It was still all to play for at the start of Leg 2, with Paolo Montin (Tom's) in the perfect position to consolidate on his Leg 1 victory to gain the win that he had already made four attempts to lift. However, as the lights turned green he almost...
It was still all to play for at the start of Leg 2, with Paolo Montin (Tom's) in the perfect position to consolidate on his Leg 1 victory to gain the win that he had already made four attempts to lift. However, as the lights turned green he almost stalled, allowing Heikki Kovalainen (Fortec Motorsport) to dive into the lead, with Tristan Gommendy (ASM) trying to fend the Finn off. What happened next was straight out of the Macau disaster handbook. Bruce Jouanny (Promatecme International) got it all wrong and clouted the barriers at Lisboa. As he bounced off the Armco, Robbie Kerr (Alan Docking Racing) arrived and collected him, while Fabio Carbone (Fortec Motorsport) joined in as well. Unusually, no one else was involved, but it was still pretty messy. Meanwhile, Kovalainen was trying to pull out a lead, especially as Gommendy had lost a place to Yuji Ide (Arta-Signature-Elf) after losing ground to Kovalainen. Inevitably the Safety Car had to be brought out, and so they all lined up patiently behind it, Kovalainen knowing he would have to be fully alert at the restart if he was to hang on to his lead.
As expected, at the restart he faced a fierce challenge from Ide as they went into the Mandarin Oriental Bend. Kovalainen held his nerve and his line, and Ide had to drop into place behind the Fortec car. Lei Kit Meng (Manor Motorsport) promptly went off at Lisboa at the restart but was able to get going again, while a furious Montin was desperately trying to claw his way back into contention, by trying to pass Takashi Kogure (MugenxDome Project). At the front, Kovalainen was beginning to make a break for it, while Ide was keeping Gommendy very busy. Robert Doornbos (Team Ghinzani) was having a bit of a rough ride, and went off up the escape road at Lisboa but was able to get straight back on again, while Gommendy was now coming under pressure from Narain Karthikeyan (Carlin Motorsport). He managed to pass Gommendy, only for Gommendy to retake the place immediately. Perhaps in reaction, Karthikeyan promptly threw it at the wall just after his favourite corner, Maternity Bend, and put himself out of the race. In front Kovalainen continued to pull ahead, setting another fastest lap as he did so. Suddenly, though, Ide began to catch him up, while Montin raised the level of the fastest lap as he continued his pursuit. In response, Kovalainen pulled out half a second from somewhere. Now Gommendy was really after Ide, edging up behind him, to try and take 2nd place. Meanwhile, Cesar Campanico (Prema Powerteam) was forced to pit for repairs to the front end, including a complete new nose section.
Back at the leading end of the field, Kovalainen was again trying to break away, and was giving it his all. However, once Gommendy passed Ide, in a superb move at Mandarin Oriental Bend, it was not looking good for the Finn. The Renault engine in Gommendy's car seemed to have so much speed that it could only be a matter of time before Kovalainen was caught. Passing him might be another matter. Further back, Montin was still charging, and set another fastest lap, just before Gommendy went even faster. And then, as if we hadn't seen enough of the Safety Car, Ide and Matsuura managed to take each other out of contention at Lisboa. Ide ended up diving up the escape road after trying to close the door on Matsuura, while Matsuura carried on until he was overtaken by Montin who narrowly avoided him, the Japanese staggering as far as Dona Maria Bend, where he went off terminally.
And so the order behind the Safety Car was now Kovalainen, from Gommendy and Montin. The gap between the two front runners had been 1.6 seconds, with Gommendy reducing that by the lap, but now he could catch up easily while they all settled into place behind the Safety Car. Kovalainen must have been cursing inside his helmet. Still, after the way the 2002 season went in the UK, he should be used to restarts!
At the restart, for a moment, it looked as if Kovalainen might get away with it, but Gommendy was not prepared to settle for 2nd now. As they reached Lisboa he was through and gone, and from then on the race was his to control as he wanted. Montin, on the other hand, was now in trouble. He tried to find a way past Takashi Kogure (MugenxDome Project) for 3rd place but Kogure shut the door on him, and he ended up spinning and being collected by Richard Antinucci (Manor Motorsport), the two of them ending their race at Lisboa there and then, and being joined seconds later by the recovering Ide. After a spectacular lock-up, Kovalainen had dropped a place to Kogure, but he was able to get back ahead, although his chances of catching Gommendy had pretty much evaporated. It didn't stop him setting off in pursuit, but it was really too late as Gommendy powered round to take the chequered flag and set the fastest lap of the race. Kovalainen hadn't given up, but he just didn't have the speed any longer and would come home in 2nd, not too disappointed. Just when it looked as if he would get a nice tidy finish to the race, Shinya Sato (Swiss Racing Team) threw himself off at R Bend, making a terrible mess of his car in the process.
Behind the lead pair, Kogure had settled into 3rd place, while on aggregate Robert Doornbos (Team Ghinzani) was now up to 7th overall (10th on the road), which was a most impressive performance for someone on his first visit to this circuit. On the road, there were a number of drivers ahead of him, as both James Courtney (Carlin Motorsport) and Milos Pavlovic (Target Racing) tried to make up for the fact that they had been taken out of contention on the first lap of Leg 1. Pavlovic particularly didn't like his resulting grid position one little bit: "I can't even see the lights from here," he said. "So now all that is left is 'Grrrr!!!'". Grrrr indeed, as Courtney and he came from the 13th row of the grid to finish 5th and 6th in Leg 2. It made you wonder what they could have done, if they hadn't been implicated in someone else's accident so early on.
And so, the overall result was Gommendy from Kovalainen, Kogure, Hiranaka, Hiroki Yoshimoto (Now Motorsport), Doornbos, Marchy Lee (Manor Motorsport), Cristiano Citron (Target Racing), Michael Ho Hon Keong (Team Carlin.Kolles), Campanico, Sato and Lei Kit Meng (Manor Motorsport).