GP3: Stoneman and Niederhauser close out season with wins

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ABU DHABI – The 2014 GP3 Series season came to a close in Abu Dhabi this weekend with Dean Stoneman and Patric Niederhauser claiming one race win apiece on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Stoneman had been the only driver with a chance of stopping Red Bull junior driver Alex Lynn from winning the championship, but fell out of contention when he failed to secure pole position on Friday.

However, a great start in the feature race saw Stoneman pass pole-sitter Marvin Kirchhofer and move into the lead off the line. He slowly began to eke out a lead over the German driver, but was given very little breathing space throughout the race. At the flag, Stoneman was victorious, but by just 0.8 seconds.

The battle between Stoneman and Kirchhofer was for second place in the championship, making Sunday’s race a final chance for both drivers to pick up the points needed to finish as vice-champion. Thanks to the reverse grid rule, Stoneman started from eighth place with Kirchhofer one place ahead.

Pole-sitter Nick Yelloly made a poor start to relinquish the lead at the first corner to Switzerland’s Patric Niederhauser. The Arden driver didn’t look back, storming to his third win of the season by 4.9 seconds from Yelloly and Lynn.

Kirchhofer’s hopes of finishing second in the championship looked dashed when he stalled on the grid, forcing the ART engineers to wheel him into the pit lane. However, Stoneman himself hit trouble on the first lap when contact was made at the first chicane, forcing him to retire. The resulting safety car period allowed Kirchhofer to catch the pack, and with just three points needed to move ahead of Stoneman, he had a glimmer of hope once again.

Although Kirchhofer did manage to fight his way up to P12 at the flag, it simply wasn’t enough, meaning that Stoneman finished his first full GP3 season as runner-up behind compatriot Alex Lynn.

Lynn is known to be in the running for a Formula 1 drive with Toro Rosso next season, but with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Jean-Eric Vergne also vying for the place, it could well be that a move into either GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 is more likely.