GP2: Vandoorne claims record-breaking Austria pole

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Championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne continued his sensational start to the 2015 GP2 Series season by claiming a record-breaking pole position in Austria on Friday.

Vandoorne managed to edge out ART Grand Prix teammate Nobuharu Matsushita by 0.089 seconds at the end of the qualifying session with a fine final lap that left the rest of the field reeling.

The result marked the Belgian driver’s seventh pole position in GP2, which now stands as a new all-time record in the series.

Seven poles is impressive enough, but it is made all the more stunning by the fact that they have come in the last eight races. Vandoorne’s first GP2 pole was in Belgium last year, and he has started on pole at every race since then with the exception of Monaco last month.

“Today was another good day for us,” Vandoorne said. “It’s good to be back on pole position after missing it out in Monaco. Practice was quite good this morning. I felt I had a good pace. I had a bit of bad luck with traffic and we tried different setups as well.

“We knew the direction to take in qualifying this afternoon. Everything played out pretty well. On the first run, it was about learning about the super-soft tres. It’s the first time we have them here. It was a bit new for everybody.

“We could do more push laps than expected. For the second run, we tried to put everything in place and it was good enough for another pole position”

Vandoorne will now be looking to extend his sizeable championship lead in the feature race on Saturday, but will have to remain wary of Matsushita just behind. Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly qualified third ahead of Rapax’s Sergey Sirotkin, whilst Rio Haryanto rounded out the top five.

American driver Alexander Rossi struggled to find any pace due to a brake problem, leaving him 12th on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994