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Hungaroring Auto GP: Sato snatches unlikely victory from Ghirelli

Kimiya Sato leads Vittorio Ghirelli, Hungaroring Auto GP 2013Kimiya Sato snatched an unlikely victory from pitstop-delayed Hungaroring pacesetter Vittorio Ghirelli in a battling performance in Sunday's opening race.

The result is Sato's fifth consecutive podium, and extends the German Formula 3 graduate's lead in the drivers' standings to 14 points over third-placed finisher Sergio Campana.

Sato made a flying start from third on the grid to cut between polesitter Ghirelli and Auto GP debutant Tamas Pal Kiss into the lead.

"That was a really tough race," said Sato. "The pace was not there, the car struggled for grip and the tyres went away quickly - so I think today we were lucky."

But the Japanese's early tenure at the head of the field would be brief. Ghirelli, who demonstrated a marked performance advantage throughout practice, appeared set to recover his position swiftly.

The Super Nova racer picked up the lead in a well-executed manoeuvre around the outside of a slightly cautious Sato on the approach to Turn 1 on the second lap.

Once in clear air, Ghirelli established an 8.4-second lead over Sato before his adversary made his mandatory tyre change on lap 12. Regularly the only man lapping in the 1m34s, Ghirelli appeared on course for victory until pitting four laps from home.

A troublesome left rear tyre set up a tense closing laps. Ghirelli returned to track just a car length ahead Sato, but struggling on cold tyres was powerless to prevent him from sweeping around the outside of Turn 2.

Insufficient laps were left for Ghirelli to remedy the situation, and the former Formula Renault 3.5 racer finished 0.356s adrift at the chequered flag.

"I think I lost 10-15s in the stop," said Ghirelli. "The left-rear wouldn't come out, so we need to investigate that.

"Then my tyres weren't up to temperature in Turn 2, so I couldn't hold off Kimiya. That's it, I was happy with the pace but we were unlucky in the pits."

Riccardo Agostini demonstrated a strong turn of speed after an early pit call on lap four, and ended the morning in fourth.

After hounding Sato in the early laps, Kiss lost ground with a slow change to his right-rear and was forced to settle for fifth, a comfortable eight seconds clear of Agostini's Manor MP Motorsport team-mate Meindert van Buuren.

Narain Karthikeyan, Zele, Hungaroring Auto GP 2013Former grand prix driver Narain Karthikeyan endured a tough race with Zele Racing.

The Indian leapt from seventh to fourth in a fighting opening lap, before falling back after his pitstop. He will start the reverse-grid race from pole.

The second Zele entry of Formula 2 champion Luciano Bacheta retired in a crash with Robert Visoiu at Turn 9 two laps from home.

Results - 19 laps:

Pos Driver               Team           Time/Gap
 1. Kimiya Sato          Euronova       30m55.139s
 2. Vittorio Ghirelli    Super Nova      + 0.356s
 3. Sergio Campana       Ibiza           + 1.787s
 4. Riccardo Agostini    Manor MP        + 5.649s
 5. Tamas Pal Kiss       MLR 71          + 6.740s
 6. Meindert van Buuren  Manor MP        + 14.290s
 7. Daniel de Jong       Manor MP        + 28.387s
 8. Narain Karthikeyan   Zele            + 32.670s
 9. Andrea Roda          Virtuosi UK     + 33.233s
10. Maxim Snegirev       Virtuosi UK     + 39.842s
11. Francesco Dracone    Super Nova      + 50.337s
12. Yoshitaka Kuroda     Euronova        + 51.568s
13. Giuseppe Cipriani    Ibiza           + 59.066s
14. Michele La Rosa      MLR 71          + 1m02.587s
15. Robert Visoiu        Ghinzani        + 2 laps
16. Luciano Bacheta      Zele            + 2 laps

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