Clivio Piccione took full advantage of early leader Gianmaria Bruni's misfortune, and the squabbling in the pack around him, to break away and snatch an unexpected victory for Durango Corse in race two of the GP2 weekend at the Nurburgring.
Lining up second on the grid after his seventh place finish on Saturday, the Monegasque almost didn't start the sprint event, crawling away on the formation lap. Whether that was playing on his mind at the real getaway is uncertain, but Piccione found himself swamped on the run to turn one, eventually emerging in fourth place as Nelson Piquet Jr and Neel Jani fought over the right to lead the pursuit of poleman Bruni.
Piquet's efforts to get into the lead at turn one saw him run wide, gifting second spot to Jani, and the move quickly appeared to be handing Bruni a possible second win in the series as the Swiss driver provided something of a bottleneck that allowed Bruni to extend a six-second lead in just a few laps.
Although there wasn't quite the first corner carnage that opened Saturday's race, the Sunday sprint claimed its own casualties, with Ernesto Viso and Mathias Lauda making contact, putting both men out by the end of the lap. At the other end of the lap, Nico Rosberg put a move on points leader Heikki Kovalainen that not only gained him a place, but also potentially kept him in the event.
Heading into turn one for the second time, Sunday finally produced its wreckers' yard as the ambitious Jose Maria Lopez collected the hapless Nicolas Lapierre, tossing the Frenchman into the equally unsuspecting Kovalainen. Rosberg, had made the corner just seconds before, and escaped the pile-up in his wake, but team-mate Alex Premat was not so fortunate, joining the list of retirements. Ryan Sharp was delayed but narrowly avoided becoming involved. Adding injury to insult as both Arden cars were ruled out on the spot, Lapierre was spotted holding his left wrist as a legacy of the contact.
Incredibly, the safety car wasn't called for this time, allowing Bruni to continue on his merry way out front. Behind him, however, Jani was contributing to a increasingly frenetic battle that made GP2 appear more like Formula Ford for the remainder of the 24 laps.
The Coloni car continued to pull away at around a second a lap, eventually enjoying a six-second lead by lap 13, but Bruni was destined not to go much further as mechanical gremlins returned to hobble his getaway.
With the Italian limping back to the pits, Jani was left at the front of a battle for the lead, and the pack behind him now covered the entire range of points positions, with Piquet, Piccione and Rosberg having been joined by the Super Nova duo of Giorgio Pantano and Adam Carroll, the Irishman having recovered from the back of the grid after his involvement in the first corner incident in race one.
While the Racing Engineering car continued to bunch the group up, the moves for position within became ever more frantic, with Piccione and Piquet making contact more than once as the Monegasque struggled to spot his Brazilian rival's braking point into turn one. Jani appeared to be struggling for grip, frequently locking up into the Dunlop hairpin, but somehow maintaining his position at the head of the pack, despite concerted efforts from Piquet, Piccione and Rosberg.