Lopez out of luck as Lauda charges to top six finish
Jose Maria Lopez was denied a podium finish in the last ever FIA Formula 3000 International Championship race, which took place at Monza in Italy last Saturday. But his team-mate Mathias Lauda gave the Coloni Motorsport-managed CMS Performance squad some reason for cheer with a strong run to a season's best sixth position.
Patrick Friesacher, in the lead Coloni entry, was recovering from an uncharacteristically slow start when a collision with Ferdinando Monfardini at the second Lesmo forced him out of the race on lap 18. His team-mate Chanoch Nissany fared slightly better, however, crossing the finishing line in 12th position.
Lopez had been the star of the early laps of the race. From fourth on the grid, he made a rapid getaway and took second, albeit after surviving a brush with Raffaele Gianmaria, at the first corner. Despite the collision the Argentine was setting a blistering pace when, approaching the sweeping Ascari chicane on lap three, his front wing, which had been damaged in the earlier collision, broke free and became stuck under his car's front wheels. He was unable to steer and as a result ploughed through the gravel trap and into the tyre barriers at high speed, fortunately escaping injury.
"It was a terrible shame for Jose Maria because he was the fastest on the track and he really deserved a podium finish to end his season," said team principal Paolo Coloni of his charge's plight. "He easily could have taken the fight to [race winner Vitantonio] Liuzzi."
Friesacher's slow start dropped him to 16th position prompting his Coloni engineers to revise their pit stop strategy. The tactic worked and the Austrian driver was in sixth position when he collided with Monfardini. His compatriot Mathias Lauda, meanwhile, made up eight places during his charge from the seventh row of the grid to finish in sixth position.
"The decision to change Patrick's pitstop strategy was a really good move and the team did a great job with his tyre change," said Coloni. "Mathias drove a good, strong race and it was a good way for him to end his season."
Chanoch Nissany's 12th place finish was the best of his three-race campaign.