A Day For New Winners in The World Series By Nissan
Magny-Cours, 23 May -- It was a day for breakthroughs at the World Series by Nissan races in France today. First Narain Karthikeyan broke his victory duck in the series, also arguably making history with the biggest success for an Indian driver in the history of the sport. Then, in the longer second race, glamour team Pons Racing got their first win, safely delivered by Heikki Kovalainen.
After getting pole position yesterday, Karthikeyan had no trouble dominating the race from the lights to the flag. His margin of victory was just under three seconds, but it had been even greater before he made a small mistake at the Adelaide hairpin when he locked up his brakes. Kovalainen might have briefly thought he had a sniff of a chance, but once Karthikeyan had resumed his momentum it was clear that the Finn still had no answer.
"It's a great day for the team and myself," said Karthikeyan. "It's a great thing for India too, because this is the biggest single-seater championship after F1. I am over the moon, everything is coming together so nicely."
Kovalainen was equally unchallenged in second, with Enrique Bernoldi finishing a long distance behind him. Bernoldi faded in the latter stages and was almost caught by Jean-Cristophe Ravier, who had sat unthreateningly a couple of seconds behind throughout the race.
Kovalainen streaked away from pole position in the second race, stayed out for as long as permissible until his crew executed a perfect pitstop that let him back out with his advantage intact. He was several seconds ahead of nearest rival Tristan Gommendy (who stopped on the same lap) at the flag.
"I knew if I got a start then there would be no problem," said Kovalainen, who now leads the championship. "It's taken some time for this team to come together, and I'm not always such a fast season-starter either. But I think we can definitely challenge for the title from now on."
Gommendy had got ahead of Karthikeyan into Estoril corner on the first lap, and then spent the first half of the race fending off the Indian. But Karthikeyan then got a drive-through penalty for speeding at his first stop, and so dropped out of podium contention. He still finished in fourth, behind Epsilon Euskadi driver Ander Vilarino, who made up for a disappointing first race with this podium finish.
The first World Series Lights race was a thrilling encounter, even though the series leader Milos Pavlovic led the whole way. Pavlovic survived some early presssure from Simon Abadie to take a comfortable win, only allowing Abadie to close up to him just before the finish line.
But it was the battle for third that was the most inspiring. Celso Miguez held the spot for most of the race, but Bastien Briere was trying desperately hard to find a way past. Briere was far too close for far too long for there not to be a moment of madness before the end. It came on the exit of the Adelaide hairpin, where there was repeated contact between Miguez and Briere. Briere shoved his way past as Miguez sustained a broken wing, which meant he got passed by the waiting Mathieu Lahaye within a few corners. Fortunately the end of the race was nigh, so Miguez did not lose any further places.
In race two, it was again Pavlovic who dominated, but he was pushed a little harder by Abadie. The French driver did a great race, fighting his way from fifth on the grid with a couple of forceful overtaking moves. When he got into second he was around three seconds down on Pavlovic, but that came down to just under a second near the end.
Matteo Pellegrino was second early on, but had a big moment at Imola during the figth with Abadie, which dropped him almost to the back of the field and ended his chances of a good result. Celso Miguez was also in the fight for second at one stage, but ended up dropping out with a spin at Adelaide. Mathieu Lahaye drove a fine race to third place, and was right on Abadie's tail through the final corner of the race.
The second Formula Junior 1600 race of the weekend was also on today's programme, and Belgium's Michael Herck won again. He led the whole way from Giacomo Ricci, but Ricci subsequently lost his second place with a 25 second time penalty for overtaking on the formation lap.
Third went to Arturo Llobell, while Tom Dillman got fourth after taking the place from Miguel Molina earlier in the race. Molina went off to have a most disappointing final lap, because he had to pull off the circuit and retire.