Bas Leinders was probably the happiest man at the A1-Ring on Sunday night after a weekend of mixed fortunes for most of the Superfund World Series runners. The Belgian proclaimed himself pleased with a win and a second in the Austrian rounds of the series.
Franck Montagny could only manage one victory today after jumping the start in the first race, but has done more than enough to be sure that he is likely to take the championship in the next round at Barcelona.
Leinders started the first race from pole position and was beaten to the first turn by Montagny. He didn't need to worry too much about that, however, because Montagny had flown the start by a mile and soon had to give up his lead and take a stop-go penalty in the pits. This left Leinders with a comfortable advantage over his team-mate Stéphane Sarrazin, which he held until the end of the 18-lap sprint race.
Ander Vilariño followed the two Racing Engineering drivers home in what was an uneventful race for the first three drivers. Fourth place was initially held by Bruce Jouanny, but the Frenchman made a mistake and spun into the gravel at the chicane on lap eight.
That left fourth to be disputed by Enrique Bernoldi and Bruno Besson. Besson pressured Bernoldi hard at times during the race, but could never find a way past. Their fight wasn't nearly as fierce as the one between Norbert Siedler and the charging Montagny.
Montagny had emerged from his penalty just behind team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who offered little resistance. Soon Franck was on Siedler's tail and tried his utmost to get past. He could hardly have been closer on the last lap and had a couple of promising looks, but ultimately had to give best to the local favourite and settle for seventh.
Narain Karthikeyan had the expected rough time after starting from the back. But the Carlin man did much better from third on the grid in the second race, when he jumped up to second behind Montagny, who this time made a very good but legal start. Pole-sitter Bruce Jouanny didn't have a very good getaway and dropped to third, with Bas Leinders giving him a very hard first stint indeed.
Leinders was clearly much quicker but couldn't find a way past. The Belgian made a tactical early pit stop and simply flew round the track once he had some clear air. There was never any doubt that he was going to emerge in front of Jouanny after the Frenchman stopped, but he also had the bonus of passing Karthikeyan for second when the Indian spun just before his own stop.
Bas did not stop there and charged after Montagny like a feral mongoose. But the Gabord driver was equal to the pressure and kept the Belgian behind him. He won by less than half a second.
Fifteen seconds behind them was an even more intense battle. Karthikeyan had dropped behind Jouanny with his off-track excursion, but was now locking wheels and generally looking wild in his bid to get back on the podium. You couldn't say he didn't try hard, but he too had to accept his lot. He was fourth, just over half a second back from his team-mate.
For the record, Montagny leads the championship by 107 points with three race meetings left. Even after his mistake at the lights this morning, it's still academic even to mention his lead.
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