Kovalainen is the Champion!
28 000 witness history at the Valencia's best-attended 2004 car race
Heikki Kovalainen and Pons Racing were crowned World Series by Nissan champions at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit today, but race wins in the year's penultimate meeting went to Narain Karthikeyan and Tiago Monteiro -- two of Kovalainen's closest rivals this year. Kovalainen struggled today after starting the first race from the back of the field.
"This is not the way I wanted to win it," said the Finnish driver. "I'm very happy for me and the team, but it isn't over yet. I want to end the year with a win in the last race."
RC Motorsport driver Narain Karthikeyan had a lights-to-flag win in the first race. While the pole position man resisted race-long pressure from Jean--Cristophe Ravier (Epsilon Euskadi), Tiago Monteiro's failure to win meant that Heikki Kovalainen was crowned champion after driving through the field to take a point.
Karthikeyan made no mistakes with his start, making a perfect getaway. He had no worries into the first corner, where the top four kept their grid positions. The Indian driver did not have it easy though, because Ravier kept trying to force a mistake all race. Karthikeyan has a reputation for errors under pressure, but this time kept calm all the way despite a few wobbles.
Carlin drivers Tiago Monteiro and Olivier Pla trailed home third and fourth after each enduring a desperately dull race. But behind them was an enormous brawl. Santiago Porteiro led a train that comprised six cars by the end. Enrique Bernoldi was in that queue, but only because he'd spun out of a secure fourth place early in the race.
Kovalainen was at the back of the ultimately static bunch -- which meant tenth position. It was a good drive from the back of the grid and a point was about the best the Finn could expect. It wasn't the best way to claim the championship, the Pons Racing team still enjoyed its celebrations after success in its first year of car racing.
Monteiro made the most of pole position in the second race, though Karthikeyan was almost able to squeeze up his inside on the way to the first left-hander. From then on it was a straightforward race for the leading two. On both sides of the pitstops, Karthikeyan couldn't live with the Carlin Motorsport driver and Karthikeyan had little competition behind him until the very end.
"I am extremely happy for the team and all its supporters," said Monteiro. "I was sick overnight and wasn't sure how fit I would be. It's been a fantastic season, and my congratulations go to Heikki and Pons. They were obviously the best."
Although Karthikeyan did get caught by the flying Epsilon Euskadi duo of Felix Porteiro and Jean-Cristophe Ravier (both of whom had made progress during the pitstops), he put his race one experience to good use and kept them behind easily enough in the closing laps.
Though the championship is now over, the series still has one final race to run. It will take place at Jerez in Spain on November 7. There will no doubt be major celebrations as the successful series comes to an end before it becomes the World Series by Renault in 2005.
The last-ever race of the World Series Lights category was a typically eventful affair, just like on Saturday. Frenchman Simon Abadie found it quite easy making history as the final winner of a Lights race, taking the last trophy to the Epsilon Sport team. But behind him was an almighty battle, with Mathieu Lahaye leading a brawl involving Celso Miguez (who again started slowly today) and Matteo Pellegrino. Eventually there was contact between Pellegrino and Miguez, in which Miguez was the loser and ended his race in the gravel. That left Vergani Formula's man Pellegrino to take the last podium spot behind Lahaye.
Like the World Series Lights, the Spanish Formula Junior category also closed this weekend. New champion Marco Barba rounded off a successful season by taking a win for the local Valencia team Escuela Lois Circuit. His second-race success followed a win for his team-mate Manuel Saez Merino in the first race. This rounded off a good day for the local community following Porteiro's podium in the World Series.
<pre> World Series by Nissan Race 1 1. Narain Karthikeyan RC Motorsport 25'26.267 2. Jean-Cristophe Ravier Epsilon Euskadi +0.454 3. Tiago Monteiro Carlin Motorsport +16.412 4. Olivier Pla Carlin Motorsport +29.341 5. Santiago Porteiro Porfesa Competicion +33.618 6. Adrian Vallès Pons Racing +33.990 7. Enrique Bernoldi GD Racing +34.311 8. Felix Porteiro Epsilon Euskadi +34.977 9. Tristan Gommendy Saulnier Racing +35.262 10.Heikki Kovalainen Pons Racing +35.830
World Series by Nissan Race 2 1. Tiago Monteiro Carlin Motorsport 37'38.522 2. Narain Karthikeyan RC Motorsport +5.576 3. Felix Porteiro Epsilon Euskadi +6.697 4. Jean C Ravier Epsilon Euskadi +7.255 5. Heikki Kovalainen Pons Racing +13.737 6. Enrique Bernoldi GD Racing +14.073 7. Didier Andre KTR +26.233 8. Juan Cruz Alvarez Gabord Reyco +27.071 9. Tristan Gommendy Saulnier Racing +27.318 10. Adrian Vallès Pons Racing +27.121
World Series Light Race 2 1.Simon Abadie Epsilon Sport 26'15.807 4.Mathieu Layahe Saulnier Racing +2.757 3.Matteo Pellegrino Vergani Formula +3.694 2.Celso Miguez Meycom Sport +2 laps