Heikki Kovalainen just missed out on a double win at Jerez in Spain this afternoon after a late-race penalty for crossing the white line exiting the pits left him a lap adrift of the field. His mistake was Tiago Monteiro's gain, as the Portuguese driver ended the year on the top step of the podium
Kovalainen had led the full race distance until the late penalty notification. As in the first race, he had been kept honest by Monteiro without exactly having his mirrors full of the Carlin car. He had kept his two-second lead after both men had stopped and was looking all set to make it a double.
"It's a shame to lose out because of my mistake this afternoon," said Kovalainen. "I really wanted to end the year on a high. But it has been a great season. This is my first international championship win and obviously it's very important for my career.
Monteiro duly took a grateful win though, eight seconds in front of Juan Cruz Alvarez who flew throughout the race on a set of new "joker" tyres. Alvarez started 11th, made two spots at the start, passed Sergio Hernandez (Saulnier Racing) and made up another three places through the pitstops. His cause was also helped by the retirement of Enrique Bernoldi (GD Racing) and a mid-race spin for Narain Karthikeyan (RC Motorsport), who had been running third at the time.
Adrian Valles was the last man on the podium, so brought a bit of joy back to the Pons Racing garage. The Spanish driver was delighted to have done so well because he had been forced to start on very old tyres.
Although Kovalainen was already champion before this weekend, the battle for second in the championship raged throughout. Monteiro needed just a solid first-race result to secure second, but rival Bernoldi nearly lost third to Jean-Cristophe Ravier in the final standings. Despite very strong race pace (he had fastest lap in both races) his qualifying form compromised his whole weekend.
The World Series by Nissan becomes the World Series by Renault next season after seven successful seasons under the Nissan banner. The new season gets started in May 2005.
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