a thrilling finish, with Toccacelo keen to regain top spot after losing it in the pits - something reminiscent of his FIA F3000 season in 2004!
Not long after van Lagen had looped his car into a long spin, Toccacelo was also removed from the equation, receiving a nudge from another driver and ending his afternoon in the gravel trap. Miguez also fell by the wayside, reducing the pack even further.
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