It had to go wrong sometime for Vitantonio Liuzzi. Having dominated the opening three rounds of the FIA F3000 International series, the likable Italian was unable to convert pole position into win number four at the Nurburgring. Instead, it was Liuzzi's season-long rival Enrico Toccacelo who took the honours in Germany for the first time this year. Frustrated at having spent the previous rounds snapping at the heels of his Italian rival, the BCN Competition driver was naturally elated after the race to have delivered his teams' first win in the series.
"It was a perfect result for me," Toccacelo declared. "We were confident going into this race that we could finally get the better of Liuzzi and we did. It wasn't an easy race to win but I am confident this will be just the first of many more to come this year."
The race itself was an incident-packed one, to say the least. At the lights, Liuzzi made a poor get away from pole and was ambushed by Toccacelo and Jeffrey van Hooydonk at the first turn.
Eager to impress, things got a little heated between the three hopefuls and as a result, Liuzzi suffered tyre damage necessitating a visit to the pits on lap two which dropped him to the tail of the field. Further down the order, Ribiero lost control of his Durango car and beached it in the gravel at turn 5.
Lap 5 saw Argentian Jose Maria Lopez run wide before hitting the Ma-Con of Thomas Enge who was then passed by Schmidt while at the front, Toccacelo passed van Hooydonk entering the Mercedes Arena before the Belgian hit back and took the lead once more.
While all this was going on at the front, Schroeder and Friesacher began to reduce the gap to the leading pair before the mandatory pit stops began on lap 8 with Robert Doornbos (Arden) and Jan Heylen (Astromega) the first drivers in, from fifth and 12th places respectively. With overtaking at the Nurburgring at a premium, the teams elected to call their respective drivers in over the ensuing 5 or so laps so as to try and maintain track position. Eager to resume the lead, Toccacelo hustled his BCN machine past Doornbos -- who's stop enabled him to leapfrog van Hooydonk, going into turn 1 on lap 15.
Seemingly unable to complete a race distance without tangling with a fellow driver, Thomas Enge collided with the SuperNova of Patrick Friesacher at turn three a lap later. His car damaged beyond repair, the Austrian returned to the pits, stepped from his car, and walked dejectedly into the back of the garage.
"I had to get away," Friesacher announced. "I was very angry at Thomas for the move he tried to make. It was a shame because we could have finished well here today."
His car undamaged, Enge continued to circulate while up front, Toccacelo was now three seconds clear of Doornbos, Schroeder and Guerrieri. Monfardini -- who hadn't stopped -- was up to fifth, ahead of van Hooydonk in 6th. Soon though, things turned sour for Monfardini as he became the last to make a stop (75 seconds) on lap 17.
Reigning British F3 champion Alan van der Merwe was out of the race two laps later from 10th position with a shredded nosecone while Toccacelo continued to ease away from the chasing pack -- his lead now up to six seconds. For Doornbos, Schroeder and Guerrieri, there was momentary cause for hope on lap 21 as the leader went wide at the Mercedes Arena and looked to be in trouble, albeit briefly. Collecting his car, the Italian return to the racing line without loosing too much time much to the dismay of his pursuers.
Lap 24 and Giammaria briefly wrestled sixth from Lopez at Turn 7, but carrying too much speed into the turn, he ran wide and in doing so and dropped back behind the Argentinian. The pair of them soon began to swarm all over the gearbox of van Hooydonk before finally passing the Belgian at the chicane. Sensing an opportunity to steal a place for himself, Enge also managed to catch van Hooydonk unawares -- the resulting manoeuvres dropping the Coloni driver from 5th to 8th in one fell swoop. Adding insult to injury, the hapless driver subsequently spun two laps later as he fought to regain some of the deficit lost at the chicane before rejoining the track without loosing position.
Ending Liuzzi's unbeaten run of three wins, Toccacelo it was who took the flag on lap 30 to the delight of the BCN Competition squad. His third career FIA F3000 victory, the Italian now heads the championship table going into round 5 at Magny Cours.
An elated second, Doornbos cemented his growing reputation with a fine drive while Schroeder claimed his maiden podium in 3rd place. Rounding out the points-paying positions were Guerrieri, Lopez, Giammaria, Enge and van Hooydonk. Liuzzi meanwhile -- after a troublesome race to say the least, finished a distant 11th and also had the frustration of not only knowing his championship rival had won, but that he had additionally lost the lead at the top of the table.
Consistancy, they say, is the key to winning championships, and on the face of his performance this weekend, Enrico Toccacelo will find it hard to disagree.