Davide Valsecchi may not quite have picked up from where he left off at Monza in September, but the Italian wasted little time in returning to the top step of the GP2 podium after clinching his second win in the category in the opening sprint race of the new Asia Series in China.

After coming from behind to win the final race of the regular season in Italy, Valsecchi drove from pole to victory in the Sunday morning event at Shanghai International Circuit but, contrary to Monza, had to hold on under great pressure from My Qi-Meritus.Mahara rookie Earl Bamber.

The young Kiwi once again made a strong impression, capitalising on another great start, this time from third on the grid, and using impressive pace to keep tabs on the Durango car and claim a first GP2 podium in only his second race.

As usual, there was much action and drama, first with Mika Maki stalling on the formation lap and, then, with Sakon Yamamoto failing to launch when the lights went off. However, all eyes were on poleman Valsecchi, who initially held off another rookie New Zealander, Chris van der Drift, before Bamber found a way to overtake his countryman in the Trident car.

The opening lap was no less eventful and, while the entire field had escaped problems in the feature race, Diego Nunes spun at turn four, delaying the slow starting Kamui Kobayashi while, further back, Carlos Iaconelli and Giacomo Ricci came together, ending their races prematurely.

While Valsecchi and Bamber pulled away, thanks in the main to the slower van der Drift holding up the rest of the pack, Javier Villa took advantage of the jostling to depose Vitaly Petrov from fourth. Further back, meanwhile, another rookie was showing his overtaking skills, as F3 graduate Sergio Perez made his way from 24th to seventh.

The race quickly went from bad to worse for pre-season favourite Kobayashi, as his car was damaged in a minor collision, eventually leading to his retirement late in the race, but DAMS team-mate Jerome d'Ambrosio was still in the hunt for points, demoting Petrov another place as he moved up to fifth.

What had appeared to be a decent point-scoring exercise for the Russian came to an early end in the later stages as he was forced out with what seemed to be a fuel delivery problem, allowing feature race winner Roldan Rodriguez to claim the final point in sixth place.

At the front, an ecstatic Valsecchi took the chequered flag by nearly five seconds, having finally seen off the challenge of Bamber.

"I was worried about the start because it's not my strongest point but, today, I managed to keep my position," the Italian admitted, "Then I decided to push for two laps in order to stay in front.

"In the first half of the race, I wasn't so competitive, but then it got better. In the next race, however, I want to stay in the top five because I strongly believe this is our position in the championship. If I want to win a Saturday race, I will have to qualify well. That is the key."

Bamber, meanwhile, had a similar cushion back to third place and was delighted to have done better than anyone could have expected on his GP2 Series debut.

"We came with no expectation, as I don't have a lot of experience," the Kiwi confirmed, "We didn't get the best launch, but I managed to box Petrov in behind van der Drift, and then I had a lot of grip on the outside. That's how I got in P2. It's a fantastic result for the team, but I'll take it race-by-race. That's the best approach. Let's hope the good results continue."

Villa made a welcome return to the GP2 podium after a tough summer season in Giorgio Pantano's shadow at Racing Engineering, but almost threw it away with a small mistake on the penultimate lap.

"It was a great race," the Spaniard admitted, "I overtook Vitaly and was behind van der Drift, but I lost a lot of time trying to overtake him. Once I did, I pushed really hard to close the gap with Bamber. But that's how I made my small mistake. I finished P4 yesterday and on the podium today, so I'm still improving."

van der Drift wasn't really close enough to take advantage of Villa's mistake and accepted fourth, while d'Ambrosio edged the charging Rodriguez for fifth. Rodriguez's point sees him leading Javier Villa by 13 points to ten in the overall standings, with Kobayashi another point behind the young Spaniard. Bamber is fourth, with Valsecchi
and Sakon Yamamoto behind him.



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