Antonio Pizzonia wins again in Auto GP as Adrian Quaife-Hobbs claims title at Curitiba
Antonio Pizzonia was the beneficiary of a dramatic climax to the second Auto GP World Series race at Curitiba to complete a remarkable double victory on his maiden weekend in the championship
Long-time leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs had appeared set for victory until skating off the road into a tyre barrier in the pitlane entry with three laps remaining. The Briton had been one of the last drivers to pit, and enjoyed a 35-second lead over Pizzonia at the time of the accident.
Despite the shock retirement, Quaife-Hobbs was given a reprieve, being confirmed as champion as his nearest rival in the drivers' standings Pal Varhaug could only manage fifth place.
Kiwi Chris van der Drift made excellent work negotiating traffic to take second, some eight seconds adrift of Pizzonia.
Van der Drift's Manor MP Motorsport team-mate Daniel de Jong followed closely to claim his first podium of the season in third. The Dutchman was advised on the radio to "use his mind" rather than stage a late race passing attempt on his stablemate.
"That was amazing," said Pizzonia, who is racing in this year's Brazilian Stock Car series. "Obviously, I am racing at home this year, but when you are a Brazilian in an international series the whole crowd gets behind you. I have never experienced that sort of reaction before."
The race was a straight head-to-head between Quaife-Hobbs and Ombra stand-in Pizzonia, who filled Giancarlo Serenelli's seat while the Venezuelan competed in this weekend's GP2 meeting at Hockenheim.
From third on the grid, Quaife-Hobbs made a perfect getaway to lead onto Turn 1. Pizzonia's start was perhaps even better, moving from sixth to third place behind his team-mate and fellow Auto GP debutant Rafael Suzuki.
Pizzonia was handed second place when Suzuki cut Turn 2 on lap two and gradually closed the deficit to the leader down to a second.
Ombra brought the Manaus racer in for his mandatory stop at the end of lap seven, but four to five seconds was lost in a problem fitting the left-rear tyre, consolidating Quaife-Hobbs' advantage at the head of the pack.
Thereafter, Pizzonia and Quaife-Hobbs were the only drivers regularly lapping under the 1m13s mark. The closely matched fight prevented Pizzonia from recovering the ground lost in his tyre change, but the former grand prix driver maintained the pressure.
Quaife-Hobbs' Super Nova pit crew were ready to receive their man on lap 20, when the critical mistake occurred. Despite the lapse, the Kent racer is a deserving champion, a points total of 205 with one meeting at Sears Point remaining is testimony to his domination of this year's series.
Russian Sergey Sirotkin took fourth place on a weekend which was initially hampered by gearbox problems. Sirotkin was hanging on to van der Drift's gearbox during the first half of the race, before being overtaken by de Jong on lap 14.
Reversed-grid polesitter Francesco Dracone had a troubled afternoon, running off the track on several occasions, and later serving a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
Results - 23 laps: Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Antonio Pizzonia Ombra 28m44.316s 2. Chris van der Drift Manor MP + 8.021s 3. Daniel de Jong Manor MP + 9.264s 4. Sergey Sirotkin Euronova + 13.662s 5. Pal Varhaug Virtuosi UK + 14.651s 6. Rafael Suzuki Ombra + 30.039s 7. Maxim Snegirev Campos + 39.835s 8. Sergio Campana Euronova + 40.197s 9. Francesco Dracone Virtuosi UK + 57.038s 10. Giuseppe Cipriani Campos + 1 lap 11. Michele la Rosa MLR 71 + 1 lap Retirements: Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Super Nova 19 laps
Antonio Pizzonia wins on Auto GP debut at Curitiba
Auto GP confirms season finale will be held on full Sears Point circuit