Enrico Toccacelo finally found a way through Vitantonio's defences to break his Italian countryman's dominant start to the FIA F3000 Championship and win at the Nurburgring for the second successive year.

Eleven months on from his maiden series victory, Toccacelo also gave the BCN Competicion team its breakthrough success in a championship it only joined last year.

As had been the case in the previous three rounds, Toccacelo and Liuzzi shared the front row - with the Arden man on his second pole - but this time it was the former who made marginally the better getaway, leaving Liuzzi in the unusual position of having to fend off those starting behind. Coloni's Jeffrey van Hooydonk, however, was even better at reacting to the lights and, benefiting from tardy starts on row two, had muscled his way past both front row starters to lead by the first corner complex.

On row two, neither Jose-Maria Lopez or, more especially, Tomas Enge made particularly good getaways, with the Czech driver posing a slow-moving obstacle to those further down the field. In sixth spot, Raffaele Giammaria also made a hash of the start, dropping to the tail of the field before he had found some momentum.

Despite initially keeping in touch with van Hooydonk and Toccacelo, Liuzzi soon found himself embroiled in defending his third position from, of all people, the recovering Enge, who had made the most of the traditional scrum at the new complex to regain the places he had lost at the start. Contact between the championship leader and the Ma-Con only served to worsen Liuzzi's position and the Italian was next seen heading for the pits and an emergency tyre change, which dropped him well down the order. With a mandatory stop still to complete, any chance of winning a fourth straight race and equalling Jean-Christophe Boullion's F3000 record, look more than remote.

The championship leader's absence allowed van Hooydonk and Toccacelo to pull away into a battle of their own, the Italian looking quicker even if it was his adversary clocking up the better lap times. At one point, the Italian dived down the inside at turn one, his right-hand wheels over the white line marking the edge of the track, but van Hooydonk kept his foot in around the outside and was rewarded by the next left-hander, which gave him back his lead.

Amid the skirmishes behind them, and largely due to the four-wide charge into the opening corner, Yannick Schroeder emerged to lead the chase, having made up ground from his ninth place starting spot. The Frenchman, in turn, was pulling row mate Patrick Friesacher with him, and the pair soon established a small advantage over the still squabbling pack.

The start of the mandatory pit-stops finally split the two leaders, with Toccacelo opting for an early change of tyres and van Hooydonk to call in a couple of laps later. This allowed the Italian's rookie team-mate, Esteban Guerrieri, to lead briefly before his own stop, with Giammaria - charging after his bad start - taking over when the red car peeled off.

Giammaria was one of the last to stop for fresh rubber and, when the mid-race chaos has settled, it was Toccacelo who enjoyed the clear road at the front of the field. Making the Italian's life even easier was the fact that van Hooydonk was not even close to him, having suffered a mediocre pit-stop that dropped him in behind the battle for second involving Robert Doornbos - who benefited from a typically good Arden pit-stop - Schroeder and the impressive Guerrieri. Unable to hold on to the pace, van Hooydonk quickly slipped back into the clutches of Lopez and Giammaria, setting up a game of cat-and-mouse that would last until the final fifth of the 30-lap encounter.

The battles behind him allowed Toccacelo to pull out a handy gap over his pursuers, with Robert Doornbos, Schroeder and Guerrieri. Friesacher's challenge went west when he needed to return to the pits for a new nose following contact with an increasingly frustrated Enge - who also lost valuable ground as he disentangled himself from the yellow machine. Friesacher's Super Nova team-mate Alan van der Merwe completed a bad day for the team that took Toccacelo to victory last season when he, too, needed cosmetic attention after being hit by the second Ma-Con car of Tony Schmidt, before then spinning himself out of the race.

While Toccacelo gradually increased his advantage at the front, Doornbos fended off a feisty Schroeder, with Guerrieri seemingly happy to run fourth on the road and headed for his best position in his short career.

Having enjoyed a gap behind, however, the Argentine soon had other things on his mind as the black-and-white CMS car of compatriot Lopez replaced the distant red of van Hooydonk in his mirrors. Having fended off an opportunist move from Giammaria - who somehow kept his car out of the gravel and avoided contact with anything solid - Lopez finally found a way past van Hooydonk. Giammaria also took advantage of what was now a clearly ailing Coloni entry, with van Hooydonk being blitzed on both sides simultaneously heading into the final chicane. The agony didn't end there, either, for Enge, having used the squabble to close in, also vaulted past the Belgian. van Hooydonk then compounded his obvious annoyance with a late race spin that confirmed him in an eventual eighth.

Guerrieri was now the man under pressure, and tried everything he knew in defending his position. The BCN, CMS and AEZ cars crossed the line separated by just half a second, with Enge ready to pounce had anything happened to the group ahead of him.

Jan Heylen again just missed out on points, coming home ninth ahead of Mathias Lauda and the recovering Liuzzi, who ended the race with his front wing askew.

Despite his pre-Nurburgring dominance, the erstwhile championship leader also saw his six-point cushion overturned in one sitting by Toccacelo's victory, leaving the BCN driver now enjoying a four-point advantage.


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