The 2008 GP2 Series Championship title race moves closer to resolution at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend, with Giorgio Pantano, Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi still locked in a three-way battle with two double-header rounds to run.
With 71 points, a string of consistent points finishes and three consecutive feature race wins in France, Britain and Germany mid-season, Pantano is the man to beat, and knows that, after Belgium, he heads home to Monza, a circuit on which he has been extremely hard to beat in the past few years, no matter which team he has been driving for.
The GP2 veteran arrives at Spa as the hot favourite for the title as he currently holds a 13-point lead over closest rival Senna after increasing his lead at the top of the table in Valencia - despite running out of fuel in race one while leading comfortably. With Senna doing likewise, then crashing out of race two while Pantano salvaged a podium finish, the Racing Engineering driver expects to further consolidate his position in Belgium.
Senna entered the title race when he took the top step of the Monaco podium, but has since lost points in the last three rounds which may result in him falling just short come Monza.
And, while the iSport driver has been gunning for Pantano, countryman di Grassi has begun to threaten his hold on second place, despite having only entered the championship at Magny-Cours. Replacing Ben Hanley at Campos, last year's runner-up finished second in the French feature race and, since then, has scored points consistently, winning twice and suffering just one retirement.
With 51 points to his credit, di Grassi's only regret could be that he missed the first three rounds, as he has outscored everyone since then. On average, the Brazilian has scored over five points in each of his ten races, with Pantano's scoring average at less than 4.5 in 16 outings, but, with just two rounds left, may be running out of races. Indeed, should Pantano outscore Senna by six points or more this weekend, he will have the championship sewn up before his home race at Monza, while di Grassi will just have to go for broke and try to accumulate as many points as possible and hope that the Italian retires.
In terms of its motorsport heritage, the Spa-Francorchamps circuit is up there with Monaco, Le Mans and Silverstone and has remained a favourite with drivers and spectators since it's inception in 1924.
“Spa always produces good races,” explains local ace Jérôme d'Ambrosio, "There are always opportunities to overtake, and the weather is guaranteed to change during the weekend.
“This is my home race and I have to stay focused and treat it like any other event, but it's really a great track, one of the best on this year's calendar and I'm really looking forward to taking a GP2 car around there. It's got all sorts of corners and is very, very demanding.