29 May 2004
Nurburgring 2004: Toccacelo repeats 'Ring win.
Enrico Toccacelo finally found a way through Vitantonio's defences to break his Italian countryman's dominant start to the FIA F3000 Championship and win at the Nurburgring for the second successive year.
Eleven months on from his maiden series victory, Toccacelo also gave the BCN Competicion team its breakthrough success in a championship it only joined last year.
As had been the case in the previous three rounds, Toccacelo and Liuzzi shared the front row - with the Arden man on his second pole - but this time it was the former who made marginally the better getaway, leaving Liuzzi in the unusual position of having to fend off those starting behind. Coloni's Jeffrey van Hooydonk, however, was even better at reacting to the lights and, benefiting from tardy starts on row two, had muscled his way past both front row starters to lead by the first corner complex.
On row two, neither Jose-Maria Lopez or, more especially, Tomas Enge made particularly good getaways, with the Czech driver posing a slow-moving obstacle to those further down the field. In sixth spot, Raffaele Giammaria also made a hash of the start, dropping to the tail of the field before he had found some momentum.
Despite initially keeping in touch with van Hooydonk and Toccacelo, Liuzzi soon found himself embroiled in defending his third position from, of all people, the recovering Enge, who had made the most of the traditional scrum at the new complex to regain the places he had lost at the start. Contact between the championship leader and the Ma-Con only served to worsen Liuzzi's position and the Italian was next seen heading for the pits and an emergency tyre change, which dropped him well down the order. With a mandatory stop still to complete, any chance of winning a fourth straight race and equalling Jean-Christophe Boullion's F3000 record, look more than remote.
The championship leader's absence allowed van Hooydonk and Toccacelo to pull away into a battle of their own, the Italian looking quicker even if it was his adversary clocking up the better lap times. At one point, the Italian dived down the inside at turn one, his right-hand wheels over the white line marking the edge of the track, but van Hooydonk kept his foot in around the outside and was rewarded by the next left-hander, which gave him back his lead.
Amid the skirmishes behind them, and largely due to the four-wide charge into the opening corner, Yannick Schroeder emerged to lead the chase, having made up ground from his ninth place starting spot. The Frenchman, in turn, was pulling row mate Patrick Friesacher with him, and the pair soon established a small advantage over the still squabbling pack.
The start of the mandatory pit-stops finally split the two leaders, with Toccacelo opting for an early change of tyres and van Hooydonk to call in a couple of laps later. This allowed the Italian's rookie team-mate, Esteban Guerrieri, to lead briefly before his own stop, with Giammaria - charging after his bad start - taking over when the red car peeled off.
Giammaria was one of the last to stop for fresh rubber and, when the mid-race chaos has settled, it was Toccacelo who enjoyed the clear road at the front of the field. Making the Italian's life even easier was the fact that van Hooydonk was not even close to him, having suffered a mediocre pit-stop that dropped him in behind the battle for second involving Robert Doornbos - who benefited from a typically good Arden pit-stop - Schroeder and the impressive Guerrieri. Unable to hold on to the pace, van Hooydonk quickly slipped back into the clutches of Lopez and Giammaria, setting up a game of cat-and-mouse that would last until the final fifth of the 30-lap encounter.
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