The 2014 Auto GP World Series season saw a dwindling amount of entries, with the Manor MP Motorsport and Ghinzani Motorsport teams withdrawing from the 2013 line-up, with the entry levels reaching between ten and thirteen cars all year. But despite this, Kimiya Sato was a deserving champion, and could afford to skip two events and still claim the title.
Sato won half the races he entered, and only finished off the podium twice, ending the year fourteen points clear of Tamas Pal Kiss despite running four less races.
Driving for Euronova Racing, Sato got off to the best possible start to the season with a win in race one at Marrakech in Morocco, and was joined on the podium by gentleman drivers Michele La Rosa and Giuseppe Cipriani as the race turned into a race of attrition. Markus Pommer of Super Nova International took victory in the reverse grid race two but Sato managed to climb from eighth to finish second, with Pal Kiss claiming third for Zele Racing.
Pal Kiss took his first victory of the season in race one at the French circuit of Paul Ricard ahead of Pommer, with Sato once again on the podium in third. Kevin Giovesi was the fourth different winner in four races in race two, taking the chequered flag first for Eurotech Engineering ahead of Pal Kiss and Sato.
Sato was unstoppable at the Hungaroring, taking two dominant wins despite not qualifying near the front of the grid. He climbed from ninth on the grid to win the opener, before moving up from eighth in race two to win again on a track notoriously difficult to overtake. Pal Kiss finished second in race one ahead of Andrea Roda of Virtuosi UK, while 2013 series champion Vittorio Ghirelli was second in race two for Super Nova International ahead of Sam Dejonghe in the second of the Virtuosi UK entries.
Sato was forced to miss the Monza round of the series due to his GP2 Series commitments, and Pommer took advantage to take his second win of the year in race one, finishing ahead of Pal Kiss and Michela Cerruti of Super Nova International, who took her first podium finish in the series. Giovesi was able to claim the race two honours ahead of Roda and Pommer.
Sato returned to the series for the races at Imola, and took win number four of the season in race one ahead of Giovesi and Roda, while Cerruti made series history in race two by becoming the first female to win a race in Auto GP, as she finished ahead of Giovesi and series returnee Pal Varhaug, who was making a one-off start for Virtuosi UK.
The Red Bull Ring saw Sato claim win number six in the opener ahead of Pal Kiss, now driving for Virtuosi UK, and Roda, while Roda became the sixth different winner of the season in race two, taking an emotional and well-received victory ahead of Pal Kiss and Cerruti, while Sato was forced to retire late in the race with a suspension failure, his only retirement of the year, although he was classified eighth and scored points.
Sato clinched the title at the Nurburgring with his sixth win of the season in race one, ahead of Giovesi and Pommer, while Pal Kiss took his first win for Virtuosi UK in race two ahead of Pommer, while Sato finished third in his final appearance of the year.
The season finale took place at Estoril, and Pal Kiss took his third win of the year in race one ahead of Ghirelli, who was back in at Super Nova International with Cerruti missing the event due to a back injury, while Pommer ended third. The final race of the year was won by Euronova Racing’s Shinya Michimi ahead of Luis Sa Silva and Antonio Pizzonia, both of whom were making one-off appearances for Zele Racing.
The Auto GP World Series was not meant to be Kimiya Sato’s main focus in 2014, having joined Campos Racing in GP2, but ended up being his priority as he won again and again. He was a deserving champion, who now needs to step up and perform on the bigger stage if he is to reach the upper echelons of motor sport.