Kovalainen Grabs Comfortable Win

Heikki Kovalainen has taken a comfortable win in race one at the Circuit Nevers Magny Cours, ahead of Jose Maria Lopez and Nicolas Lapierre, to extend his lead in the championship to fifteen points

Kovalainen Grabs Comfortable Win

Alex Premat led the grid away on the warm up lap under overcast skies and on a dry track, but was unable to contain a fast starting Kovalainen when the lights went out, with the Finn leading Premat, Lopez and Scott Speed through the first corner.

The American driver was overtaken two corners later by Nico Rosberg, while behind them all Gimmi Bruni sat stalled on the grid and Ryan Sharp was trying to find his way back onto the track after spinning off at the first turn.

The next time through, Ferdinando Monfardini was looking for a way past Xandi Negrao at the final turn, but the move failed and Negrao was off the track as Bruni came in for a very early stop - his Coloni team were obviously hoping for a repeat of Kovalainen's Nurburgring tactics for the Italian, and he was immediately the fastest man on track.

Rosberg was all over the back of Lopez's car and trying to find a way back - the Argentinean driver was luridly sliding all over the track in defense of his position, but Rosberg was through on lap eleven as Lopez peeled into the pits for his stop.

Five laps later Speed was in from fourth place, but a sticking tyre undid all of his good work and the resultant lengthy stop threw him well back in the pack. Back on track Olivier Pla was off at the final corner, his second spin of the day and his final one.

The Frenchman's car was beached on the kerbs, prompting a call for the safety car.

Which was to be the decisive moment of the race - Kovalainen, Lapierre, Hiroki Yoshimoto and Ryan Sharp all pitted under the safety car, leaving the ART pairing of Premat and Rosberg leading on track while also the only men not to have carried out their compulsory stop.

At the restart on lap 19 Premat and Rosberg led the pack away, followed by Kovalainen, Lopez, Lapierre and Nelson Piquet Jr, with Adam Carroll and Neel Jani filling out the points paying positions ahead of a fast charging Yoshimoto and Giorgio Pantano.

On lap 24 there was disappointment for Piquet - after a solid race he was back in the pits and stepping out of his car after his electrics failed, while five laps later Speed ran wide and through the gravel at turn two, dropping five spots to 18th.

Back at the front Premat looked to be holding up his teammate and Kovalainen, and it was only a matter of time before he came in - the Frenchman pitted on lap 32, coming back out in twelfth place and handing the temporary lead to his teammate.

Rosberg had started putting in some fast laps but it wasn't enough - he was in with two laps to go, coming back out in seventh and handing the race win to an overjoyed Kovalainen, who cruised to his third win of the year.

He celebrated the win with a number of donuts on the cool down lap before rushing up to the podium to spray champagne over teammate Lapierre, who claimed his first podium of the year with third, and a delighted Lopez to the loud applause of the crowd.

Kovalainen now leads the championship with 48 points, ahead of Carroll on 33 points, with Bruni and Speed sharing third place on 29 points.

CLASSIFIED: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Kovalainen Arden International 1:02:55.458 2. Lopez DAMS + 3.387 3. Lapierre Arden International + 7.706 4. Carroll Super Nova International + 15.031 5. Jani Racing Engineering + 22.610 6. Yoshimoto BCN Competicion + 23.142 7. Rosberg ART Grand Prix + 23.347 8. Piccione Durango + 29.600 9. Premat ART Grand Prix + 33.097 10. Pantano Super Nova International + 36.652 11. Viso BCN Competicion + 37.100 12. Monfardini Durango + 37.603 13. Hernandez Campos Racing + 45.614 14. Fauzy DAMS + 51.480 15. Speed iSport International + 52.572 16. Lauda Coloni Motorsport + 61.496 17. Artam iSport International + 88.798 18. Bruni Coloni Motorsport + 1 Lap 19. Sharp DPR + 1 Lap NOT CLASSIFIED/RETIREMENTS: Driver Team On Lap Garcia Racing Engineering 30 Piquet Hitech Piquet Sports 24 Pla Fra DPR 15 Alvarez Campos Racing 9 Negrao Hitech Piquet Sports 1 Fastest Lap: Bruni, Coloni Motorsport, 1:27.809 Championship Standings, Round 5 (race 8): Drivers' Championship Teams' Championship 1. Kovalainen 48 1. Arden International 58 2. Carroll 33 2. Super Nova International 43 3. Bruni 29 3. ART Grand Prix 37 = Speed 29 4. Coloni Motorsport 32 5. Lopez 25 5. iSport International 31 6. Rosberg 23 6. DAMS 25 7. Piquet Jr. 18 7. Hitech Piquet Sports 19 8. Jani 17 8. Racing Engineering 17 9. Premat 14 9. Durango 10 10. Pantano 10 10. BCN Competicion 5 = Lapierre 10 11, DPR 4 12. Piccione 9 12. Campos Racing 3 13. Hernandez 3 = Yoshimoto 3 = Lauda 3 16. Pla 2 = Artam 2 = Sharp 2 = Viso 2 20. Monfardini 1 = Negrao 1
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