Liuzzi wins Bahrain finale, Morbidelli takes $500,000 prize

26.04.2009: Vitantonio Liuzzi won the final race of the Speedcar season in Bahrain but the big winner was Gianni Morbidelli, who beat Johnny Herbert by the slenderest of margins to claim the championship and the $500,000 prize that goes with it.

Vitantonio Liuzzi won the final race of the Speedcar season in Bahrain but the big winner was Gianni Morbidelli, who beat Johnny Herbert by the slenderest of margins to claim the championship and the $500,000 prize that goes with it.

The grid saw the top eight from Saturday lining up in reverse with Thomas Biagi on pole ahead of Damien Pasini, Hasher Al Maktoum, Morbidelli, Christopher Zoechling, Liuzzi, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Herbert. Having retired with a spectacular engine failure in the first race, Jean Alesi started 16th and last.

However the Frenchman decided he didn't want to stay there for long, and as the cars headed towards the line for the rolling start he put his foot down and passed the whole field, using the grass as he did so. He opened up a huge lead even before he got to Turn One! He claimed later that, from his position at the tail of the field, he had been confused by the lights sequence: 'At the apex I saw the lights off, so I put second and went flat out. Yesterday I was on the second row and we started really slow with first gear.'

His flying start probably didn't help the concentration of those behind, and there was drama at the first corner when Herbert was pushed into a spin by Ramez Azzam, while just seconds later Frentzen was hit by Liuzzi. Thus two of the title contenders immediately found themselves in trouble.

'Gianni didn't get a particularly good start,' said Johnny. 'I went to pass him on the outside but then I thought it wasn't worth it, so just decided to stay close to him. Unfortunately I got that tap at the back that sent me round.'

At the end of the first lap Alesi led by over 3s from Biagi, Al Maktoum, Morbidelli, Nicholas Navarro and Liuzzi. Herbert was down in 11th, with a lot of work to do. Frentzen's slim hopes of the title were ended when he got involved in another incident on the second lap.

Alesi's fun ended on lap 4 when he was inevitably called in for a drive through penalty, which dropped him to the back of the field. That left Biagi in front of Al Maktoum and Liuzzi, who had already been regaining ground.

The Force India test driver was on a charge, and after passing Al Maktoum on lap 8 he hunted down Biagi. After briefly getting ahead on lap 12 he finally made the move stick on lap 14, and thereafter he eased away to score his third win of the year, guaranteeing the teams' title for his UP Team.

'I had a clean and controlled race,' said Liuzzi. 'I was trying to save the tyres, because yesterday we had a problem in the last 10 laps. I think we did the best we could do this weekend, with a first and a third. My target was to win the teams' championship. With the bad luck we've had with transmission problems we were unable to fight for the drivers' championship.'

Biagi, Al Maktoum and Navarro followed him home, but attention was all on the battle for fifth. Having dropped to 11th Herbert charged through the field and gradually cut the gap to rival Morbidelli - if he could get ahead, the title would be his.

After nudging Zoechling out of the way he got up into sixth on lap 15, and had Gianni in his sights. He gradually eased closer and closer, but in the end he didn't quite make it, and Morbidelli crossed the line to claim the title by 55 points to 53. Johnny joined in the celebrations by giving him a friendly nudge at Turn One on the slowing down lap!

'I'm extremely happy because it was hard,' said Morbidelli. 'This weekend we were not very competitive, but we did it, and this is the most important thing. During the race I was sure Johnny was fast, and when I saw him in the mirror I understood that my life was going to get difficult! I just focussed on my race and tried to do as few mistakes as possible.'

'I had the pace and I had a bit of luck with a few contacts,' said Herbert. 'The last race here when I got closer Gianni started making mistakes, and he did again. I made a few because the car was very difficult. I was able to chip away, but I probably needed one more lap. I ran out of time!'

The top eight was completed by the recovering Zoechling and Chris Buncombe.

