15 September 2007
Spa 2007: Nicolas Laps it up.
Nicolas Lapierre claimed only the second win of his 2007 career in comfortable fashion at Spa-Francorchamps, leading from lights to flag and only missing out on a full house of points as championship leader Timo Glock attempted to make up for stalling at the start by pursuing the fastest lap bonus.
Although Lapierre spun the wheels of his DAMS Dallara off the line, he had enough in hand to fend off the challenge of the fast-starting Lucas di Grassi, the Brazilian initially getting the better of front row starter Luca Filippi before going wheel-to-wheel with the Italian at the remodelled La Source. Their skirmish allowed Lapierre to aim down the hill to Eau Rouge in front, and the Frenchman was seldom troubled again.
Already facing an uphill struggle, however, were a quintet who failed to make it off the line - incredibly including both iSport cars of Glock and Andi Zuber, as well as Kazuki Nakajima, Kohei Hirate and third-place qualifier Bruno Senna. All restarted from the pit-lane, but were left to chase bonus points barring catastrophe on the road ahead.
Lapierre opened out a handy lead over di Grassi in the first few laps, but suddenly found the Brazilian on his tail at the end of lap seven. The ART car was close enough to take a run into La Source - where Lapierre left the door wide open - but the Frenchman had enough in hand to win the race up the hill and kept di Grassi behind. That was the Brazilian's only shot at leading as, following the pit-stops, he dropped away from the frontrunning battle.
The two leaders came in together on lap eight, albeit later than most of their immediate rivals, rejoining nose-to-tail. But, where Lapierre was able to get straight back into the groove, di Grassi found himself swallowed up by both Filippi and Adam Carroll - the Irishman having also made a lightning start to lie fourth early on - and appeared destined to make less than expected of title rival Glock's misfortune.
Further back, the absence of Senna, Nakajima and the iSport duo allowed the top eight to take on an unexpected appearance, with Vitaly Petrov, Javier Villa, Sebastien Buemi, Xandi Negrao and Ho-Pin Tung to all feature at times. Giorgio Pantano would have expected to take advantage of the absentees, but was forced out of the race on lap one when his Campos Grand Prix entry again developed transmission problems.
Villa, Tung, Marcos Martinez and Borja Garcia all took turns at leading while the pit-stops cycled through but, once normal order was resumed, it was Lapierre back in control, the Frenchman not willing to wait for Garcia to pit and passing the Durango man at the new-look Bus Stop on lap 13.
With his pursuers taking a little longer to dispense with the Spaniard, Lapierre was able to open out a nice cushion, with Filippi and Carroll also giving each other things to think about as they battled over second. di Grassi, meanwhile, had fallen away from the podium places, but was untroubled by those behind.
The Brazilian was then gifted an extra point when Carroll, in the heat of pursuing second place, found his FMSI car swapping ends on the exit of Pouhon. Replays showed the Briton had got a little greedy on the high inside kerb, and was unable to prevent the car from nosing into the barriers, breaking its front wing and ending another promising race.
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