Vitaly Petrov scored his first victory in the GP2 Series at Valencia on Saturday, registering the biggest international motorsport success for a Russian driver.
In the championship race, Timo Glock (iSport) is virtually assured of the title after finishing seventh, while rival Lucas di Grassi (ART) crashed out. They are now separated by four points with a maximum of seven on offer tomorrow.
Petrov headed a Campos Grand Prix 1-2 ahead of teammate Giorgio Pantano. Kazuki Nakajima was third for DAMS - all three aided by making the correct choice of taking slick tyres from the start.
A rain shower had soaked the circuit before the race, but it had dried out enough for slicks to be the right choice at the start. Nakajima raced away from pole position on his slicks, while the next six cars on the grid struggled away on their wets.
Petrov leapt up to second from eighth on the grid, with Kohei Hirate (Trident) heading Pantano. Off the line, di Grassi was forced to swerve into Nicolas Lapierre (DAMS), putting the Frenchman out almost immediately.
Di Grassi suffered a trip through the gravel before pitting for slicks on lap two. A couple of laps later, with rain falling again, he spun out into the gravel and was out.
Petrov took the lead from Nakajima at Turn 2, when Adam Carroll (who had already pitted his FMS car) was in his way. Pantano followed suit, but Hirate spun exiting Turn 6 as he tried to pull a move on Nakajima and he ended his race in the gravel.
Despite the rain, those who had started on wets had lost too much time already to make use of them. For example, Glock was already well out of the points, but he played safe by not coming in for slicks in case it rained more.
Bruno Senna (Arden), who had run as high as fifth, pitted for wets, only for the rain to cease and he soon returned for slicks. He would later crash out.
Those who didn't make unnecessary stops - namely Petrov, Pantano, Nakajima and Marcos Martinez (Racing Engineering) - were in clover.
They were the only cars on the lead lap, with Luca Filippi (Super Nova), Borja Garcia (Durango), Mikhail Aleshin (ART), Andy Soucek (DPR) and Glock heading the next bracket of those on a second-best strategy.
Pantano pushed Petrov hard, both before and after their pitstops, but Pantano's rear tyres went off in the final part of the race.
The Italian then had to fend off Nakajima to the finish, but he then forgot he was right behind him and performed a 'stoppie' at the finish line that caused Nakajima to hit him from behind, removing his front wing!
It was a bizarre end to a crazy race. Martinez finished fourth, ahead of Garcia. Filippi's handling went off horribly towards the end and he spun out after dropping way down the order.
Soucek just held off Glock to take sixth, while the final points went to Javier Villa (Racing Engineering) for eighth and Karun Chandhok (Durango) for fastest lap.
Pos Driver Team Time 1. V. Petrov Campos Grand Prix 1h05:20.497 2. G. Pantano Campos Grand Prix +2.495 3. K. Nakajima DAMS +2.541 4. M. Martinez Racing Engineering +51.658 5. B. Garcia Durango +1:20.832 6. A. Soucek DPR +1 lap 7. T. Glock iSport International +1 lap 8. J. Villa Racing Engineering +1 lap 9. M. Aleshin ART Grand Prix +1 lap 10. F. Albuquerque Arden International +1 lap 11. H. Tung BCN Competicion +1 lap 12. A. Zuber iSport International +1 lap 13. J. Tahinci FMS International +1 lap 14. M. Niemela BCN Competicion +1 lap 15. A. Negrao Minardi Piquet Sports +1 lap 16. M. Conway Super Nova International +2 laps 17. K. Chandhok Durango +2 laps 18. L. Filippi Super Nova International +5 laps Not classified B. Senna Arden International 23 laps S. Hernandez Trident Racing 16 laps A. Carroll FMS International 8 laps K. Hirate Trident Racing 7 laps L. Di Grassi ART Grand Prix 5 laps R. Rodriguez Minardi Piquet Sports 4 laps C. Bakkerud DPR 3 laps N. Lapierre DAMS 0 laps Fastest lap: Chandok, 1:22.336