The Race 2 Classification is as follows:

 1   V.. Liuzzi      UP Team              19     41:02.174
 2   T. Biagi       Palm Racing          19         3.453
 3   H. Al Maktoum  UP Team              19         4.936
 4   N. Navarro     Durango              19        10.277
 5   G. Morbidelli  Palm Racing          19        12.117
 6   J. Herbert     JMB                  19        12.464
 7   C. Buncombe    West Tec             19        19.899
 8   C. Zoechling   Continental Circus   19        22.644
 9   M. Lee         HPR                  19        29.194
10   J. Alesi       HPR                  19        35.642
11   M. Cioci       Durango              19        44.595
12   H. Frentzen    Continental Circus   19        52.811

Not Classified

     D.Pasini       JMB                  12        DNF
     D. Terrien     West Tec             11        DNF
     R. Azzam       Scuderia Giudici      7        DNF
     G. Giudici     Scuderia Giudici      7        DNF

Fastest Lap      V. Liuzzi      UP Team              2:07.487 on lap 4

Drivers' Championship Standings in Round 5, Race 10

 1   Gianni Morbidelli     6   -   5   8  10   8   2   8   4    4  55
 2   Johnny Herbert        5   -   6  10   6   3   4   6  10    3  53
 3   Vitantonio Liuzzi    10   -   -   1   8  10   -   -   6   10  45
 4   Heinz Harald Frentzen 8   -   8   5   -   4   6   5   8    -  44
 5   Jean Alesi            -   -  10   3   5   -  10  10   -    -  38
 6   Thomas Biagi          -   -   3   6   2   6   -   3   1    8  29
 7   Hasher Al Maktoum     4   -   4   2   3   -   3   -   3    6  25
 8   Christopher Zoechling -   -   -   -   -   5   8   -   5    1  19
 9   Damien Pasini         1   -   2   4   -   1   1   -   2    -  11
10   David Terrien         -   -   -   -   -   -   5   4   -    -   9
11   Jacques Villeneuve    3   -   -   -   4   -   -   -   -    -   7
12   Marchy Lee            2   -   -   -   -   2   -   2   -    -   6
13   Nicolas Navarro       -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -    5   5
14   Chris Buncombe        -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -    2   2
14   Marco Melandri        -   -   -   -   1   -   -   1   -    -   2
15   Giovanni Lavaggi      -   -   1   -   -   -   -   -   -    -   1

Teams' Championship Standings in Round 5, Race 10

Pos  Team                 R1  R2  R3  R4  R5  R6  R7  R8  R9  R10 TOTAL
 1   UP Team              14   -   4   3  11  10   3   -   9   16  70
 2   JMB Racing            6   -   8  14   6   4   5   6  12    3  64
 3   HPR                   2   -  10   3   5   2  10  12   -    -  44
 4   Palm Racing           -   -   -   -   -   -   2  11    5  12  30
 5   Team Lavaggi          -   -   8   5   1   4   -   6   -    -  30
 6   Durango               3   -   -   -   4   5   5   4    4   5  26
 7   Continental Circus    -   -   -   -   -   -   8   -   13   1  22
 8   Phoenix Racing        8   -   -   -   -   -   -   -    -   -   8
 9   West Tec              -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -    -   2   2
10   Team Siram            -   -   1   -   -   -   -   -    -   -   1

R1 = Dubai, UAE - December 5, 2008
R2 = Dubai, UAE - December 6, 2008 (cancelled due to rain)
R3 = Sakhir, Bahrain - January 23, 2009
R4 = Sakhir, Bahrain - January 24, 2009
R5 = Doha, Qatar - February 13, 2009
R6 = Doha, Qatar - February 14, 2009
R7 = Dubai, UAE - February 27, 2009
R8 = Dubai, UAE - February 28, 2009
R9 = Sakhir, Bahrain - April 25, 2009
R10 = Sakhir, Bahrain - April 26, 2009

- Speedcar Series -


26.04.2009 / MaP

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