Adam Carroll came out on top of the frenetic three-way scrap for honours in the one-and-only GP2 Series race in Monaco, fending off Gianmaria Bruni and Nico Rosberg at the chequered flag.
The Irishman became the series first two-time winner after crossing the line just 0.654secs seconds ahead of the Italian, who had opened his win account in Barcelona's feature race two weeks ago. Rosberg, meanwhile, continued his upward trend, claiming a maiden podium a further half-second behind Bruni.
After an aborted start and second parade lap caused by Ernesto Viso and Ferndinando Monfardini both stalling on the grid, poleman Heikki Kovalainen led the field away, with fellow front row starter Bruni slotting in behind, and Carroll looking for a way through. Although Olivier Pla joined the list of stallers, and Clivio Piccione vaulted through from sixth to fourth, there was no expected accident at Ste Devote. There were first lap casualties, however, with Monfardini not restarting, and both Juan Cruz Alvarez and Giorgio Pantano failing to make it away, the Italian sidelined by further engine problems on his Super Nova entry.
In the early laps, Kovalainen pulled out an decent gap over Bruni and Carroll, who were involved in their own little scrap, but the Finn's efforts were undone by an unusually problematic lap 21 pit-stop for the Arden International team. Havig been able to turn second spot into victory for Vitantonio Liuzzi in last year's F3000 race, the pit crew fumbled with Kovalainen's left-front wheel during his mandatory tyre change, keeping the frustrated Finn stationery for longer than anyone would have wanted.
That allowed Bruni and Carroll to put a lap on the erstwhile leader, the Irishman having already stopped. When Bruni's turn for a tyre change came on lap 31, the Coloni crew appeared to have few problems, but the turnaround was not enough to get the ex-F1 man out ahead of his chief antagonist, who blasted past pit exit as Bruni nosed his way back onto the track.
That did not prevent the Italian from latching onto the back of the Super Nova car, and the leading pair soon had company in the shape of Rosberg, who had driven an exquisite race. A brace of quick laps saw him move past Scott Speed when the American, who had been occupying fourth spot until Kovalainen's problem, took his stop. With Kovalainen then stumbling in the pits, Rosberg climbed into third and, as the laps wore down, so the gap between the ART driver and the top two decreased.
On lap 38, with six to run, just under three seconds separated the trio, but the usual Monaco problem of backmarkers loomed. Rosberg knew that he would need a slip from wither of the leaders if he was to advance any further and all he could do was keep the rpessure on. With two laps remaining, the front three were covered by just over a second, with a couple of slower cars homing into view. Alex Negrao dutifully spun off at the Swimming Pool, leaving Sergio Hernandez, himself chasing points, to overcome. The Spaniard, however, noticed the leaders' impending arrival and duly moved aside, effectively ending Rosberg's hopes of second or better.
“I pushed really hard to catch up to the leaders, but it's just impossible to pass here," the F3 graduate admitted, "When Scott Speed came out of the pits behind me, I looked up and saw my name in third on the board - and I thought 'no way!'. I could have tried to pass Bruni, but it would have been stupid. I'm just happy to get my first podium."
Out front, Carroll was beginning to feel the pressure, but held his nerve to fend off Bruni's advances right to the flag.
“I can't complain about that one - to be the first GP2 series winner in Monaco means a lot, and I'm really happy," the Irishman grinned, "Gimmi was quick, but I thought I could get him in the pit-stops. I pushed really hard, even though I bent the steering after I kissed the wall at the Swimming Pool. You don't realise until you get here just how tough this circuit actually is. The last ten laps were like genuine torture, but the team did a great job and I can't wait for Nürburgring.”