Pantano re-enters title fight Giorgio Pantano became the only International F3000 driver this season to become a double winner with a lights to flag performance at Magny Cours this afternoon. As a result, he has breathed fresh life in to his...
Pantano re-enters title fight
Giorgio Pantano became the only International F3000 driver this season to become a double winner with a lights to flag performance at Magny Cours this afternoon. As a result, he has breathed fresh life in to his title challenge after two non-scoring races at Monaco and the Nurburgring.
The Italian, in his Durango entered Lola headed home points leader Bjorn Wirdheim by just over 4-seconds on the now slightly longer Nevers track. His second 10 points of the season see him elevated to 2nd in the points table, although Wirdheim actually extends his lead to 16 points by dint of fellow protagonist and last weekends winner - Enrico Toccacelo (Jordan Junior) finishing an un-competitive 13th.
"I made a nice start and was able to keep Bjorn behind in the early laps which was crucial," said Pantano immediately after the race. "I was really pushing to build a cushion and I think my tyres were in better shape in the later stages. But overall I needed this win badly and it gives me and the team big confidence to catch Bjorn."
Despite trying to live with Pantano early on, Wirdheim steadily dropped back in the second half of the race and registered his third runners up position of the year. Maintaining the impressive consistency that was only broken by his altercation in Germany last weekend with Sperafico, who finished a lonely 3rd today, the Arden driver has the advantage going in to the final 4 races of the year. His Arden International team mate Townsend Bell fared less well and lost time when he went off the road at Grande Courbe, leaving him to finish in a lowly 12th place.
Another driver who has compiled a solid points haul so far in 2003 is F3000 rookie Vitantonio Liuzzi in his Red Bull Lola B2/50. The former World Karting Champion continued his front running form in France with a fighting display to finish in 4th place ahead of Astromega pairing Tony Schmidt and Jeffrey Van Hooydonk.
It was Schmidtis most competitive performance since he began his F3000 career at the beginning of 2002 and excels his previous best finish of 6th place at Imola earlier in the year. Van Hooydonk had resisted huge pressure from Patrick Freisacher but they collided with just 3 laps remaining and the Austrian spun down to 11th place.
The final two points scoring places went to Yannick Schroderis ISR/Charouz Lola and Raffaele Giammaria in the second of the Durango chassis. Schroderis ISR/Charouz team mate Jaroslav Janis was left immensely frustrated when he stalled on the grid before retiring on lap 5. The Czech had qualified a career best 3rd but was unable to capitalise on it this time.
The only non finishers in France were the two Den Bla Avis cars of Phil Giebler and Nicolas Kiesa. Giebler was unable to start the race after aggravating the shoulder injury that he sustained at Monaco last month. Kiesa, who was hoping to re-ignite his title push, pulled in to the pits to retire after an altercation with Zsolt Baumgartneris Coloni Lola. "We were quite optimistic of some points but unfortunately he tangled with Baumgartner and spun," said DBA team manager Paul Jackson. "We hope the team will be back to full strength at Silverstone and we hope for better fortune there."
Both BCN Competition cars, run by former Lotus F1 designer Enrique Scalabroni finished, with American Will Langhorne coming home in 14th, whilst team mate Valerio Scaselatti followed him in 15th position.
The 7th race of the 10 round series moves on to Silverstone on Saturday 19th July.