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Trident rookie takes lights to flag victory in Sprint Race

2015 GP3 Series vice champion Luca Ghiotto has grabbed his first GP2 win today at Sepang International Circuit: the Italian ace drove a mature race and survived pressure from Raffaele Marciello in the closing stages to cross the finish line ahead of his countryman. In third, Pierre Gasly reduced the gap to teammate Antonio Giovinazzi in the Drivers’ standings.

At the start, reverse poleman Mitch Evans had to immediately defend from Ghiotto who perfectly got off the line from P2. The Kiwi eventually yielded at Turn 2 as Ghiotto found a way past him for the lead. In third, Marciello stayed clear of the heated battle between teammates Jordan King and Norman Nato. The Frenchman made a move on the Briton on lap 2: the two ran side by side into Turn 2 and made small contact sending Nato into a spin and an early retirement.

The Safety Car was deployed for one lap to retrieve his stranded car. At the re-start, Ghiotto remained in control whilst Marciello was all over Evans: the Kiwi tried his hardest to keep the Italian at bay but was unable to stop him. Further down the pack and behind Gustav Malja, King in fifth was struggling for pace: on lap 7, he was sandwiched between Oliver Rowland and Giovinazzi down the main straight. Both passed the Racing Engineering driver into Turn 1.

Giovinazzi was looking for more and immediately attacked Rowland running alongside him with little room left on the track. The Italian went a bit too wide; he managed to re-join the track safely but dropped behind Rowland, King and Gasly who had already made a nice recovery from P11 on the grid. Teammates Gasly and Giovinazzi then passed King successively to run sixth and seventh respectively. Rowland was next on the PREMA racers’ list: the job was done two laps later as Gasly set the quickest laptime of the race.

Meanwhile Malja was busy trying to find a way through on a slower Evans: the Swede eventually overtook the Campos driver on lap 16 and started to pull away. Gasly and Giovinazzi were up next demoting Evans to sixth. The Frenchman set another fastest lap and was soon all over Malja, with Giovinazzi in tow. Under huge pressure, the Swede locked up and ran wide leaving enough room for both PREMA drivers to pass him. The battle between the title contenders resumed, but Gasly defended well to keep Giovinazzi behind.

At the front, Marciello picked up the pace in the closing laps to reduce the gap to Ghiotto to under one second and loom into the race leader’s mirrors. But no matter how hard the RUSSIAN driver tried to impress his younger countryman, Ghiotto remained cool and made no mistake until the chequered flag thus taking a maiden GP2 win and offering Trident their third taste of champagne this season. In third, Gasly was happy to take the title battle to the final round of the season ahead of Giovinazzi, Malja, Evans, Matsushita and Rowland.

In the Drivers’ standings, Giovinazzi leaves Sepang as Series leader 197 points to 190 for Gasly whilst Marciello remains third on 158 ahead of Sirotkin on 135 points, with King and Nato both on 122. In the Teams’ standings, newly crowned champions PREMA Racing continued their domination with a total of 387 points. Racing Engineering still lies in second on 244 points ahead of RUSSIAN TIME on 238 points and ART Grand Prix on 199 points. The title fight will reach its conclusion at Yas Marina Circuit for the final round of the 2016 season on November 26-27.

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