Monza Auto GP: Kimiya Sato takes superb win in Monza rain
Kimiya Sato scored a superlative victory at a soaked Monza in the final race of Auto GP's season opening meeting
The Japanese racer, a German Formula 3 graduate, achieved a remarkable 20-second winning margin over Formula 2 champion Luciano Bacheta in a faultless display.
"I was only expecting, perhaps, a podium entering this weekend," said Sato. "I was pushing quite hard, even though there was a lot of aquaplaning during the race, but my car felt really easy to drive."
Standing water from persistent rain necessitated a safety-car start. But when green flags were produced at the conclusion of lap three, Euronova Racing's Sato demonstrated supreme confidence in intense spray.
The Japanese racer charged from sixth place onto the tail of reversed-grid polesitter and early leader Bacheta inside one lap.
The leading duo rapidly extended a six-second cushion over third-place man Vittorio Ghirelli. Aware of the stunning rate of his pursuer's progress, Bacheta elected not to jeopardise a likely podium when Sato lunged into the Roggia braking zone on lap five.
"I was pretty happy to finish second given it was such a last minute deal," said Bacheta, who only agreed terms with Zele Racing last week.
"I saw how fast Kimiya was closing, even in that spray, so I didn't see too much point in taking a risk and putting up a really big fight."
Sato grabbed the lead without fluster and, enjoying relatively clear visibility, immediately found a 2.6s improvement in pace and built a lead of over 13s.
The leaders held position through their late mandatory pitstops. There was a final piece of drama when Ghirelli, blinded by a wall of water, failed to see the chequered flag and came close to riding over the back of the slowing Bacheta, avoiding contact only by pitching his Super Nova car into a spin.
Race one winner Sergio Campana finished fourth, and in the latter stages was one of the few drivers to approach Sato's lap times.
Front-row starter Riccardo Agostini's race was compromised when an orange and white-striped plastic cone became lodged in his front left suspension, inducing excessive understeer.
Agostini would end the afternoon a solid fifth, six seconds ahead of Romanian Robert Visoiu, who survived a brief excursion down Turn 1's escape road (pictured).
Former Formula 1 racer Narain Karthikeyan pitted from fourth place with a technical issue on lap one.
Results - 14 laps: Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Kimiya Sato Euronova 32m25.073s 2. Luciano Bacheta Zele + 20.020s 3. Vittorio Ghirelli Super Nova + 21.830s 4. Sergio Campana Ibiza + 25.146s 5. Riccardo Agostini Manor MP + 41.792s 6. Robert Visoiu Ghinzani + 47.008s 7. Yoshitaka Kuroda Euronova + 52.956s 8. Michele la Rosa MLR 71 + 58.044s 9. Antonio Spavone Super Nova + 1m03.175s 10. Meinhart van Buuren Manor MP + 1m05.754s 11. Andrea Roda Virtuosi UK + 1m10.991s 12. Giacomo Ricci MLR 71 + 1 lap 13. Giuseppe Cipriani Ibiza + 7 laps Retirements: Narain Karthikeyan Zele 1 lap Maxim Snegirev Virtuosi UK 0 laps
Auto GP 2013 season guide
Narain Karthikeyan open to adding more Auto GP rounds in 2013