Enge becomes first Czech F3000 winner

Tomas Enge became the first Czech driver to win a round of the Formula 3000 Championship by taking victory at Hockenheim, leading home a McLaren Junior team one-two

Enge becomes first Czech F3000 winner

However, Enge had to wait until the final lap of the race to pass rookie team-mate Tomas Scheckter after a tactical battle in the changing weather conditions.

The race started on a wet, but drying, track. To avoid the near-certainty of a first corner shunt, the safety car was deployed and a rolling start used. This caught out Mark Webber, jumped for third by Jeffrey van Hooydonk. However, by the end of the first lap the Australian had not only repassed the KTR driver, but also taken Scheckter for second. Fernando Alonso and Franck Montagny completed the early top six.

Up front, Enge pulled away quite comfortably from the start, while Webber was unable to shake Scheckter. The track was drying quickly. Justin Wilson was one of the first to risk going for slicks, but no sooner had he pitted than the rain returned. He then retired after contact occurred while he was being lapped by Alonso.

The safety car made another appearance as an incredibly intense downpour hit the area between turn one and the Jim Clark chicane. The rest of the track was virtually dry, but the spray on this section led to the safety car being deployed again.

By now Bruno Junqueira's title hopes had taken yet another blow. The Brazilian slid into the back of David Saelens at the Ostkurve on lap two, forcing Dino Morelli off the road in the process. Junqueira pitted for a new front wing and switched to slicks, but made no progress and retired in the pits.

Franck Montagny had been making up ground rapidly in the early stages but when he tried to snatch fourth from van Hooydonk shortly after the lap 12 restart, he succeeded only in taking both cars out of the race. Their departures elevated Enrique Bernoldi, Andrea Piccini and Nicolas Minassian into fourth, fifth and sixth. However, Minassian was already in trouble, the first of many drivers to find their wet weather tyres blistering hopelessly on the rapidly drying track.

Webber was also struggling, losing second place to Scheckter and dropping back towards the clutches of Piccini. Enge didn't wait for his tyres to blister, diving into the pits for slicks on lap 21. The stop was a slow one as the crew struggled with the left rear wheel, and he emerged back in ninth, only just ahead of the similarly slick-shod Bernoldi.

Tomas Scheckter therefore found himself leading on only his second start in the FIA F3000 championship. He pulled away rapidly from Webber and elected to try and finish the race on his worn wets despite the McLaren crew being ready for him in the pits.

At first it looked like an inspired choice as Enge struggled to make up ground after his stop. The Czech driver was finding it hard to shake Bernoldi, banging wheels with the Brazilian into the Nordkurve as they both tried to pass Mario Haberfeld for sixth.

Then on lap 25, a spin at the Jim Clark chicane seemed to spell the end of Enge's challenge. However it served only to inspire him and a scorching lap not only brought him right back onto the tail of Bernoldi, but also past both him and Haberfeld and into fifth place.

Scheckter's lead over Webber was up to 10s but then the South African clipped the Ostkurve kerb heavily and had a quick spin. He maintained his lead and was still 21s clear of Enge with five laps to go.

His team-mate was flying though, quickly passing the impressive Kristian Kolby and Piccini to move up to third position. Webber was his next target, easily disposed of into the final corner on lap 29.

The McLarens were now one-two again, with Enge 7.1s behind the struggling Scheckter. He rapidly homed in on his team-mate and took the lead as the pair crossed the line to start the final lap, pulling out a 6.3s winning margin on his final lap.

Webber was third ahead of Piccini, scoring Kid Jensen Racing's first points of the year. Kolby took his first ever F3000 points with a competitive fifth place, while Bernoldi only just held off Minassian for sixth. The Frenchman struggled particularly badly with blistered tyres and lost a lot of ground before changing to slicks.

With both Junqueira and Minassian failing to score, the championship contenders remain tied on 38 points. No-one else is now realistically in with a shout as the title race goes into its final stages, with just the Hungaroring and Spa races still to go in this thrilling season.




1 Tomas Enge McLaren
2 Tomas Scheckter McLaren + 6.3s
3 Mark Webber European + 16.3s
4 Andrea Piccini KJR + 18.2s
5 Kristian Kolby DAMS + 20.3s
6 Enrique Bernoldi Red Bull + 29.4s
7 Nicolas Minassian Super Nova + 29.4s
8 Jaime Melo Petrobras + 33.0s
9 Mario Haberfeld Fortec + 35.0s
10 Marc Goossens Astromega + 41.4s
11 Kevin McGarrity Nordic + 1m07.1s
12 Andreas Scheld Fortec + 1m10.3s
13 Darren Manning Arden + 1m10.4s
14 Ricardo Mauricio Red Bull + 1m13.8s
15 Viktor Maslov Arden + 1m21.9s
16 Yves Olivier KTR + 1m37.5s
17 Andre Couto + 1 lap
18 David Saelens + 1 lap

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