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

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.


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


    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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