Magny Cours: Minassian wins, Bruno stumbles

Super Nova's Nicolas Minassian took a significant bite out of Bruno Junqueira's championship lead at Magny-Cours today (Saturday). The Frenchman took a consummate win from polesitter Stephane Bourdais, to make it two Frenchman on the podium in their home race

Magny Cours: Minassian wins, Bruno stumbles

Super Nova driver David Saelens was third, despite the Belgian nearly throwing it away with a spin at the Adelaide hairpin while challenging for second.

Minassian led away from second on the grid, as the field behind him jostled uncomfortably. Bourdais got off the line poorly, but slotted in behind his countryman for second. However, behind them chaos reigned as Fernando Alonso, third on the grid, and Mario Haberfeld, fifth, bogged down. The following cars streamed past, and were still scrapping as the field reached the Adelaide hairpin.

Jaime Melo Jr caught Ricardo Mauricio's Red Bull Jr car as the two Brazilians exited the corner, and tipped the latter into a spin. Several cars got caught in the fall-out and crashed, including Marc Hynes, who was out on the spot, and Andre Couto, who began a dismal race by needing to stop for a new nose cone. This brought the safety car out for a lap, despite the fact that most of the debris had been cleared while the cars were still racing.

More excitement was caused in the early stages by Bruno Junqueira's antics as he impatiently tried to get back into competition with the leaders after qualifying ninth. The Brazilian had initially made a good start, and taken sixth into the first corner. However, Fernando Alonso took the place back half way round the lap, and while trying to deny Darren Manning and Mark Webber the opportunity to do the same, Junqeira spun. Manning made up a place, as did Thomas Enge, but the real beneficiary was Stephane Sarrazin, who jumped up to sixth in the confusion.

Throughout the race, Junqueira seemed never to get on top of the car, and spun on several occasions. At the end, he was 45 seconds back from the lowest points scorer, Stephane Sarrazzin.

Minassian was left to pull away into a lead which, while never being truly threatened, was never wholly secure either. Bourdais apparently had the pace to stay with the Super Nova Lola, but could never quite draw close enough to attack.

David Saelens qualified fourth, but emerged from the opening melee in third place. Initially, he dropped back, but by half distance, was right up with the leading two. On lap 25, he made an opportunistic lunge at Bourdais at the hairpin. Ironically, it was these two who clashed at the start of the Monaco round after qualifying on the front row, but this time a repeat was avoided. Bourdais continued unabated, but Saelens' car swapped ends. He didn't lose a position, but had a lot of ground to make up in the remaining 25 laps.

Franck Montagny never quite had the pace to challenge the leading pack, but held a steady fourth throughout. He had luck on his side, as twice throughout the race, he was under heavy fire, but managed to cling on regardless. In the early laps, a recovering Alonso hunted down the Frenchman, and just as it seemed he must get by, the Spaniard's car failed him coming out of the final corner. The Astromega car had succumbed to fuel pressure problems.

A further worry for Montagny came at the end of the race, when the steadily improving McLaren Jr car of Stephane Sarrazin latched onto his rear wing. Sarrazin was in attacking mood after a run of poor results, but sealed the DAMS driver's fourth spot when he spun at the last chicane with seven laps to go. Team-mate Thomas Enge took the opportunity to steal the place, so a single point was Sarrazin's reward.

As Minassian crossed the line to take victory, rain began to fall, underlining the luck that the Frenchman had been allowed to ride. Another wet race like Silverstone or the Nurburgring could have upset the order completely, but Minassian crossed the line as the first few drops fell, secure in the knowledge that his title run is well and truly back on track. Bruno Junqueira was merely left to ponder what might have been if the rain had appeared a few laps earlier.

Top six - Magny-Cours F3000
N Minassian 1h15m44.627s
S Bourdais +3.559s
D Saelens +7.936
F Montagny +14.430
T Enge +15.733
S Sarrazin +23.733

Championship positions after 6 rounds
Junqueira - 38pts
Minassian - 28
Webber - 14
Saelens - 12
Gollin - 7
Davies, Manning, Kolby - 6

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