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GP Week : Issue 28
GP2: Pantano takes title GIORGIO Pantano is the 2008 GP2 Series Champion. The Italian sealed his success with a weekend of differing performances at his home track in Monza, as Bruno Senna failed to capitalise on his rival’s mistakes. Pantano had begun the weekend in the perfect manner, taking pole position to leave the gap to Senna at a hefty 13 points going into Saturday’s race. With the Brazilian only able to take 12th on the grid, due in part to set-up and in part to traffic, Senna found himself in a tricky position from the outset, but on a wet track raced hard and well to try and make up the deficit. For 90 percent of that Saturday race, Pantano looked to be heading for a brilliant and commanding win. He pulled out and maintained an adequate gap to second placed Lucas di Grassi who, coming into the weekend only seven points behind Senna, still had the capability of overhauling his countryman for second in the standings. It was Pantano’s compulsory pit-stop that saw the Italian come undone. As he exited the pits on slick tyres on a still damp track, he concentrated so hard on getting his braking right for the first chicane that he completely forgot about the solid white pit-lane exit line, and crossed it with almost half his car. The inevitable drive-through was handed down and the Italian dropped down to 10th position. Pantano’s demotion left Di Grassi clear to seal the win ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Sebastien Buemi. But with Senna able only to finish sixth, Pantano was declared champion. Sunday’s reverse grid race was an opportunity for Pantano to have one final go at things, but as the lights went out his anti-stall kicked in and the Italian dropped down to 17th. Any points scoring in the race would involve tremendous heroics, and the champion duly delivered. He blasted his way up the order, putting in the kind of performance he has shown all season to finish fifth. Ahead of him, countryman Davide Valssechi drove a wondrous race to record his first ever GP2 win ahead of Roldan Rodriguez and Romain Grosjean. Di Grassi’s chances of overhauling Senna were wiped out when he took out the rampant Mike Conway, due in part to Senna’s reluctance to hand back a position he had unfairly gained by cutting a chicane. In the end Pantano’s championship victory of 76 points over Senna’s 64 looked far bigger than it was in reality. But for a few mechanical issues and a dog, the Brazilian may well have ended up far closer to the eventual winner. But the fight for the podium places in the championship was as tight as the season really had been, Senna beating di Grassi by a point, who in turn finished just one point ahead of Grosjean. 30