Oliver Turvey commands GP2 Asia in Abu Dhabi
Intro to GP2 Asia series
GP2 Asia series, launched in 2007, is twinned with its European based GP2 Series launched in 2004, it is highly regarded as the best feeder series to Formula One, its primary focus is to promote motor racing in Asia, supporting the Malaysian, Bahrain and the new Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix. Teams are encouraged to recruit at least one driver whose passport does not come from Western Europe (exc Turkey and Russia) or the Americas. This third season of the championship incidentally, will field twenty seven drivers, all of whom hail from Europe and the Americas. The three most prominent top Asian drivers who graduated from GP2 Asia series include Ho-Pin Tung, China (RenaultF1) Malaysian Fairuz Fausy (Lotus F1) and Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber F1).
The weekends race format for GP2 Asia is a double header with a 180km feature race requiring one mandatory pit stop and tire change and a 120km sprint race, which has a reverse grid format for the first eight drivers, decided by the finishing order of race one.
For the first time in Abu Dhabi the GP2 Asia race was held at twilight, under the powerful new lighting system at Yas Marina Circuit, and with the added threat of rain throughout the weekend, teams and drivers had slightly different race strategies than the previous round in support of the Etihad Abu Dhabi Grand Prix held a few months earlier.
GP2 Asia cars are 06/07 models that utilize the Dallara monocoque chassis with Renualt V8 engine giving out 560HP, the 6 speed sequential gearbox, carbon disk brakes and no traction control provide an exciting platform with little room for error.
Round two Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Race 1, Feature Race
The GP2 Asia series delighted fans for a second time as the series returned for round two at the newest, most avant-garde racetrack the world has ever seen, Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates.
The 33 lap feature race, on the windswept and rather dusty 5.55km circuit was commanded by Oliver Turvey (iSport), fresh from his Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Formula 1 test a few months earlier in Jerez, he proved to be the man to watch for a firm future in F1. The twenty three year old Cambridge graduate from UK, sponsored by Racing Steps Foundation, fought one of his toughest races yet, he led the race from start to finish claiming his first GP2 Asia victory whilst fending off persistent bumps and knocks from his team mate Italian Davide Valsecchi, who currently leads the drivers championship.
In a comfortable lead Turvey took his pitstop on lap 10, emerging right in front of Valsecchi, the Italian immediately counter attacked his teammate on the outside of turns 11, 12 and 13, causing both cars to bump together and bounce off the track causing Valsecchi to rejoin ahead of Turvey, however the Italian did concede the lead rightfully back to Turvey to take second place. Meanwhile, Javier Villa (Arden), Jules Bianchi (ART) and Charles Pic (Arden) joined the battle with Bianchi sandwiched between the two Arden cars, he boldly swept around the outside of Villa on the last corner to claim third place in his GP2 debut, finally leaving Villa in fourth and Ricci in fifth. In sixth place at the time Luca Filippi sent Pic flying across the run-off area following an aggressive move, bringing out the safety car, later in the race was not so fortunate as he came to a halt on the very last lap after he ran out of fuel.
Further down the field with dogged determination was eighteen year old rookie Alexander Rossi (QiMeritus) who started at the back of the grid, after qualifying fifth he was relegated to the back of the grid for a technical irregularity on his front wing. Rossi clawed his way through the grid to an admirable sixth place. The young US driver from California is the latest signing for Malaysian QiMeritus team and the only American in the lineup; he is the youngest driver to reach GP2 series.
With only a few laps to go, carnage at the back of the field saw Swedish driver Marcus Ericcson, (SuperNova) airborne through turns 12 and 13 as he trounced all over Michael Herck (DPR), Ericcson retired with a broken suspension whilst Herck came home in seventh, eighth went to Brit Max Chilton (Ocean). The fastest lap of the race, 1:51.8s, went to Vladimir Arabadzhiev (Rapax) from Bulgaria who had suffered two DNFs on the same track in round one.
Race two – Sprint race
The twenty one lap sprint race saw equal amounts of aggression as the faster cars started in the middle of the pack on the reverse grid, it was Davide Valsecchis (iSport) turn to take the victory, with team mate and race one winner Oliver Turvey battling his way to reach fifth place. The reverse grid saw Valsecchi in seventh position battle his way up the field to snatch the win from a disappointed Michael Herck (DPR) who had led the race all the way till the second last lap, he still maintained his podium finish however in second place, with Italian Giacomo Ricci (DPR) in third giving the DPR team its first double podium finish.
The race had been almost mapped out by lap one when Herck was gifted the lead when poleman Max Chilton (Ocean) bogged down as the lights went out, eventually finishing a deserved sixth place. Herck was first into the turn one with Rossi (QiMeritus) and Ricci held up just enough by Chilton to give Herck a clear path to the corner, while behind them Joseph Kral (SuperNova) was caught up in the fracas between Sergio Perez (Barwa) and Luca Filippi (QiMeritus) as they all stumbled over each other looking for a way through, ending Krals race before completing one lap, the safety car was then deployed giving everyone a chance to catch up.
The restart saw Ricci sliding past Rossi while Perez made up for lost time by sneaking sideways past Turvey, to find fourth place. Bianchi (ART) finished in seventh with Charles Pic taking the last point in eight place.
Experience proved a deciding factor for Valsecchi easily reeling in Rossi and setting the fastest lap of the race 1:52.06s on lap 18, as he chased down the now leading DPR team: with conditions forcing the teams to get the wet tyres ready just in case the ominous looking clouds overhead broke, the final ten laps were set to repeat the nail biting excitement of the first race.
Valsecchis grasp on the championship seams now firm, his championship lead stretching further away from teammate with 35 points to Turveys 16, young gun Rossi lies in third place on 10 points.
In the Teams Championship, iSport appear to be running away with 51 points, well ahead of DPR’s 15, MalaysiaQI-MeritusMahara.com now ranks 3rd in the Championship with 11 points at the close of the second Abu Dhabi round of the GP2 Asia Series.