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GP2 Asia Champion Romain Grosjean has picked up where he left off by clinching the opening race win of the Main Series season at Istanbul Park. From pole position, the Franco-Swiss driver fought off a late-race challenge from Britain’s Sam Bird, who closed to within just three tenths of a second as the chequered flag fell.
A good start for Grosjean saw the DAMS driver pull away cleanly. Spain’s Dani Clos sprinted up to second for Racing Engineering, forcing Luca Filippi wide as Bird passed for third. Behind, the season kicked off in spectacular fashion as Fabio Leimer’s car was sent rolling off the circuit.
The Swiss driver’s Rapax had been launched over Max Chilton’s Carlin at Turn 2 after initial contact between Kevin Mirocha and reigning GP3 Champion Esteban Gutiérrez, which compressed the field. Needless to say, the Safety Car was deployed.
At the restart, Bird quickly overhauled Clos for second place at the end of the back straight. Behind, Filippi did the same on Clos’ team-mate Christian Vietoris for fifth place. The Italian then closed on Jules Bianchi for fourth, prompting the Frenchman to attack Clos – which he did, but only to make a mistake; this allowed Filippi through to fourth, which quickly became third when Clos also ran wide.
However, Filippi’s afternoon came to a sudden end after being the first front-runner to pit on Lap 14. Aiming to rejoin in a large section of clear space, it was vital for the Super Nova man to pass Johnny Cecotto; however, the Venezuelan ran wide before spinning into his rival’s car - both of which were out of the race immediately.
At the front, Grosjean and Bird pitted together in their battle for the lead, although the Englishman was slightly delayed and forced to catch up on the road once again. Incredibly, the duo were consistently lapping at around three seconds per lap quicker than those behind them. Despite the Londoner’s best efforts, the Geneva man was narrowly able to hang on over the finish line.
Behind, Bianchi made up ground through the pit-stop window to seize third, overtaking Dutchman Giedo van der Garde who had shot up from 14th on the grid courtesy of a highly effective strategy. Clos completed the top five from Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson.
Sunday’s Sprint Race begins at 9:35am local time (BST +2)
Fabio Leimer's first-lap accident can be viewed below:
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