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Quaife-Hobbs and Varhaug lead the way with opening Auto GP wins

March 13, 2012

Monza. © Creative Commons / Will Pittenger

— TV Notes —

Race One
Adrian Quaife-Hobbs opened his Auto GP World Series account with a lights-to-flag victory at Monza on Saturday.

The Briton spent much of the event keeping Italian Formula 3 champion, Sergio Campana at bay, with the Briton enjoying a 1.5 second advantage at the flag.
Former GP2 racer, Pal Varhaug, crossed the line in 3rd spot, some three seconds adrift of Campana.

Quaife-Hobbs endured a couple of brief scares during the fourteen-lap event, when the Super Nova driver suffered a minor gearbox fault, before being balked badly by Sergey Sirotkin on the eighth lap, as the Russian exited the pits.
Despite these, Quaife-Hobbs maintained the lead, taking first blood in the championship chase.

Following the event, Campana’s day would go awry when he – and teammate Michele la Rosa – were penalised one minute for irregular pitstops, dropping them to 10th and 12th respectively.
It would promote Varhaug to 2nd and Dutch pilot Daniel de Jong to 3rd.

De Jong had his own heart-stopping moment early in the race. The Manor MP pilot missed the opening chicane two laps in, dropping him to 7th place.
Passes on Max Snegirev (lap 3) gave de Jong 6th, becoming 5th when Chris van der Drift suffered an off four tours in. Good pit work by the Manor crew gave de Jong an extra position at the halfway point, before collecting from Campana’s post-race penalty opened up a podium place.

Facu Regalia assumed 4th after an early pitstop left him strategically vulnerable, while van der Drift recovered to take 5th.
Giacomo Ricci returned to the cockpit to grab what would become 6th from Snegirev shortly before the chequered flag came down (7th) – both of whom enjoyed a gap of several seconds to Antonio Spavone (Euronova, 8th) and Giancarlo Serenelli (Ombra, 9th).

As per usual at Monza, the opening lap offered its own unique form of excitement. Sirotkin stalled on the grid, encouraging evasive action from field behind; however five cars still managed to collide comically in the tight opening corner.

Race One (14 laps)
Pos  Driver               Team             Time/Gap
 1.  Adrian Quaife-Hobbs  Super Nova     23m37.782s 
 2.  Pal Varhaug          Virtuosi UK      + 4.800s
 3.  Daniel de Jong       Manor MP        + 11.480s
 4.  Facu Regalia         Campos          + 13.444s
 5.  Chris van der Drift  Manor MP        + 22.896s
 6.  Giacomo Ricci        Zele            + 27.137s
 7.  Maxim Snegirev       Campos          + 28.245s
 8.  Antonio Spavone      Euronova        + 32.073s
 9.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Ombra           + 40.862s
10.  Sergio Campana       MLR71         + 1m01.499s*
11.  Giuseppe Cipriani    Campos        + 1m27.688s
12.  Michele la Rosa      MLR71         + 1m54.340s*
13.  Adderly Fong         Ombra             + 1 lap
14.  Sergey Sirotkin      Euronova          + 1 lap
15.  Victor Guerin        Super Nova       + 2 laps
Retirements
 R.  Matteo Beretta       Virtuosi UK           DNS
*One-minute penalty applied.

Race Two
Pal Varhaug grabbed the race two victory in what can only be described as a frantic event.

Having started 7th, the Norwegian claimed full points ahead of Chris van der Drift and race one winner Adrian Quaife-Hobbs.

Varhaug was initially held by the slow starting Antonio Spavone, eventually gaining two spots when the over exuberant Daniel de Jong and Facu Regalia ran wide at the Rettifilo on the second lap. Within a tour, Spavone had also been dispatched by the Virtuosi UK racer.

That became 3rd when van der Drift made his mandatory pitstop on lap six, with Varhaug’s impressive pace ensuring he was on the tail of the leading pair (Max Snegirev and Giacomo Ricci) in less than a lap.
Snegirev would remove himself from the lead fight when he stopped on lap seven.

