Olivier Pla wasted little effort in making the most of his elevation from ninth to first on the grid for race two of the GP2 series at Hockenheim, reprising his sprint event victory from Silverstone a fortnight ago.

The Frenchman looked set to start from the inside of row five at the German venue, after an electrical problem and slow pit-stop dropped him out of the points at the chequered flag in race one. However, Ernesto Viso's exclusion for coming in under weight meant that Pla not only moved up to eighth on the road, but also 'earned' the right to start from pole in race two.

He needed no second bidding to shoot for victory and, having held off Borja Garcia and Giorgio Pantano into turn one, pulled out a one-second gap in the early laps. Pantano vaulted past the slow-starting Garcia before the hairpin, with Scott Speed and the two Arden cars of Heikki Kovalainen and Nicolas Lapierre all hounding the Spaniard, who had opened his points account on Saturday.

Further back, the usual Hockenheim skirmishes saw several cars run wide, including that of race one winner Nico Rosberg, who was forced to take evasive action as he and Kovalainen converged on the same piece of tarmac at turn one. The German was not to be deterred, however, and used the unconventional line to build up enough momentum to keep himself in the thick of the action through the next two crucial corners.

Approaching the hairpin on lap two, Rosberg achieved some measure of revenge, ambushing both Arden cars in one move to jump up to fifth, before setting off after Speed and Garcia ahead of him.

Towards the back of the field, a spin for Clivio Piccione entering the stadium on lap one enabled two of Saturday's unluckiest men, Viso and Adam Carroll, to make up more ground as they embarked on rapid rises from the back of the field. Carroll had started 19th after engine problems sidelined him in race one, while Viso had to come from plumb last after his exclusion. By the end of lap three, the pair were circulating four and seven places further up the order, and already harrying those ahead of them.

Pla continued to stretch his advantage at the front, as Pantano began locking his left front as he gave vain pursuit. The Italian, like team-mate Carroll, called for an engine change overnight and, having initially appeared to have enough in hand to keep Garcia and Speed at bay, gradually found the American becoming more of a threat once he had disposed of the Racing Engineering car.

Rosberg too made short work of Garcia, and was quickly closing on Speed, creating a three-way battle for the podium as the race entered its second half. The ART Grand Prix man had pulled away from Kovalainen and Lapierre, with the Frenchman having to keep one eye on his mirrors as Nelson Piquet continued to pose a threat. The Brazilian had shown his pace in race one by rising from eighth to third, but was seemingly unable to do anything about the Arden pairing this time around.

Alex Premat, second on Saturday, had lost places in the melee at the start and ran ninth, similarly unable to make much headway as the leading bunch ran at relatively equal speeds. Behind the Frenchman, Hiroki Yoshimoto held tenth, but started to fade backwards after an attempt to pass the second ART machine resulted in contact at turn two. Yoshimoto would eventually retire in the closing stages, having been passed by both Jose Maria Lopez and Carroll not long after the brush with Premat.

With the field apparently set for the morning unless mechanical failure or brain fade intervened, the focus quickly fell on the battle for second between Pantano, Speed and Rosberg. Pla was continuing to ease away out front, up to four seconds clear by lap 20, leaving his pursuers to duke it out for the privilege of joining him on the podium.

Speed was finally close enough to try a move on Pantano in front of the Mercedes stand, attempting to replicate Kovalainen's move on the Italian from race one. Pantano, however, was wise to it and left his braking as late as he dared in an attempt to fend the American off. Rosberg, tucked in behind the battling pair, sensed his opportunity to turn fourth into second, turning back inside Speed and thinking about a move on Pantano, before realising that he was carrying too much speed to make the following right-hander, for which the Italian had the advantage. Lifting off, the ART car spun out, although Rosberg was swift in his response and had rejoined before Garcia could get close enough to capitalise.

"We were quite a bit faster than Giorgio, as I think he lost his car a bit, but it's just so tough to overtake here," Speed said, "He made a mistake in the hairpin and we all tried to capitalise on it, but eventually just came out in the same order."

The order thus remained the same to the flag, Pla taking advantage of the scrap in his wake to pull out a six-second gap over Pantano, while Speed and a chastened Rosberg followed at respectable distances. The German, however, was not done, and turned near disaster into profit by banging in the fastest lap of the race immediately after his spin. With Kovalainen only managing a single score for sixth place, the gap between the two was halved for the second day in succession, leaving Kovalainen just five marks ahead as the series marches on to Hungary next weekend.


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