1 January 1901
di Grassi wins Valencia sprint.
Lucas di Grassi took victory in the GP2 Series sprint race in Valencia to complete a clean sweep for the Spanish Barwa International Campos team, but had to survive some typical street circuit mayhem before he did so.
The Brazilian, having started fifth on the grid, was into second within a couple of corners, muscling past front row starter Andy Soucek to slot in behind poleman Luca Filippi, but equally quickly found himself pushed back to third as Renault Driver Development scheme rival Romain Grosjean found a way through at the end of the lap.
The scuffling was symptomatic of the entire field, with the grid order having changed considerably by the end of the opening lap, but not everyone managed to make moves with the same precision as those at the front. Andi Zuber was the first casualty, finding a gap between Michael Herck and the wall closing rapidly and having nowhere to go but over the back of the Monaco-domiciled Romanian.
Alvaro Parente and Marko Asmer both spun later in the lap, the Portuguese terminally, while title contenders Bruno Senna and Giorgio Pantano took advantage of the chaos to move up the order from their lower-than-expected grid positions. By the end of the lap, the Brazilian was poised to cut his rival's advantage in the standings, having moved into fifth, but Pantano was only a couple of places adrift, having moved up from 14th.
Both gained another spot on lap three as Pastor Maldonado, having scythed inside Soucek for fourth at the final corner, promptly understeered into the wall at turn two, removing his front wing and any interest Piquet Sports had in the remaining 20 laps.
At the very front, Grosjean wasn't hanging about, closing sufficiently on Filippi to consider making a move, only to be forcibly rebuffed by the Italian, while at the opposite end of the field, Adrian Valles made a similar impact on Sebastien Buemi while attempting to overcome the late-starting Swiss, who had been stranded in the pits with clutch problems when the lights went out.
Sakon Yamamoto joined the retirements next time around, the second ART Grand Prix entry slowing out on track, but the biggest exit had to wait until lap nine. Having finally overcome the twitchy Soucek when the Spaniard's Super Nova car also appeared to lose power, Senna's eagerness to catch the podium battle ahead of him saw him take one chance to many, reprising his moment from Saturday but this time tagging the wall heavily. The Brazilian was out on the spot, handing the championship initiative back to Pantano, who now moved into fifth place.
The Italian's day was about to get better still, however, for Grosjean continued to hound Filippi for the lead and clearly appeared to have a speed advantage. The pair touched again late on lap nine before, two laps later, Grosjean switched back inside the leader at the final corner and out-gunned him across the line to take control of the race.
Filippi, however, was not prepared to settle for second in what was his best showing of the season, albeit enabled by the reverse grid system employed for the sprint race. Heading into turn three next time around, the Italian thought he saw a gap to the inside of the ART machine, but only had enough room for his left front wheel to make sharp contact with Grosjean's right rear, spearing the Frenchman into the outside wall and allowing di Grassi to inherit the lead.
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