Chris van der Drift wins second Auto GP race at Marrakech
Chris van der Drift scored his maiden Auto GP victory in a manic reversed-grid race at Marrakech, securing his first win of any kind since sustaining multiple injuries in an enormous Superleague Formula crash at Brands Hatch in 2010
Van der Drift had trailed early leader Sergey Sirotkin by 4.8s when the Russian made his mandatory pitstop on lap 12. But the 2008 Formula Master champion upped his pace, and benefitted from a quick tyre change by his MP crew four laps later to exit the pitlane with a slender lead.
"I was surprised to come out of the stops ahead," said van der Drift, who along with his Manor MP Motorsport team-mate Daniel de Jong formed the only pairing to start on new soft compound Kumho tyres. "After tyre problems in race one, I made a point of preserving my rubber early in today's race. Once Sergey pitted, I found I could up my pace without a problem. This is my first win since the accident, so you can say I haven't lost it!"
Third on the road, Monza winner Pal Varhaug is under investigation after cutting a chicane during a fraught final lap. The Norwegian struggled for pace after striking a piece of debris on track, which reduced his front-end grip.
A four-car train of Zele Racing's Giacomo Ricci, championship leader Adrian Quaife-Hobbs, Venezuelan Giancarlo Serenelli and Quaife-Hobbs' Super Nova team-mate Victor Guerin formed behind the compromised Virtuosi UK machine of Varhaug.
Guerin and Serenelli were eliminated from the battle when the former lost control into a chicane on lap 16 and tagged the rear of Campos driver Serenelli while regaining control.
On the last lap Varhaug failed to negotiate a chicane when under intense pressure from Quaife-Hobbs. The Briton became slightly crossed-up on the exit of the corner, promoting an opportunistic Ricci into fourth spot.
"There was something wrong with my steering," said Varhaug. "I had to use more lock than normal to turn into the chicanes, and getting around the final hairpin was almost impossible. When I cut the chicane I lifted off the throttle to allow Adrian ahead, but when I saw that he had been overtaken by Ricci I wasn't sure what to do. I just decided to continue onto the chequered flag."
Guerin recovered from his incident to complete the top six, ahead of Ombra's Yann Cunha.
Pole-sitter on the reversed grid, Euronova's Antonio Spavone, was overtaken by Sirotkin on the opening lap. The Italian's race came to a premature end when he was rammed out of second place by de Jong at the final hairpin at the completion of lap two.
Race one victor Sergio Campana retired in an unfortunate accident with his MLR71 team-mate and boss Michele la Rosa at the same corner. La Rosa had moved off line to allow Ricci to pass, but turned into the path of the Italian Formula 3 champion at the apex.
Results - 19 laps: Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Chris van der Drift Manor MP 29m10.823s 2. Sergey Sirotkin Euronova + 0.651s 3. Pal Varhaug Virtuosi UK + 19.943s 4. Giacomo Ricci Zele + 20.597s 5. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs Super Nova + 27.791s 6. Victor Guerin Super Nova + 39.774s 7. Yann Cunha Ombra + 44.552s 8. Francesco Dracone Virtuosi UK + 59.733s 9. Giuseppe Cipriani Campos + 59.932s 10. Facu Regalia Campos + 1m06.262s 11. Giancarlo Serenelli Ombra + 1 lap 12. Michele La Rosa MLR 71 + 8 laps 13. Sergio Campana MLR 71 + 8 laps Did not finish: Antonio Spavone Euronova 1 lap Daniel de Jong Manor MP 1 lap Maxim Snegirev Campos 0 laps
Sirotkin says start board confusion to blame for delayed getaway in race one
Pal Varhaug drops from third to seventh with post-race Auto GP penalty at Marrakech