26.04.2009: Vitantonio Liuzzi won the final race of the Speedcar season in Bahrain but the big winner was Gianni Morbidelli, who beat Johnny Herbert by the slenderest of margins to claim the championship and the $500,000 prize that goes with it.
Vitantonio Liuzzi won the final race of the Speedcar season in Bahrain but the big winner was Gianni Morbidelli, who beat Johnny Herbert by the slenderest of margins to claim the championship and the $500,000 prize that goes with it.
The grid saw the top eight from Saturday lining up in reverse with Thomas Biagi on pole ahead of Damien Pasini, Hasher Al Maktoum, Morbidelli, Christopher Zoechling, Liuzzi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Herbert. Having retired with a spectacular engine failure in the first race, Jean Alesi started 16th and last.
However the Frenchman decided he didn't want to stay there for long, and as the cars headed towards the line for the rolling start he put his foot down and passed the whole field, using the grass as he did so. He opened up a huge lead even before he got to Turn One! He claimed later that, from his position at the tail of the field, he had been confused by the lights sequence: 'At the apex I saw the lights off, so I put second and went flat out. Yesterday I was on the second row and we started really slow with first gear.'
His flying start probably didn't help the concentration of those behind, and there was drama at the first corner when Herbert was pushed into a spin by Ramez Azzam, while just seconds later Frentzen was hit by Liuzzi. Thus two of the title contenders immediately found themselves in trouble.
'Gianni didn't get a particularly good start,' said Johnny. 'I went to pass him on the outside but then I thought it wasn't worth it, so just decided to stay close to him. Unfortunately I got that tap at the back that sent me round.'
At the end of the first lap Alesi led by over 3s from Biagi, Al Maktoum, Morbidelli, Nicholas Navarro and Liuzzi. Herbert was down in 11th, with a lot of work to do. Frentzen's slim hopes of the title were ended when he got involved in another incident on the second lap.
Alesi's fun ended on lap 4 when he was inevitably called in for a drive through penalty, which dropped him to the back of the field. That left Biagi in front of Al Maktoum and Liuzzi, who had already been regaining ground.
The Force India test driver was on a charge, and after passing Al Maktoum on lap 8 he hunted down Biagi. After briefly getting ahead on lap 12 he finally made the move stick on lap 14, and thereafter he eased away to score his third win of the year, guaranteeing the teams' title for his UP Team.
'I had a clean and controlled race,' said Liuzzi. 'I was trying to save the tyres, because yesterday we had a problem in the last 10 laps. I think we did the best we could do this weekend, with a first and a third. My target was to win the teams' championship. With the bad luck we've had with transmission problems we were unable to fight for the drivers' championship.'
Biagi, Al Maktoum and Navarro followed him home, but attention was all on the battle for fifth. Having dropped to 11th Herbert charged through the field and gradually cut the gap to rival Morbidelli - if he could get ahead, the title would be his.
After nudging Zoechling out of the way he got up into sixth on lap 15, and had Gianni in his sights. He gradually eased closer and closer, but in the end he didn't quite make it, and Morbidelli crossed the line to claim the title by 55 points to 53. Johnny joined in the celebrations by giving him a friendly nudge at Turn One on the slowing down lap!
'I'm extremely happy because it was hard,' said Morbidelli. 'This weekend we were not very competitive, but we did it, and this is the most important thing. During the race I was sure Johnny was fast, and when I saw him in the mirror I understood that my life was going to get difficult! I just focussed on my race and tried to do as few mistakes as possible.'
'I had the pace and I had a bit of luck with a few contacts,' said Herbert. 'The last race here when I got closer Gianni started making mistakes, and he did again. I made a few because the car was very difficult. I was able to chip away, but I probably needed one more lap. I ran out of time!'
The top eight was completed by the recovering Zoechling and Chris Buncombe. The Race 2 Classification is as follows: 1 V.. Liuzzi UP Team 19 41:02.174 2 T. Biagi Palm Racing 19 3.453 3 H. Al Maktoum UP Team 19 4.936 4 N. Navarro Durango 19 10.277 5 G. Morbidelli Palm Racing 19 12.117 6 J. Herbert JMB 19 12.464 7 C. Buncombe West Tec 19 19.899 8 C. Zoechling Continental Circus 19 22.644 9 M. Lee HPR 19 29.194 10 J. Alesi HPR 19 35.642 11 M. Cioci Durango 19 44.595 12 H. Frentzen Continental Circus 19 52.811 Not Classified D.Pasini JMB 12 DNF D. Terrien West Tec 11 DNF R. Azzam Scuderia Giudici 7 DNF G. Giudici Scuderia Giudici 7 DNF
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