Pole and sixth podium for Evans
Sun, 02 Sep 2012 2:03p.m.
The fastest ever GP3 pole time at Spa Francorchamps and his sixth podium finish this season consolidated Mitch Evans’s lead in the very brief GP3 Series opening race at the Belgian Grand Prix on Saturday.
After leading the opening lap, Evans slipped back to third but was involved in a tight tussle at the front of the 26 car field when the 13th race of the season was red flagged after only four laps of racing.
With little more than 10 minutes left on the clock, the scheduled 12 lap feature race was not restarted and only half points were awarded. The red-flag came after just 15 minutes of the scheduled 25-minute duration because Robert Cregan had a heavy crash into a tyre wall.
German driver Daniel Abt was declared the victor, becoming the eighth different driver to win in the 13 race to date this season. Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa took second but only got one point rather than the usual 2pt bonus for fastest lap.
“Changes to the set up cost as the advantage we had in qualifying, but I scored good points, so it wasn’t a bad day,” reflected Evans.
With a maximum of 67pts available in the remaining three races, Evans has extended his overall lead to 24.5 over the Finn Aaro Vainio who finished sixth in the shortened Spa race.
Evans will start the reverse top eight Sunday race at the Belgian Grand Prix meeting from sixth on the grid. After Spa, the final two GP3 races are at Monza in Italy next weekend.
“The GP3 rules require us to run a bit more downforce in the races than we do in qualifying and I was struggling a bit for straight line speed. It was my fault, allowing da Costa to get inside, but I was hanging in there.” said Evans.
He’d been beaten off the line by team mate Matias Laine at the start. Laine swept across from second on the grid, but he then ran wide at Les Combes on the opening lap and almost took out Abt.
Evans led at the end of lap one, before da Costa dragged past him with a tidy slip streaming move into Les Combes on the second lap.
But on the next lap, as Felix da Costa tried to fend off Evans's attack, Abt jumped them both on the inside line at Les Combes. Evans had been putting pressure on Felix da Costa to regain the lead. He went side by side with his Portuguese rival at the top of the hill and they both ran wide. Abt saw the opportunity and stole the lead with a bold dive down the inside
Abt clung desperately to his lead at Les Combes a lap later, forcing da Costa over the kerbing on the inside of the corner while Evans was still a threat in third.
However, the race was then neutralised as Cregan came off worst from a clash with David Fumanelli and Alex Brundle. Cregan went backwards into the tyre wall on three wheels but was not injured.
Abt won the four-lap event by 0.3 seconds from da Costa and Evans. Tio Ellinas was fourth ahead of Laine. Vainio saw his receding championship chances diminish even further, as he finished sixth, ahead of Conor Daly and Lewis Williamson.
The second GP3 race at Spa starts at 09.25 am local time on Sunday.
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