Giorgio Pantano completed his domination the opening two days of the GP2 Series' visit to Istanbul Park by returning Racing Engineering to the top step of the podium.

Having demonstrated unrivalled pace in both free practice and qualifying on Friday, the Italian veteran left the field in his wake for most of Saturday's 34-lap feature race, with only the safety car looking likely to deny him a sixth career win.

Pantano got away cleanly at the start but, behind him, returnee Adam Carroll struggled to get the FMSI machine off the line, slowing up Bruno Senna behind him, while Romain Grosjean took advantage of the delay alongside him to vault Andi Zuber and secure second spot. Senna's afternoon got worse when he lost the front wing from his car in the first corner melee, while both Yelmer Buurman and Ben Hanley rotated, losing valuable ground.

Further around the lap, Barcelona winner Kamui Kobayashi damaged his suspension and had to retire, joining Alvaro Parente - who opened his season on top two weeks ago - in not scoring after the Portuguese driver stalled at the start of the formation lap.

With Grosjean and Zuber scrapping over second spot, Pantano was able to ease away at the front, and had pulled out a five-second lead inside the opening seven laps. The Italian's dominance meant that the excitement lay back in the pack, with the Grosjean/Zuber battle being mirrored by another for fifth - behind the lonely Karun Chandhok - between Vitaly Petrov, Javi Villa, Jerome d'Ambrosio, Carroll and Sebastien Buemi.

With overtaking at a premium between evenly-matched drivers, Buemi waited until the pit-stops to gain a place at Carroll's expense, the pair among the earliest to stop. Villa might also have gained a spot against Petrov had he not had to check up in order to avoid the arriving Pastor Maldonado as he left his stall, but the Russian resumed comfortably ahead of the second Racing Engineering entry when the dust had settled.

The leaders, meanwhile, ploughed on, making the most of their advantage over the pack to build up a comfortable gap before considering their mandatory tyre change. Pantano continued to ease away from the battle behind, with only the recovering Senna matching him for pace, while Zuber appeared content to wait for the pits to make his move on Grosjean.

The battle for ninth now became the best on the circuit, with d'Ambrosio fending off Carroll and Maldonado. The Venezuelan was in typically feisty mood, attempting to make the most of any move Carroll made on the Belgian at the front of the group. d'Ambrosio, meanwhile, did not appear to have the pace of those behind, and defended robustly, edging Carroll towards the pit-wall on lap 19. The Ulsterman eventually won through, however,passing his rival into turn one a lap later.

Maldonado attempted to capitalise but, in his haste to keep tabs on the FMSI car, made contact with d'Ambrosio's DAMS example, incurring sufficient damage to end his challenge for points in the pits for the second race running.

With fourth-placed Chandhok pitting for tyres on lap 19, the leaders had 45 seconds in hand over the pack, but it could still all have gone wrong when Alberto Valerio, who had been running an unexpected fifth, lost it over the bumps in the high-speed turn eight and rotated to a halt in the middle of the road.

With the safety car summoned, Pantano, Grosjean and Zuber knew they had to make their pi-stops count immediately. All received solid service from their teams, resuming in the same order as they had arrived, but deep in a queue as the pace car picked up at random. Fortunately for the nerves of all intimately involved with the top three, the backmarkers were waved through until Pantano was back at the head of the pack.

The Italian also had less to fear at the restart, as the lapped Andy Soucek and Luca Filippi filled the gap back to Grosjean, who still had Zuber for company. As a result, Pantano had little trouble in resuming his commanding advantage as the safety car pulled off, and reeled off the laps to the chequered flag.

Indeed, with the exception of the lapped runners giving way to their faster rivals, there was little notable action over the final five laps, save for Villa zapping past Carroll with one tour remaining. Having appeared on course to reprise his 2007 tactic of claiming eighth in the feature to start on pole for the sprint, Villa may have been undone by his British rival, who carried nothing like the speed of the Racing Engineering machine into the final complex.



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