Varhaug eventually grabbed the lead two tours later – albeit through the stellar pitwork of his Virtuosi UK crew.
Spavone, who also stopped on the ninth tour (along with Ricci, Quaife-Hobbs and Sergio Campana) climbing to 2nd spot, but with the wind in his sails, Varhaug was quickly out of sight, eventually taking the chequered flag first.

Admittedly, Varhaug was helped by a clumsy Campana. Ricci, who passed Campana after the stop, found himself on the receiving end of a sideways thud in the Rettifilo.
Ricci retired on the spot, while Campana – who was handed a drive through penalty – decided to retire instead.

Spavone’s race soon also turned into a nightmare. After nearly stalling from his pole position spot, the Italian fell to 6th, recovering back to 2nd thanks to mistakes and pitstops.
Amidst a tight battle for 2nd that saw four cars lightly clutter in the Rettifio – through which van der Drift and Quaife-Hobbs intelligently avoided – Spavone fell to 5th, before succumbing to the charging Snegirev a short time later.

Having avoided the turn one carnage, van der Drift and Quaife-Hobbs brought their machines cleanly to the flag, holding off the advances of the impressive Sergey Sirotkin in the process.
Lining up 14th on the grid, Sirotkin had jumped to 10th by the end of the second lap, before claiming several more positions as pit strategies unfolded. The 16-year-old stole 4th following the four-car circus act in the Rettifilo chicane, closing on Quaife-Hobbs fast.
Despite setting the fastest lap, Sirotkin was unable to break into the podium positions, but still showed signs of promise. As for Spavone, he would reclaim 5th from Snegirev on the final tour with an aggressive move* into the Roggia chicane.

Snegirev took 6th, ahead of a quiet Adderly Fong and Giancarlo Serenelli, while Regalia recovered from his early off to take 9th.
Giuseppe Cipriani rounded out the top ten, with only Victor Guerin and Michele la Rosa finishing behind.

* {note 1}
It must be noted that some of the defending in race two was far too vigorous to be considered remotely sensible, to the point where I spent the latter part of the race wincing.
Whether it be cross-circuit weaving or forcing a competitor off track, the impression that “all is fair” is probably not the most encouraging for a series that is effectively regarded as a leftfield step on the Formula 1 ladder system.

Race Two (14 laps)
Pos  Driver               Team           Time/Gap 
 1.  Pal Varhaug          Virtuosi UK  23m48.744s
 2.  Chris van der Drift  Manor MP       + 3.519s 
 3.  Adrian Quaife-Hobbs  Super Nova     + 4.445s 
 4.  Sergey Sirotkin      Euronova       + 4.520s 
 5.  Antonio Spavone      Euronova       + 9.839s 
 6.  Maxim Snegirev       Campos        + 12.332s 
 7.  Adderly Fong         Ombra         + 20.060s 
 8.  Giancarlo Serenelli  Ombra         + 23.840s 
 9.  Facu Regalia         Campos        + 26.135s 
10.  Giuseppe Cipriani    Campos        + 27.103s 
11.  Victor Guerin        Super Nova    + 31.180s 
12.  Michele la Rosa      MLR 71        + 48.448s  
Retirements:       
     Sergio Campana       MLR 71          11 laps      
     Giacomo Ricci        Zele             9 laps      
     Matteo Beretta       Virtuosi UK      7 laps      
     Daniel de Jong       Manor MP         6 laps

Drivers’ Championship
1. Pal Varhaug          38 
2. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs  38
3. Chris van der Drift  25
4. Daniel de Jong       15
5. Facu Regalia         14

Under-21’s Drivers’ Trophy
1. Adrian Quaife-Hobbs  41
2. Pal Varhaug          38
3. Sergey Sirotkin      22 
4. Facu Regalia         20
5. Antonio Spavone      20

Teams’ Championship
1. Manor MP             40
2. Virtuosi UK          38
3. Super Nova           38
4. Campos               26
5. Euronova             24
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