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Monza Auto GP: Sergio Campana escapes from rivals to win opener

Sergio Campana scored a dominant debut victory for Auto GP newcomer Ibiza Racing in Monza's opening round of the 2013 series

Last year's Marrakech Auto GP winner only received the call to race for restaurateur Giuseppe Cipriani's team on Wednesday, and is fighting to secure a permanent seat in the championship.

The 2011 Italian Formula 3 champion carefully negotiated a thrilling three-car fight with polesitter Riccardo Agostini and Kimiya Sato to move into the lead on the second lap.

Agostini's late-braking attempt to stave off Campana resulted in cutting the first chicane, and the Manor MP Motorsport driver conceded his position on the exit of the corner.

"In the first few laps I really enjoyed that great battle, but I had to pay extra attention not to touch any of the other cars," said Campana. "It was clear that three into one was not going to work in places, so I decided to wait, but I also had Kimya very close behind."

Campana's biggest drama came when attempting to lap Dutch youngster Meindert van Buuren, who had pitted for tyres two laps previously. The Formula Renault 2.0 graduate suffered an awkward spin at Turn 1 on lap seven and lightly brushed Campana's sidepod with his rear tyre.

An irate Campana was forced to cut the chicane in avoidance but lost minimal time. Ibiza elected to leave its charge out until the last lap before making a mandatory pitstop, and secured a 7.5-second winning margin over Sato.

Third-qualifier Vittorio Ghirelli made a stunning recovery from an abysmal getaway. The former Formula Renault 3.5 man complained of an engine temperature problem on the grid, which left his car stuck in safety mode until the second chicane.

Ghirelli lost considerable time, but ascended the leaderboard through a combination of strong pace and a relatively late pit call at the conclusion of lap 10.

The Super Nova racer came off best in a Kumho-to-Kumho battle with team-mate Antonio Spavone on the approach to the Variante della Roggia five laps from home, but was judged to have cut a chicane three laps later.

Although Ghirelli finished third on the road, a two-second corner-cutting penalty subsequently dropped him to fourth behind Romanian Robert Visoiu, who was in the thick of the action throughout and led a gaggle of cars across the line.

After a puncture in qualifying had left him 12th on the grid and a first-corner punt (pictured) dropped him even further back, former Formula 1 driver Narain Karthikeyan enjoyed a strong race run to finish 2.5s off a podium position in fifth.

Poleman Agostini fell back in the early laps, reporting a tyre issue, and ended the afternoon in seventh position ahead of Luciano Bacheta. The Formula 2 champion was running a solid fourth on the road for a lengthy period before falling back with an apparent loss of straightline speed.

MLR71 team owner Michele La Rosa briefly held an impressive second position towards the end of the pitstop sequence on lap 12, but lost out on a potential top-10 result when his car refused to pull away cleanly from the pits.

Results - 14 laps:

Pos  Driver               Team            Time/Gap
 1.  Sergio Campana       Ibiza         23m40.402s
 2.  Kimiya Sato          Euronova        + 7.575s
 3.  Robert Visoiu        Ghinzani       + 18.895s
 4.  Vittorio Ghirelli    Super Nova     + 19.119s*
 5.  Narain Karthikeyan   Zele           + 19.409s
 6.  Antonio Spavone      Super Nova     + 19.907s
 7.  Riccardo Agostini    Manor MP       + 20.700s
 8.  Luciano Bacheta      Zele           + 23.739s
 9.  Giuseppe Cipriani    Ibiza          + 35.169s
10.  Maxim Snegirev       Virtuosi UK    + 44.079s
11.  Yoshitaka Kuroda     Euronova     + 1m31.620s

Retirements:

     Michele la Rosa      MLR 71           13 laps
     Meinhart van Buuren  Manor MP          4 laps
     Giacomo Ricci        MLR 71             1 lap
     Andrea Roda          Virtuosi UK       0 laps

* Two-second penalty for corner-cutting

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