Hockenheim: Pantano makes hay

Giorgio Pantano is now back in with a shout of claiming this year's F3000 championship after cruising to victory at Hockenheim while championship protagonists Sebastien Bourdais and Tomas Enge both failed to finish

Hockenheim: Pantano makes hay

From pole position Pantano made a perfect getaway to take a lead into the first corner that he would hold until the flag. By the end of the first lap he already had a healthy lead, which he increased by almost half a second a lap until he backed off slightly near the end and cruised home.

"It was hard to maintain my concentration," he admitted afterwards. "I just tried to pull out a few tenths every lap. The car has been fantastic all weekend and everything was perfect in the race."

Pantano was followed home by Bjorn Wirdheim, who got the jump on Tomas Enge at the start to nick second place going into the first corner. Although he could not match Pantano's pace at the front, he was pretty much untroubled from behind.

Antonio Pizzonia did to Sebastien Bourdais what Wirdheim had done to Enge, but losing third place was to be the least of the erstwhile championship leader's concerns. A clash of wheels forced him wide in T2 and dropped him to ninth, and also damaged his car. Two laps later he spun he into retirement...

Enrico Toccacelo, Derek Hill and Patrick Friesacher all failed to make it through the second corner - proving that that piece of road is only wide enough for two cars. Hill managed to get going again, but the other two were out on the spot.

If Bourdais was concerned that his retirement would comprise his title challenge, he need not have worried. A mistake by Enge dropped him behind Pizzonia on lap six and into the clutches of Ricardo Sperafico. For the next 10 laps the Brazilian hounded the former Prost driver, before sensing an opportunity going into the hairpin. He made an opportunistic lunge down the inside, which seemed to catch Enge by surprise, for he turned in as usual and contact was inevitable.

The clash forced Enge wide and also into retirement, while Sperafico was handed a stop/go penalty for his involvement.

From there on in the order remained pretty static. Pantano was comfortably ahead of Wirdheim who in turn was well in front of Pizzonia. Rodrigo Sperafico held a narrow advantage over Mario Haberfeld, who was harried all the way by Tiago Montiero.

However, Pizzonia suffered a heartbreaking mechanical failure within almost touching distance of the flag, promoting the following drivers up a place and Ricardo Sperafico into sixth.

Non-finishes for Bourdais and Enge means the Frenchman maintains a five point lead in the championship, but it is now a three-horse race as Pantano has closed to within 12 points of the series lead.

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Qualifying 2: Pantano's first pole

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