A rocket start allowed Josef Kral to score his first GP2 Series victory with a commanding drive in the sprint race at Spa-Francorchamps.
The Czech driver made a superb launch to go from fifth on the grid to the lead of the race before La Source. He then held onto the lead under early pressure from James Calado before racing away to a five second win. The Barwa Addax driver hadn’t scored any points in the 2012 season until his fourth place in Saturday’s feature race.
“Me and my team were waiting for this because it was really tough up to here,” said Kral on the podium. “Today it was just perfect. It was a tough race, I struggled a lot with degradation. I just hoped I would bring it home because I was sliding a lot. I have to thank the team because they did a brilliant job.”
Calado had also made a good start to move from seventh to second down the inside at the first turn, but wasn’t able to keep up with Kral. He struggled with tyre wear in the closing laps, allowing fellow rookie and pole-sitter Felipe Nasr to catch him up. The pair clashed at La Source on the final lap when Nasr tried to turn in early while side-by-side, but Calado remained ahead until the final corner. There, he struggled for traction and Nasr got by for second place, repeating the move he made on Stephane Richelmi to take eighth and the reverse grid pole in the feature race.
“It was quite amazing I have to say, but it was the same move I made yesterday,” said Nasr. “I was just waiting for the last moment, I knew I could do it. Once I saw James sliding I knew I had a chance.”
Calado added: “Fantastic race really. What a lighning start, I’ve never had a start like that before. I had good pace following Josef, but it was tough to keep with him because I was saving tyres. The last three laps were evil and I couldn’t control the car.”
Feature race victor Marcus Ericsson dropped to ninth at one stage before making up a number of places in quick succession to finish fourth, catching the Calado-Nasr fight at the end.
The Trident Racing pairing of Julian Leal and Richelmi held fourth and fifth in the opening stages, before Esteban Gutierrez passed Richelmi on lap eight. Leal posed more of a challenge for the Mexican, and after a few laps he pulled alongside at Les Combes. Leal however shut the door at Malmedy, forcing Gutierrez on to the grass and leading to a collision between the two and sending both through the gravel trap on the outside.
That gave Richelmi fourth, but he was soon passed by Ericsson and later by Fabio Leimer, who surged through from 24th on the grid to finish fifth. Rio Haryanto was seventh, while Jolyon Palmer was due to take eighth until he out-braked himself at the Bus Stop on the last lap, allowing Stefano Coletti and Leal through.
Title rivals Luiz Razia and Davide Valsecchi started the race tied on points and both failed to score after a dramatic moment on the Kemmel Straight on the first lap. Razia was looking for a way past Calado for second but ended up on the grass, causing him to spin across the track and taking out Valsecchi. Both returned to the pits with Valsecchi soon retiring and Razia finishing down in 20th.
There was also contact at La Source on the opening lap, with Johnny Cecotto taking far too much speed and harpooning Max Chilton, while Giedo van der Garde was squeezed between Leal and Valsecchi.
Razia and Valsecchi both have 204 points, with Calado now third on 160. The penultimate weekend of the season takes place at Monza next weekend.