Bjorn Wirdheim finished his FIA F3000 career in style at Monza on Saturday by taking his third win of the 2003 campaign, and reprising the run that set him up for a crack at this year's championship title.
In the final race in the 2003 season, Wirdheim, who became the first Swede to take the title, held off Hungary race winner Patrick Freisacher to score his second consecutive win in the royal park. It was a successful end to a busy two weeks for Wirdheim, who made his promised F1 test debut with Jordan at Monza in the second week of September. It was indeed a day for anniversaries, as the Swedish racer took the top step of the podium almost 25 years to the day since the late, great Ronnie Peterson died at the same Italian venue.
Wirdheim, who could become his country's first grand prix driver since Stefan Johansson left F1 in 1991, was delighted with the way that he and the team had signed off the season.
“It was a hard won race this weekend,” the 23-year old admitted, “I made a poor start from pole and had to overtake Freisacher and Pantano, but the team also did a marvellous job in the pits, and this win is a big thank you to everyone for this season.”
The Arden driver eventually crossed the line 8.5secs ahead of Red Bull Junior Freisacher, who leapt up to fifth position in the final points standings after a strong finish to a season that began with a broken arm in round two.
Coloni's Ricardo Sperafico completed the podium, and his six points were enough to secure the runners-up position in the points table. However, the brazilian had to survive a fraught opening couple of laps before being able to concentrate on the job in hand
"It was essential that I survived the first chicane,“ he revealed, “I immediately tried to pass van Hooydonk at the Parabolica, but we collided slightly and my front wing got damaged, causing me some understeer.”
Vitantonio Liuzzi scored yet another fourth place finish - his fifth this season - and again impressed, especially as qualifying problems meant that he was forced to carve his way through the field from a lowly twelfth on the grid. He headed home the two Astromega Lolas of Jeffrey van Hooydonk, who was returning to the series after an enforced absence, and Tony Schmidt, who scored points for the third race in succession.
Completing the points finishers were the Czech Republic's Jaroslav Janis, who was once again the ISR Charouz team's only representative as Yannick Schroeder continued to recover from injury. Super Nova's Enrico Toccacelo finished eighth for the final point, despite brake problems and also a loss of time in the pit-stops.