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Second Season Of Auto GP Kicks Off At Monza

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The second season of Auto GP begins at Monza in Italy this weekend, with a field of drivers eager to succeed Romain Grosjean as the series champion.

This year the series joins the support bill for the World Touring Car Championship, racing alongside the series at six European venues, with the addition of a standalone round on the streets of Bucharest in Romania in August.

While getting a good start to the season will be on the eyes of the 16 drivers racing at Monza, Grosjean won last year's title despite not even being present at the opening round.

Grosjean's team DAMS will be eager to retain their crown, and lineup with three young drivers. Russian Sergey Afanasiev joins from Formula Two where he finished third last year. Indonesian teenager Rio Haryanto combines his rookie Auto GP season with a second year in GP3. Frenchman Adrien Tambay will hope to build upon his 2010 season with Charouz-Gravity where he won once on the way to sixth in the final standings.

TP Formula are a new team to Auto GP, though they did compete in its predecessor Euroseries 3000 back in 2009. Italian F3 graduate Samuele Buttarelli is their sole entry at Monza, though former GP2 driver Giacomo Ricci did appear on the series entry list earlier this week before later being removed.

After running Giorgio Pantano at one round last year, Ombra Racing commit to Auto GP on a full-time basis for 2011. Their driver lineup is made up of 17-year-old Kevin Ceccon, who impressed in GP2 testing at the end of 2010 and graduates from the European F3 Open, and Pasquale di Sabatino, who spent four years in Formula Renault 3.5, winning once in 2009.

Francesco Dracone joins Auto GP after competing at two road course races in the Indycar Series last year. He rejoins the Emmebi Motorsport team that he raced for in the 2008 and 2009 Euroseries 3000 seasons, finishing seventh in 2009.

Former GP2 team Durango won three times in 2010 with Carlos Iaconelli. Their dirver pairing this year is made up of 19-year-old Giovanni Venturini, who finished fifth in the Formula Renault Eurocup last year, and 45-year-old restaurateur Giuseppe Cipriani who has previously raced in Formula Palmer Audi.

Super Nova lineup with single-seater veterans Adrian Zaugg and Luca Filippi. Filippi is also racing for the British team in GP2 this year and finished fifth in Auto GP in 2010 despite missing a round in the middle of the year as he switched to Super Nova from Euronova.

Lazarus field two experienced drivers at this level, in Fabio Onidi and Fabrizio Crestani. Onidi was Euroseries 3000 runner-up in 2008 and then third in 2009 before driving for Lazarus last year and ending up eighth in the final standings. Crestani meanwhile won three times in a part-campaign in 2008 before finishing fourth just behind Onidi in 2009. He raced in GP2 in the final three rounds of 2010 for DPR.

Campos Racing complete the lineup for Monza, with three Spanish drivers who have all been successful for the team in Formula 3. Bruno Mendez was European F3 Open champion with Campos in 2009, being succeeded by Marco Barba, who drove for Campos earlier in his career. Adrian Campos Jr, son of the team boss, completes the lineup after spending 2010 in Indy Lights.

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Peter joined the TCF team in September 2010 and covers GP2 and GP3 along with WTCC and Formula Two. You can find him on twitter at @PeteAllen_
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