While teams' champion - and Spanish rival - Campos secured a 1-2 finish in the opening race of the new GP2 Series season, reigning drivers' champion team Racing Engineering suffered a major disappointment in Barcelona.

After some highly promising testing performances, the first race of the new campaign was not as expected for Alfonso de Orleans-Borbon's team, with neither Lucas di Grassi or Dani Clos able to make it to the finish after suffering very different misfortunes.

Although second on the grid hinted at good things for di Grassi in Saturday's feature race, a clean start was negated when the Brazilian lost one place to Vitaly Petrov in turn one, and then another to Jerome d'Ambrosio in turn two. The Fat Burner car then had Luca Filippi challenging for position, although di Grassi managed to keep his fellow GP2 veteran at bay until making his mandatory pit-stop.

Still in the running for points when he rejoined, the 2007 series runner-up saw his race come to a sudden end when ORT's Alvaro Parente misjudged an attempt to follow Edoardo Mortara through, and wound up on top of the Racing Engineering machine, fortunately without injury to either driver.

The retirement meant that di Grassi would start only 18th in the sprint race, but an great start meant that he overtook no fewer than eight drivers on the opening lap. Running in tenth position, he was attacking Pastor Maldonado for ninth, but was not able to overtake the Venezuelan. The battle ceased on lap 18, when di Grassi went wide and opened the way for Diego Nunes to pass, but the Brazilian veteran returned to the top ten when Nico Hulkenberg spun seven laps later.

"The feature was a difficult race and things definitely didn't work out as planned," di Grassi reflected, "The start and first lap [of the sprint] went really well and I was able to gain eight positions. During the following laps, I put some pressure on Maldonado but, afterwards, it was difficult to gain more places. We made progress compared to Saturday, but we need to continue our work to improve the car. Then we will be at the top."

Rookie team-mate Dani Clos, meanwhile, opened his account with a mechanically-induced retirement in race one and paid the price as he managed to gain only one position in race two, eventually coming home 19th overall.

A good start to the feature saw the Spaniard in eleventh place at the end of lap three, and he was able to hold position through the mandatory pit-stops before moving up to ninth and looking a candidate for points before Maldonado caught and passed him. Refusing to cede gently, the F3 graduate tried to regain the place but, on lap 31 he slowed dramatically with a mechanical failure that forced him to retire in the pits and line-up only 20th for Sunday's sprint.

Although he then stalled on the race two grid, blowing any chance of finishing the race in a strong position, Clos produced a mature performance after he rejoined from pit-lane, lapping metronomically and eventually posted the fastest time of anyone.

"It's a real shame about the failure on the engine safety system, which happened without any previous warning, as I think we could have finished in a very good position," the Spaniard said of his feature race performance, "I think my first laps were really good. I was able to overtake various drivers and like this make up positions. I am also happy with the pit-stop, which went really well, and we were able to make it up to ninth when Maldonado, who was very fast today, overtook me. We had a very good pace in race two too, so it's a real shame my car stalled at the start, as I made the fastest lap time during the race."

"This was definitely not the start of the season we expected," team principal de Orleans-Borb?n commented, "Both our drivers were doing a great job and I was especially impressed by Dani's performance. This was his first race in this championship and he looked as if he never drove in any different category. It's a real shame a technical problem ended his race as he was on the way to finish in the points, and it's a pity he stalled on the grid [on Sunday]. However, we have proof that he is an excellent driver, and he did a really good job this weekend.

"While Dani felt great with his car, Lucas struggled much more and we have to look into this. If we find the proper set-up for Monaco, it should allow him to fight for the win."


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