Sentul 2008: Filippi rules under marshal law.

Luca Filippi gave the GP2 Asia Series its second race winner by just over a tenth of a second after an incident-packed Sentul feature punctuated by two safety car periods.

Luca Filippi gave the GP2 Asia Series its second race winner by just over a tenth of a second after an incident-packed Sentul feature punctuated by two safety car periods.

The Italian appeared to make the best getaway as the lights went out on a dry but very dirty grid, but failed to get ahead of poleman Vitaly Petrov as the Campos driver hooked up on the run to turn one. Struggling for grip as he went through the gears, Filippi then found himself under threat from the second row pairing of Adrian Valles and Romain Grosjean, but held firm through the first corner, chopping the Frenchman off in the process.

The battle continued throughout the opening lap, with Valles taking several looks past the Qi-Meritus car, but the scrapping only allowed Petrov to pull out a 1.7secs lead by the time the field came back across the stripe.

It was already a depleted field, with neither Marcelo Puglisi or Kamui Kobayashi taking the start, although the Japanese star did attempt to complete the formation lap, and several cars littering the still wet gravel traps. First to go were the luckless Christian Bakkerud and Harald Schlegelmilch, the Dane having been tapped into a spin by Karun Chandhok and then collected by the closely following Trident car.

Neither would continue, and Jason Tahinci and Adam Khan both joined them on the sidelines having limped back to the pits, the Turk with left front suspension damage and his Anglo-Pakistani rival with a right front puncture and associated damage to the corner. Alberto Valerio and Ho-Pin Tung both spun on the treacherous surface, dropping down the order but resuming.

Although there were no injuries, the safety car was deployed to clear up the stricken cars - and remained on track for fully eleven laps as the corner workers struggled to clear Bakkerud's Super Nova machine. Fruitless attempts to drag the car to safety using an ageing 4x4 served only to make the Super Nova crew nervous about further damage, or threaten to overturn the rescue vehicle, before the dark blue Dallara was finally moved.

Thankfully, Schlegelmilch's machine appeared to take less effort to clear and racing finally resumed on lap 14, by which time the majority of the field had made their mandatory pit-stop. Petrov resumed 'in front', the Campos team having executed a swift turnaround, but Valles was gifted a chance to take second as Filippi's crew proved not quite as sharp, and Sebastien Buemi moved up to 'third' by jumping Grosjean and Chandhok.

Among those electing not to stop - or being prevented from doing so by tactics - was Bruno Senna, who had to cede to iSport team-mate Chandhok, the Indian holding superior track position at the time of the safety car despite his brush with Bakkerud. Behind the Brazilian, Filippi's team-mate Hiroki Yoshimoto, Piquet Sport's Marco Bonanomi, ART's Stephen Jelley, FMSI's Michael Herck and the Durango pairing of David Valsecchi and Valerio all held sway over Petrov and co, albeit not for long.

Once the green flags had signalled the resumption of racing, the Russian made it his goal to carve through the front of the field as soon as possible, fending off Valles' initial challenge and then leaving the Spaniard to deal with Filippi. With Petrov past Valerio, the chasing duo had to negotiate the Brazilian, and it was Filippi who came out on top, boxing his rival in to reclaim 'second' spot.

Fairuz Fauzy and Chandhok both damaged their chances of a decent result by spinning on the second lap after the restart, the Indian having to retire as a result of his trip into the gravel, while Filippi closed on Petrov, only to lose his momentum behind the next batch of slower cars.

Petrov had not quite made it back to the head of the pack when the second safety car period - facing an entirely different safety car - was brought about by Diego Nunes slamming his DPR entry into the tyre barrier marking the exit of the final corner. Although the Brazilian appeared unhurt in the cockpit of a machine missing its left front corner, the track staff appeared more concerned about clearing up the dirt and spilled tyres than to getting him to safety. It was eventually left to a member of the GP2 team to run across the start-finish straight to help Nunes re-attach his steering wheel and make it to the sanctuary of the pit-lane.

The clear-up operation this time took only five laps, with both Jelley and Bonanomi taking the opportunity to pit for their obligatory tyre change. Senna and Yoshimoto remained ahead of the pack, however, and both vaulted away from Petrov as soon as the safety car made its slow way back into the pits. The Russian, meanwhile, had concentrated on holding Filippi and Valles at bay before flooring it down the straight, opening out a decent cushion over the Italian by turn one.

His haste to get away, however, proved to be Petrov's undoing. Just a couple of laps after the restart, the right rear of the Campos car caught the damp verge approaching one of Sentul's tighter left-handers and promptly spun the unfortunate Russian into the waiting trap. Although he was able to rallycross his way back onto the track, vital places had been lost, allowing Filippi to inherit what was certain to become the race lead.

Petrov's error was magnified just over a lap later when both Senna and Yoshimoto were handed drive-thru' penalties for allegedly passing the safety car at the second restart. The punishment appeared unduly harsh given the lack of pace the SC driver had shown in taking to the pit-lane, but rules are rules and both racers now knew that it was unlikely that they would score with two pit calls still to make.

Senna pitted first, handing the second Qi-Meritus car a brief lead before Yoshimoto followed him in a lap later, but waited until lap 38 to make his tyre stop. By that time, Yoshimoto had called it a day after two moments on the same lap and Filippi had moved into the lead. The Italian was not comfortable out front, however, with Buemi sitting in his mirrors heading into the closing stages.

Further back, Valles, for all his challenges early on, now found himself in the clutches of impressive debutant Ben Hanley, who had kept his nose clean throughout to rise from 18th on the grid. The Briton, without the benefit of pre-series testing, harried the more experienced Spaniard until a couple of laps from home, when he dropped a couple of seconds back.

Behind them, round one dominator Romain Grosjean was having a quiet and lonely race in fifth, far enough ahead of the recovering Petrov to avoid pressure, but unable to close on the battling duo ahead. Petrov was equally comfortable ahead of Milos Pavlovic, who had the battle for race two pole, between Fauzy and Jelley in his wake.

The two-way scrap soon grew to include Senna, however, the Brazilian setting a string of laps up to a second faster than anyone else, courtesy in part to his newer rubber, to close the gap. Remarkably, on the final lap, the erstwhile leader managed to pass both the cars ahead of him to assume top spot on the grid for race two on Sunday morning.

The action was just as close at the front, as Buemi homed in on Filippi and took a couple of looks going into the final tour as the Italian struggled for grip on his worn tyres. Somehow, Filippi managed to hold the Arden car at bay around the final four kilometres, but was then forced to defend for another lap after Buemi appeared to miss the chequered flag in the dirt and dust thrown up by the leader. Unsure as to whether he should still be battling for position, Filippi again kept the Swiss behind him before the pair took the flag for a second time.

It only seemed appropriate for a race that had been wayward from the start.

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