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An early pit stop and some stunning lap times set up Prema Racing’s Pierre Gasly for victory in the opening GP2 race of the weekend, with Jordan King resisting race-long pressure to win Sunday’s second stanza.
Frenchman Gasly was second on the grid for the opening 29-lapper and started on the soft tyres, which soon started to lose their edge.
That allowed Norman Nato (Racing Engineering) to pull away up front with King (Racing Engineering) moving ahead of Gasly for second at Stowe on lap seven, just before Gasly bailed for the pit lane. Once on the harder tyres, and released into clear track space, Gasly was irresistible.
He lapped four seconds a lap quicker than leader Nato and continued to make inroads into the leader’s advantage and was ahead as the final stops were made, his final advantage being over nine seconds. The Red Bull-backed driver racked up his first win since a 2013 Formula Renault Eurocup success in the process.
Behind him came Brit Oliver Rowland (MP Motorsport) and Antonio Giovinazzi in the second Prema car.
Giovinazzi made a brave move around the outside of Luffield to snatch the place away, Rowland’s third being unaffected by a fivesecond penalty post-race for exceeding track limits.
Early leader Nato, who had taken pole on his birthday, struggled on the soft tyre in the second stint despite a late pit stop, and fell to seventh, while Mitch Evans (Pertamina Campos Racing) who had struggled for pace on the hards charged up to fourth on the final lap.
Eighth went to King who converted his race two pole position in to a race-long lead, but he was constantly under attack.
His first opponent was Nobuharu Matsushita (ART Grand Prix) who chipped away at King’s advantage until he was overhauled by a charging Luca Ghiotto (Trident).
The Italian had started the opener from last on the grid after a mechanical failure in qualifying and stormed to fifth place and was well-placed to take advantage of the semi-reversed grid.
He closed to within three-tenths of leader King but the effect on his tyres soon took its toll and he fell away as the race neared its end.
That let King break away, despite late-race rain, as he scored his second successive sprint race win.
Ghiotto was clear of Rowland who took over the championship lead and hung on to third from Giovinazzi.
The Italian gained ground after Matsushita outbraked himself at Brooklands two laps from home as rain started to fall.
Another casualty of the rain was Nato who slithered into the Brooklands gravel allowing Raffaele Marciello (Russian Time) to sixth and Gasly to seventh. Eighth, and the final point, went to Carlin’s Marvin Kirchhofer.