“GP3 Series: Stoneman takes the charge to Kirchhöfer”
Koiranen GP’s Dean Stoneman took the first GP3 Series race at Abu Dhabi today, jumping to 2nd in the championship ahead of rival Marvin Kirchhöfer as a result.
The Briton jumped the former-German F3 champion off the line and immediately took control of the race, while Dino Zamparelli beat Emil Bernstorff and series champion Alex Lynn into the opening corner.
The competition would be neutralised approximately halfway around the first tour when the slow starting Patrick Kujala attempted an unrealistic move on Mathéo Tuscher into the turn nine chicane, who as a result was pitched into Luís Sá Silva.
Stoneman initially marched away from Kirchhöfer at the restart. In fact, he jumped so early, he came close to overtaking the safety car before the Mercedes SLS before it had taken to the pits.
It would be crucial. From the restart, Stoneman led Kirchhöfer by 1.9s come the end of lap four; however the German teenager quickly began to eat away into the lead. Kirchhöfer pulled half-a-second out of Stoneman on the following lap and an additional three-tenths on the next lap.
As the race aged, the pace settled with the leading pair locked into the 1’57s for much of the running, allowing Stoneman to stabilise the gap to Kirchhöfer.
Kirchhöfer did close to with less than-a-second, only to outbrake himself at the turn 9/10 chicane on the penultimate tour, effectively ending any chance of catching Stoneman.
The Koiranen GP driver drew his lead to the line and while Kirchhöfer closed the gap back to eight-tenths, the race was lost. Stoneman’s fifth victory of the season vaulted the 24-year-old back to the runner-up place in the championship, as he now holds a two-point lead going into tomorrow’s finale.
If nothing changes tomorrow, Kirchhöfer’s runner-up finish will at least gift him 3rd in the championship; however there is little chance the German is ready to settle.
Zamparelli enjoyed a quite race behind Kirchhöfer. With a good start in the bag, the Bristol-native held sway ahead of Bernstorff and Lynn and while both pressed Zamparelli for a time, neither truly placed the ART Grand Prix man under significant pressure.
Bernstorff took 4th, but also pulled away from Lynn as the race aged, while the latter faced off Alex Fontana toward the end of the race. Although Fontana pressurised the champion, the Swiss driver spent much of the early running keeping countryman Patric Niederhauser (7th) at bay.
Once Fontana had built a reasonable gap to Niederhauser, the Arden man began to come under scrutiny from Status’ Nick Yelloly, with the Englishman ending the event just one second adrift come fourteen laps. It gave Yelloly reverse grid pole for the Sunday Race 2.
Kevin Ceccon took 9th for Jenzer thanks to a good start that saw him claim two spots. Ceccon held a feisty Jimmy Eriksson off toward the conclusion, after the Swede bullied his way past teammate Santiago Urrutia on lap nine to take the final point.
While Carlin still lead the Teams’ Championship, the performances of Kirchhöfer and Zamparelli mean ART Grand Prix are now only five points adrift of the British rivals, although the reverse grid may just play into Carlin’s hands come Sunday.