3 July 2004
Magny-Cours 2004: Liuzzi gets back 'on Cours'.
Vitantonio Liuzzi returned to the head of the FIA F3000 Championship standings with another controlled victory at Magny-Cours, while main rival Enrico Toccacelo suffered the sort of result that had seen him take control - against the run of play - at the Nurburgring a month ago.
The four-week break between events gave both Liuzzi and his Arden team time to plot their revenge on the system and, Toccacelo's misfortune aside, the combination could not have done a better job of re-establishing the championship credentials built on the back of three wins in the opening three races.
Starting from the pole in France, Liuzzi made a brief break at the start, held his nerve when the safety car appeared to clear up Mathias Lauda's second lap accident, and then drove away from the field to secure win number four. Easing off towards the end as his red-and-white Lola became a little tail-happy, the Italian always looked to have a little more in hand had he needed it but, with battles for position on-going in his wake, he remained untroubled.
While the Arden driver's route to victory was relatively straightforward, the same could not be said for title rival Toccacelo. Already at a disadvantage because of a grid position dictated by a spin and traffic in qualifying, the Italian found himself mired in a competitive chasing pack, and was unable to make up more than a couple of positions - to sixth - before the mandatory pit-stop. Thereafter, things got steadily worse for the BCN man, a drop down the order culminating in a high-speed trip through the gravel at Estoril while pressing on in search of a minor points finish. Chastened, Toccacelo came home 13th, out of the points - and out of the series lead.
“This was a weekend to forget," the Italian sighed, "I had a problem with my pit-stop and lost a lot of time - and, later, I spun off. I want to forget this race immediately and concentrate on next.”
Toccacelo's absence from the top two left the door open for others to get a taste of champagne, and the opportunity proved particularly enticing for three men.
Yannick Schroeder had assumed Tocca's regular front row starting spot, but was unable to make the most of it, eventually dropping behind a rejuvenated Patrick Friesacher - now of Coloni - and Tomas Enge, who flew out of the blocks and, with a well-timed pass on his Austrian rival, claimed second spot ahead of the pit-stops. The Czech driver had shown his nose to Friesacher at Adelaide hairpin enough times to dupe the erstwhile Super Nova man into thinking that that was where the passing attempt would come, but then pulled off an audacious move into the remodelled final complex to take the place.
With Enge ensconced in second through the pit-stop window, the battle for the final podium distilled into a head-to-head between Friesacher and Schroeder - with the Frenchman the more racy of the two. Although enjoying better performance than he had during a four-race sojourn with Super Nova, Friesacher still had his work cut out as the rear of his Coloni Lola got loose in the closing stages, but managed to hold on despite a couple of good looking moves from his rival. Schroeder's chance of a second successive podium appeared to have gone with an avoidance of the red car ahead of him while locked up at Adelaide, but then closed right back on to Friesacher's tail by the flag. Two-tenths separated the cars in the closest battle on track.
With Toccacelo out of the points, and Jose-Maria Lopez throwing away a possible top six spot, Robert Doornbos was able to take a comfortable fifth place and add to his and Arden's points haul. Christian Horner's squad is now well ahead in the teams' standings, while Doornbos continues to mark himself out as top of the rookie crop.
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