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Pal Varhaug takes maiden Auto GP victory in second race at Monza

Pal Varhaug Virtuosi UK Auto GP Monza 2012

Pal Varhaug claimed his maiden Auto GP victory in the second race at the season-opening round at Monza, benefiting from a rapid pitstop by the Virtuosi UK team to charge up the order from seventh on the grid.

Once in the lead, the GP2 convert pulled out a 3.5-second margin of victory over MP Motorsport's Chris van der Drift. The Kiwi completed no pre-season testing and was only confirmed in his drive on Thursday.

"I have to thank the team for such a fast stop," said Varhaug of Virtuosi, which was only set up during the winter. "I was pushing, pushing every lap and I didn't have as much trouble getting heat into the tyres as in race one. I really want to complete the season, especially now that I have won, but at the moment I only have an agreement to do this race."

Race one victor Adrian Quaife-Hobbs took a fine third, and is now tied for the championship lead on 38 points with Varhaug. The Briton was delayed during his mandatory pitstop when his Super Nova crew was forced to hold him on his markings to allow a train of four cars to pass.

After stalling on the front row of race one, Sergey Sirotkin completed a strong recovery over the weekend to claim fourth. The Russian was just 0.1s behind Quaife-Hobbs at the chequered flag.

Sirotkin's Euronova team-mate Antonio Spavone had lined up on pole for race two, but the Formula Abarth graduate suffered a slow getaway. From the outside of the front row, it was Max Snegirev who grabbed the lead into the Rettifilio chicane, pursued closely by Zele Racing's GP2 race winner Giacomo Ricci. Van der Drift, in third, was a further second back, ahead of Facu Regalia (Campos Racing).

In a lively race, Ricci challenged Snegirev for the lead at Curva Grande on lap two, but was edged onto the grass for his troubles. Van der Drift made his pitstop at the first opportunity when the window opened on lap five, and on the following tour Snegirev relinquished the lead to make his own mandatory rear tyre change.

Ricci inherited the lead from Varhaug, Spavone and Quaife-Hobbs. The group made their stops together on lap eight. Varhaug's swift turnaround allowed him to leapfrog Ricci. But the Italian was to suffer greater misfortune two laps later, when he was punted out of third place on the exit of the Rettifilio by Italian F3 champion Sergio Campana.

The incident provided leader Varhaug with some breathing space, and the former Italian Formula Renault champion was assisted further by the manic nature of the scrap for second.

Just 0.3s covered the second to fifth place cars across the start-finish line on lap 10. Matters came to head approaching the first chicane, as van der Drift in second ran three abreast with Spavone and Campana. An accident appeared inevitable and fifth-placed Victor Guerin locked the front brakes of his Super Nova car to ram Campana's rear with his front wing.

The ensuing mess provided a clear path for Quaife-Hobbs to steal third, as Spavone took to the escape road. The Napoli racer recovered to finish fifth, ahead of early leader Snegirev.

Results - 14 laps:

Pos  Driver               Team           Time/Gap
 1.  Pal Varhaug          Virtuosi UK  23m48.744s
 2.  Chris van der Drift  Manor MP       + 3.519s
 3.  Adrian Quaife-Hobbs  Super Nova     + 4.445s
 4.  Sergey Sirotkin      Euronova       + 4.520s
 5.  Antonio Spavone      Euronova       + 9.839s
 6.  Maxim Snegirev       Campos        + 12.332s
 7.  Adderly Fong         Ombra         + 20.060s
 8.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Ombra         + 23.840s
 9.  Facu Regalia         Campos        + 26.135s
10.  Giuseppe Cipriani    Campos        + 27.103s
11.  Victor Guerin        Super Nova    + 31.180s
12.  Michele la Rosa      MLR 71        + 48.448s


     Sergio Campana       MLR 71          11 laps
     Giacomo Ricci        Zele             9 laps
     Matteo Beretta       Virtuosi UK      7 laps
     Daniel de Jong       Manor MP         6 laps
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