Spa: Pantano keeps title open

Giorgio Pantano emerged victorious after a race long duel with Sebastien Bourdais in the F3000 round at Spa. Pantano's win keeps him in with an outside shot of the championship, which Bourdais now leads by one point after Tomas Enge struggled home in fourth

Spa: Pantano keeps title open

With the principal title protagonists lining up alongside each other on the grid, the start and run into La Source was always going to vital and so it proved to be. From second on the grid Enge made the better start and swerved in front of Bourdais to take the lead into the first turn.

As the Czech braked so Bourdais ran into the back of his car, bending the Arden car's left rear wing endplate in the process.

"I didn't brake that late but I was very close to him and I just hit his gearbox," said Bourdais. "Even in the tow I was not able to overtake him he was very fast in a straight line. It will be very tight in Monza something of a lottery."

Behind the two leader, third placed Antonio Pizzonia was T-boned by Bjorn Wirdheim and Enrico Toccecelo.

Chaos ensued in the chasing pack. Tiago Monteiro slammed into the tyres and was out on the spot, while Mario Haberfeld, Rob Nguyen and Rodrigo Sperafico all lost time in the melee.

At the head of the field Enge held the lead, but Pantano used his straightline speed advantage to out drag Bourdais for second place going into Les Combes.

As the cars completed the first lap, most of the debris at the first corner had been cleared, but some fluid was still on the track and all three of the leaders got very sideways as they put the power down.

Whether this caused Enge to back off, or if he was worried about the endplate rubbing on his rear wheel, was hard to tell, but Pantano was alongside and into the lead by Eau Rouge, and Bourdais followed him through into Les Combes.

A couple of laps later Enge was in fourth when Ricardo Sperafico outbraked the former Prost F1 driver into the Bus Stop chicane. Sperafico would later home in on the leaders in the closing laps, but the Brazilian was never close enough to put a move on Bourdais.

The Frenchman was often perfectly placed in the slipstream of Pantano, but the Super Nova machine lacked the top end speed of the Coloni and no matter how well positioned he was, Bourdais could find no way past.

Ricardo Mauricio had a lonely race to fifth, never pressuring Enge in fourth, nor coming under pressure from sixth. The final points scoring position changed hands a number of times. Derek Hill took the position, while Nicolas Kiesa passed Patrick Friesacher with a brave move around the outside through Rivage for seventh.

The American's hard work was undone towards the end of the race when he ran wide over the gravel and let Kiesa through to score PSM's first point of the year.

Now the series moves to Monza for the season finale. Pantano won there last year, but the Italian starts as third favourite for the title at his home race.

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