10 July 2005
Le Mans WS 2005: Winkelhock becomes sixth winner.
Markus Winkelhock became the sixth winner in as many races in the World Series by Renault this season, the German beating countryman Daniel la Rosa and Robert Kubica in the first of the day's races at Le Mans.
Winkelhock had qualified on the pole, but it was Tristan Gommendy who made the best start to lead from third on the grid. The rest of the field - already minus Jaap van Lagen and Karun Chandhok after the series again clamped down on dangerous driving - got away with several changes in order, but still made it through the first chicane without incident. However, Giovanni Tedeschi then spoilt the impression by running into Damien Pasini, while Alx Danielsson failed to complete lap one, reducing the field by three.
The safety car was called out as a result of the rescue operation, allowing la Rosa - who had qualified fifth - to settle into an unaccustomed third place behind Gommendy and Winkelhock. The Interwetten.com pilot was followed by points leader Robert Kubica, Will Power, Eric Salignon, Enrico Toccacelo, Andreas Zuber, Patrick Pilet - all in grid order - while Simon Pagenaud occupied tenth place
Racing resumed on lap three, without any further changes as the field streamed back towards the chicane, but Gommendy's lead was to be short-lived as his lightning start was adjudged to have been a mite too quick, and he was handed a drive-through penalty. The Frenchman, a race winner last time out, pitted to serve his punishment after eight laps, handing control of the race to Winkelhock and rejoining back in 16th.
There was more bad news for the home crowd too as, with Danielsson already sidelined, DAMS' poor luck continued on home soil continued when stand-in Raffaele Giammaria spun off on lap five.
From then on, Winkelhock was well on his way to his first victory of the season. No-one appeared keen to take risks that may compromise their chances for the second race later in the day and the top ten remained unchanged as a result, with the German heading la Rosa and Kubica across the line.
"My start was nothing special but, in the heat of the moment, I thought Tristan had simply got off to a flyer," Winkelhock admitted, "I only understood exactly what had happened when I saw he had picked up a drive-through penalty. From then on, my car just got better and better, and I got into a good rhythm which meant I was able open out a gap without taking too many risks."
For la Rosa, stepping onto the podium was something of a new experience.
"We had quite a few problems in free practice, as we couldn't seem to find the right set-up," he revealed, doubting that he would be in a position to finish high up the order, "We were quicker in the wet, and then we completely changed the settings for the dry and got exactly what we were looking for. I made the start of my life and then did everything to ensure that Robert stayed behind me."
Third place for Kubica, from seventh on the grid, was good for the championship, which he has led from race one of the season in Belgium.
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