KIRCHHÖFER BLAZES TO SUPERB WIN IN SAKHIR
The German driver was hungry for success after a disappointing previous round: The ART Grand Prix ace started from P5 on the grid and made a stunning getaway to pass his title rivals into Turn 1. Kirchhöfer held on under severe pressure to celebrate his fourth win of the year. His success confirmed ART Grand Prix as 2015 GP3 Team Champions for the fifth time since the Series’ inception. Arden International’s Emil Bernstorff passed Series leader Esteban Ocon on the final lap for second position, with the Frenchman coming home in third. Trident’s Luca Ghiotto was fourth.
The 24 drivers lined up on the grid in very hot conditions for the first ever GP3 race around the Bahrain International Circuit for Round 8 of the season. Pole-sitter was Mercedes backed Ocon with his main title contender Ghiotto joining him on the front row. Disaster struck for Campos Racing’s Alex Palou who was due to start from P4: The unlucky Spaniard was unable to start the race as he suffered technical gremlins and retired in the pitlane.
When the lights went out, Ocon was quick to cover off the attack from Ghiotto but it was Kirchhöfer from the third row who flew past the pair of them to sneak into the lead heading into Turn One. Ghiotto was immediately onto the rear of Ocon, whilst the rest of the field were busy battling in a frenetic start to the race.
Arden International’s Kevin Ceccon was embroiled in a fight with Koiranen GP’s Jimmy Eriksson for fifth place, whilst Trident’s Artur Janosz and Carlin’s Jann Mardenborough were locked into a titanic duel for P7. On lap 4, Kirchhöfer held a 1s lead, with 1.3s covering the top three.
Alfonso Celis. Jr who has recently been announced as Sahara Force India’s F1 Development driver was busy carving his way through the field and he passed Mardenborough for eighth. Eriksson was also on the move as he got the better of Ceccon for fifth.
Celis Jr’s next target was Ceccon and he got the job done to move into sixth on lap 14. Mardenborough close in pursuit tried to replicate the Mexican’s manoeuvre but he ended up running wide.
With five laps remaining, Bernstorff who had been settled in fourth began his charge and his first victim was Ghiotto. He passed the Trident star going into Turn 1 on lap 17 and set after Ocon. With two laps remaining, the top three was covered by just one second in a mouth-watering fight.
Bernstorff was on a mission as he raced side by side with Ocon. The two briefly made light contact and the Arden star jumped into second after some bold moves on the final lap. At the chequered flag, Kirchhöfer was triumphant ahead of an overjoyed Bernstorff with ART Grand Prix teammate Ocon in third. