Sbirrazzuoli leaves it late
The race got off to an unusual start with the race director calling a halt to the rolling start as the gap between the cars was not considered wide enough. Things were not good enough second time round with Ragazzi, in pole, leading the pack. This meant that the red flag was shown and the cars had to file behind the safety car once again and, finally, we were off.
Ragazzi got off to a fine start and built up a healthy lead over Sbirrazzuoli. Behind the driver from Monaco, Barde was flanked by Kuppens at turn one. The Belgian couldn’t squeeze past the Frenchman and veered off the track when trying to avoid a collision. He spun, letting Mac through into third. Another driver to profit before Kuppens got back up to speed was Cola. Kuppens eventually rolled back on in seventh but a rear right end puncture soon marked the end of Barde’s race.
With fewer laps left to run, the back markers, like Cecchellero, had an even tougher task ahead but the young Italian soon began climbing through the field.
In the lead group Kuppens closed the gap to Cola as Venier was struggling to stick with the Belgian while also keeping an eye on Bakker, Calamia and Tengyl behind him.
With Ragazzi appearing to be handling Sbirrazzuoli without any fuss, Cola, hounded by Kuppens, upped the tempo to move into Mac’s slipstream. He was now perfectly placed to attempt to overtake at his favoured spot: right at the end of the long straight.
One characteristic of this Shanghai circuit that affects all the drivers is the rough track surface with Ragazzi suffering more than most. His drop in pace bunched up the field and now the top three were within 1.5 seconds of each other and the first five within four seconds.
The stage was set for a thrilling finish as the white flag was shown to mark the final lap. Ragazzi’s tyres were now gone but he was still battling to hold off Sbirrazzuoli. He almost pulled it off but then overshot the turn into the chicane and drifted wide. His trouble didn’t end there as it was now Mac’s turn to pull alongside after another Ragazzi excursion onto the synthetic grass.
Cola’s dash of speed saw him nick ahead of the two drivers ahead of him and join Ragazzi and Mac in a three-way sprint for second behind Sbirrazzuoli. The photofinish saw the race’s main player lose his podium slot with Mac taking second, 1”469 off the winning time, Cola third (1”472) and Ragazzi fourth (1”490). Fifth-placed Renaud Kuppens crossed the finish line 3”207 down on Sbirrazzuoli.
Mathjis Bakker finished in sixth after taking advantage of Venier’s retirement and driving an almost solitary race. Mauro Calamia earned a decent seventh with Tengyl Jiang, the top Chinese entrant, Mauro Cesari and Andreas Segler behind him. Segler came home in tenth overall to finish ahead of a combative Cecchellero. Just nudged into twelfth was Lino Curti with Shovlin, Sicart and Ibran wrapping up the top 15.
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