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GP3: Kirchhöfer handed win by late problems for Eriksson

A dramatic finish to the GP3 Sunday race saw an ART 1-2 with Marvin Kirchhöfer pipping Esteban Ocon to victory ahead of Trident's Luca Ghiotto.
A terrific drive by Marvin Kirchhöfer from fifth place on the grid saw him keep out of trouble as the opposition around him fell away, and meant that he was in perfect position to benefit from late misfortune hitting long-time race leader Jimmy Eriksson on the penultimate lap which allowed him to sail past and pick up his third GP3 victory of the year.

As good as Kirchhöfer's run to the chequered flag had been, it was somewhat overshadowed by a brilliant drive from the back of the grid for championship leader Luca Ghiotto, who stormed his way through the field and only ran out of momentum at the very end when he was unable to find a way past his main championship rival Esteban Ocon in time for the finish.

CLICK: Full GP3 Sunday morning race 2 results from Monza.

The race had started with bright and sunny conditions greeting the cars to the grid for the start of the 187-lap Sunday race at the 3.6-mile (5.793km) 11-turn Autodromo Nazionale Monza. It was also rather chilly first thing for the time of year, and the cold tyres caught out front row man Álex Palou (Campos Racing) who spun on the formation lap but who fortunately recovered in time to take up his position on the grid, albeit doubtless somewhat rattled. His nerves wouldn't have been settled any by the first attempt to get the race underway being aborted for Seb Morris' Status Grand Prix car stalling on the grid, meaning he would join Trident's Artur Janosz in starting from the pit lane, along with Pål Varhaug after the Jenzer Motorsport car had similarly stalled at the start of the formation lap.

Finnaly it was time to get the party started, and when the lights went out pole sitter Alex Fontana (Status Grand Prix) leapt away to a strong lead while Palou was sluggish and found himself immediately passed by Mathéo Tuscher (Jenzer Motorsport) and then Eriksson (Koiranen GP) through the first chicane. Palou would continue to haemorrhage positions over the opening laps and would soon find himself passed in turn by the ARTs of Marvin Kirchhöfer and Esteban Ocon and the Ardens of Emil Bernstorff and Kevin Ceccon in quick succession.

At the front, Tuscher saw an opportunity to seize the lead from Fontana but ended up running wide and off the gravel in the process, costing him several places as he got back on the track and cleaned his tyres. That promoted Eriksson to second place and he too had designs on taking the lead, which he duly did on lap 3 with a nice decisive move down the inside into turn 1 once the yellow flags had been removed for Aleksander Bosak's Arden which had been barged off into retirement by first lap contact at exit of the Rettifilo chicane.

Eriksson put his foot down and immediately tried to pull away form the pack, knowing it wouldn't take Kirchhöfer long to get around Fontana for second and start to hunt him down with all possible speed. Behind them, an intense battle for third place between Fontana, Ceccon and Ocon ended with Ocon taking advantage of the others being distracted by their fight and running wide at Roggia to leapfrog both cars in a single move on lap 6.

At the midway point of the race, Eriksson's lead over Kirchhöfer was stable at around 1.5s, with Ocon and Cecco a further two and a half seconds back. Fontana meanwhile had succumbed to pressure from a storming charge from the back of the grid by championship leader Luca Ghiotto (Trident), and moments later he would find himself going through Rettifilo side-by-side with Saturday race winner Bernstorff. There wasn't enough room for the two to make it through cleanly and Bernstorff found himself briefly launched into the air over the high kerbs in the chicane. When he returned to earth he was firmly beached in the gravel run-off, his weekend prematurely over.

While Fontana was able to continue after the incident his momentum had been broken and he was quickly passed by the recovering Tuscher followed by Ralph Boschung (Jenzer Motorsport), Sandy Stuvik (Status Grand Prix) and Mitch Gilbert (Carlin) meaning that Fontana himself was now out of the points in tenths. Fontana's slow, sad decline through the order - exacerbated by penalt for causing the collision with Bernstorff - was the mirror image of the unstoppable charge of local favourite Ghiotto who continued his progress with a fine move on compatriot Ceccon for fourth place on lap 12.

Eriksson looked to have the race win firmly in hand, but then on the penultimate run through Ascari the Koiranen GP suddenly slowed allowing a startled Kirchhöfer to sail past and take the lead going into the final lap. Eriksson appeared to recover from his momentary glitch and got back up to speed for the next few corners, but then the issue recurred exiting the Lesmo complex and this time is cost him two more places - and with it any chance of a podium - as both Ocon and Ghiotto blasted past. Eriksson limped home to the finish line, but by that point he had lost a another position to Ceccon and had to settle for fifth ahead of Tuscher, Boschung and Stuvik. Just missing out on a point was Gilbert although a post race investigation into whether Stuvik had exceeded track limits during the race might yet change that outcome. Alex Palou rounded out the top ten ahead of Carlin's Antonio Fuoco and series newcomer Amaury Bonduel in the Trident.

Ghiotto's impressive run from 19th place on the grid to finish on the podium could prove one of the most crucial drives of the season, as it minimises the damage to his championship campaign resulting from Saturday's starting grid disaster that left him out of the points while Bernstorff and Ocon went on to finish one-two. This time it was Bernstorff left watching the race from the sidelines, while the bonus points for the fastest lap means that Ghiotto steadies the ship and maintains a 14 point lead in the drivers' standings over Ocon. Bernstorff drops away and is ousted from third place by Kirchhöfer who is a further 16 points back from Ocon with three weekends remaining in the 2015 season.

The GP3 Series takes a five-week break now while the Formula 1 teams depart Europe for Grand Prix events in Singapore and Japan. The next race will be at Sochi Autodrom in Russia on October 9-11.

See full GP3 Sunday morning race 2 results from Monza, plus updated championship standings.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
2015 GP3 Series Round 6. Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 6 September 2015. Alex Fontana (SUI, Status Grand Prix) leads Matheo Tuscher (SUI, Jenzer Motorsport), Alex Palou (ESP, Campos Racing), Jimmy Eriksson (SWE, Koiranen GP), Marvin Kirchhofer (GER, ART Grand Prix), Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix), Kevin Ceccon (ITA, Arden International), Emil Bernstorff (GBR, Arden International) and the rest of the field at the start. Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service
2015 GP3 Series Round 6. Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 6 September 2015. Marvin Kirchhofer (GER, ART Grand Prix) takes the win as he drives past his team. Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
2015 GP3 Series Round 6. Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, Monza, Italy. Sunday 6 September 2015. Marvin Kirchhofer (GER, ART Grand Prix), celebrates on the podium with Luca Ghiotto (ITA, Trident). Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
Luca Ghiotto - Trident Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Luca Ghiotto - Trident Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Antonio Giovinazzi - Prema Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Antonio Giovinazzi - Prema Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Pierre Gasly - PREMA Racing
Antonio Giovinazzi - Prema Racing [credit: GP2 Series]
Pierre Gasly - PREMA Racing
Antonio Giovinazzi - Prema Racing
Sergio Canamasas - Carlin
Alex Lynn - DAMS
Alex Lynn - DAMS
Sergey Sirotkin - ART Grand Prix
Sergey Sirotkin - ART Grand Prix
Sergey Sirotkin - ART Grand Prix
Pierre Gasly - Prema Racing

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