Gasly takes early GP2 lead in Spain as ART dominates GP3 races

© GP2 Series

With four races of the new Formula 1 season already down ahead of last weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix, it was the turn of its two main feeder series to get underway for 2016.

GP2 and GP3 have produced a big chunk of the F1 grid, with Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Romain Grosjean, Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas being just five of the drivers to pass through the ranks.

2015 GP2 champion Stoffel Vandoorne made an immediate impression on his F1 debut in Bahrain earlier this year, while GP3 winner Esteban Ocon is another highly-rated youngster on the books of both Mercedes and Renault.

Here’s our round-up the opening weekend of the GP2 and GP3 seasons in Spain.

GP2 – Gasly leads; Nato, Lynn the winners

The opening round of the GP2 Series season proved to be a successful one for Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly and championship newcomers Prema Powerteam – even if a win eluded both parties.

Gasly’s curious record of not winning a race since his title-winning Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 campaign back in 2013 looked set to end after he claimed pole position on Friday evening.

While he remained in the fight for the race win for much of Saturday’s feature race, it was fellow Frenchman Norman Nato who picked up his maiden GP2 victory instead.

Nato managed to stick with Gasly through the opening stint of the race with Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin piling pressure on the lead duo in P3, only to spin out and spark a safety car period.

Once the drivers had pitted for fresh tires, Nato grew stronger while Gasly struggled on the soft compound rubber, leaving him powerless to stop the Racing Engineering driver from sweeping into the lead.

Nato was able to ease home to pick up his first GP2 victory, while Canadian racer Nicholas Latifi scored his first podium by passing Gasly late on to finish second, leaving the Prema racer to complete the all-Francophone podium.

Ex-Ferrari youngster Raffaele Marciello started Sunday’s sprint race from pole position after finishing eighth on Saturday, but was powerless to stay in the lead for long at the start. Williams development driver Alex Lynn made a good start from P3 to power past Jordan King for second on the first lap before picking off Marciello for the lead two laps later.

Gasly followed suit, passing both King and the ailing Marciello quickly before setting off in pursuit of Lynn to set up a battle that would rage on to the checkered flag. Lynn’s defence proved mighty though, allowing him to claim his first win of the season – albeit by just three-tenths of a second.

In second, Gasly ensured that he left Spain as the championship leader ahead of Nato and Lynn, while King was able to complete the podium on Sunday and give Racing Engineering the joint-lead of the teams’ championship with DAMS.

GP3 – ART class from Leclerc and Albon

Following his strong showing in F3 last year, newly-appointed Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc lived up to his pre-season billing as GP3 title favorite by winning on debut with ART Grand Prix.

Leclerc started third on Saturday behind DAMS drivers Jake Hughes and Kevin Joerg on the grid, but a lightning start saw him sweep into the lead at the first corner.

From there, the Monegasque youngster never looked back, storming to a debut victory by six seconds from Hughes. Leclerc’s teammate Nirei Fukuzumi also reached the podium, finishing third ahead of Ferrari academy member Antonio Fuoco.

ART’s strong start to the season continued on Sunday when Thailand’s Alexander Albon scored his first GP3 victory, charging from fourth on the grid to sweep around the outside of pole-sitter Oscar Tunjo at Turn 1 on the first lap.

Albon followed the example set by Leclerc on Saturday to lead the remainder of the race in a somewhat processional affair, leading home Tunjo and Fuoco at the checkered flag.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III