Win extends Evans GP3 lead
Two spectacular crashes reduced the tenth race of the GP3 season to just a few frantic laps of sprint racing that were dominated by Kiwi racing driver Mitch Evans. He was the fastest driver in the brief encounter at the German Grand Prix fifth round, taking his third win of the year and consolidating his overall Championship lead.
The scheduled 18 lap Sunday race at Hockenheim was split into two dramatic dashes that both ended abruptly after high flying crashes. All but three of the 15 laps were run behind a safety car.
Evans’ victory was particularly sweet because he was denied pole position in qualifying when his engine failed on his last flying lap; and was forced to pit to change onto wet tyres at the end of the first lap of the Saturday feature race when a thunder storm struck the 4.57 km German circuit.
He salvaged ninth place on Saturday which would have seen him starting ninth in Sunday’s ‘reverse top eight’ race but Evans got a lucky break on Saturday night. The driver who finished third was given a post race time penalty and that late reprieve elevated Evans to eighth – and pole position for Sunday.
Evans was beaten off the line in Sunday’s race by Daniel Abt but got his revenge after the first safety car intervention with a finely judged overtaking move on the German.
"It wasn't a great start from myself, I got a lot of wheelspin and Daniel got me straight away,” said Evans. “I was a bit annoyed about that but I just put my head down and got on with it. I just tried to catch him and close the gap as I wanted to make the move, but then the safety car came out.”
“We were behind the safety car for a little while (six laps) but it was good to know Vicky was ok,” Italian girl Vicky Piria was hit by two cars in a horrific incident at the hairpin on the opening lap.
“We went back to racing and I was on the attack straight away. I got a good draft and a good slipstream to the hairpin. Daniel left the door open so I just made a move - as that might be my last opportunity - and it paid off.”
“We were pretty strong for the remainder of the next one and half laps, we had a lot of pace so I was feeling really good, but then the next safety car came out. I wasn't worried if it stayed out or came in as I felt good in the car; so overall it was an interesting and different weekend. The result was good and that's what matters."
“Yesterday we made the wrong tyre call - like a few others did - on the grid. So that was our mistake. But we made up for it today. We had good pace in the wet but we had to fight hard to get the overall result in the points and it paid off.
Evans, who had never raced at Hockenheim before the weekend, passed Abt and then set the fastest time on the same lap. Most of the 24 car field had previously raced at Hockenheim so Evans was delighted to set a time that was half a second faster than anyone else.
"Fastest lap points was a big help, those two points are always crucial. This was a track I didn't know so I knew this weekend could be very challenging for me. To end up taking the lead in the second race was great.”
Unlike the wet Saturday race, Hockenheim was bathed in sunshine for the GP3 race early on Sunday morning. As the lights went out Abt made a lightning fast getaway to snatch the lead while Evans had to swing to the right to hold off Tamas Pal Kiss.
Then came the first crash at the hairpin. Half way round the first lap Vicky Piria was overtaken by Kevin Ceccon, who was lunging wildly down the inside after being relegated from third to 17th following the Saturday rules infringement that had elevated Evans to pole.
Piria appeared to be distracted by Ceccon, who was going so fast he spun at the exit. Piria rode over the back of Robert Cregan's car and was launched into the air, landing just before a second, even harder impact with Will Buller, which launched her skyward again.
Piria stopped short of the tyrewall, but needed to be extracted while still in her seat. That took seven laps as the field trundled round behind the safety car.
The race restarted on lap eight, with Evans stealing the lead from Abt, but on the very next lap came the safety car was back on track. Brazilian driver Fabiano Machado ran wide and got airborne coming off a kerbing. While a medical team checked him at the side of the track the safety car lead the field for the 15 laps until the 30 minute time limit ran out and Evans was shown the chequered flag.
Abt finished second, ahead of Daly, Pal Kiss, Matias Laine and Aaro Vainio. Evans has extended his lead and has an 18 point advantage over Vainio. Abt has moved up to third. Round six is at the Hungarian Grand Prix in Budapest, next weekend.
Race 2 (Top 8)
1 M. Evans
2 D. Abt
3 C. Daly
4 T. PAL KISS
5 M. Laine
6 A. Vainio
7 T. Ellinas
8 G. Venturini
GP3 Series Points Table (Top 10)
1 M. Evans 121
2 A. Vainio 103
3 D. Abt 76
4 P. Niederhauser 75
5 C. Daly 75
6 M. Laine 60
7 A. Félix Da Costa 58
8 K. Ceccon 58
9 T. Ellinas 50
10 M. Stöckinger 39