Campana beats Quaife-Hobbs to win Auto GP thriller at Marrakech
Italian Formula 3 champion Sergio Campana scored a thrilling maiden Auto GP victory in Marrakech. Driving for newcomer MLR71, the Italian positioned his car skilfully to fend off a charging Adrian Quaife-Hobbs over the closing laps
From fifth on the grid, Super Nova racer Quaife-Hobbs made an early pit call on lap five. After a string of fast lap times, the Briton arrived on Campana's gearbox as the Italian exited the pitlane from his own stop on lap 12.
Campana had spent the first half of the race scrapping with early leader Pal Varhaug, but the Norwegian lost a probable win after stalling following his change to fresh rubber.
The Virtuosi UK racer's misfortune created a sensational climax to the race as Campana and Quaife-Hobbs raced wheel-to-wheel on several occasions. The Reggio Emilia driver covered the inside line into each of the Circuit Moulay El Hassan's chicanes, and benefited from having some remaining power-boost, to take victory by 0.186s.
"During the last laps my rear tyres were completely finished," said Campana. "I was having wheelspin even on the straight. That made it possible for Adrian to come alongside me several times. I am sure it was a good race to watch, but it wasn't so fun to drive!"
Quaife-Hobbs felt he could have overtaken Campana during the pitstop phase if it hadn't been for the combination of a slight delay in his pit release and a battle with a stubborn Antonio Spavone.
The Euronova Racing driver was running ahead of Quaife-Hobbs in third on lap 10, as he had yet to make a stop.
The Italian maintained his position by cutting a chicane, and later received a drive-through penalty for subsequently failing to relinquish his place.
"I chose to start the race on very old tyres," said Quaife-Hobbs, "and I lost five seconds to Campana before my stop. Once I changed to new softs, I knew I really had to push. I had also used all my push-to-pass at the beginning. There was one time when I did manage to get onto Sergio's inside, but he had some power-boost to spare and was able to get ahead. I was trying as hard as I could without risking crashing."
Spavone's team-mate Sergey Sirotkin had a very slow getaway from pole position, and dropped to ninth. The Russian staged an excellent recovery to finish sixth behind Zele Racing' Giacomo Ricci.
Former GP2 racer Ricci survived being squeezed into the wall at the start and his super-soft compound tyres dropping off considerably to salvage fifth place.
Kiwi Chris van der Drift entered the meeting tied for fourth position in the drivers' standings with his MP Motorsport team-mate Daniel de Jong. A solid fourth position in race one moved van der Drift clear of the Dutchman, who took seventh.
Results - 19 laps: Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Sergio Campana MLR 71 29m34.199s 2. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Super Nova + 0.186s 3. Pal Varhaug Virtuosi UK + 5.951s 4. Chris van der Drift Manor MP + 36.677s 5. Giacomo Ricci Zele Racing + 38.902s 6. Sergey Sirotkin Euronova + 40.169s 7. Daniel de Jong Manor MP + 59.207s 8. Antonio Spavone Euronova + 59.324s 9. Yann Cunha Ombra Racing + 1m07.767s 10. Francesco Dracone Virtuosi UK + 1m08.838s 11. Giancarlo Serenelli Ombra Racing + 1m08.888s 12. Michele La Rosa MLR 71 + 1m16.185s 13. Maxim Snegirev Campos Racing + 1 lap Did not finish: Victor Guerin Super Nova 3 laps Facu Regalia Campos 2 laps Giuseppe Cipriani Campos 1 lap
Sergey Sirotkin takes Auto GP pole on street debut in Marrakech
Sirotkin says start board confusion to blame for delayed getaway in race one