24 July 2005
Hockenheim 2005: Pla makes most of good fortune.
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.
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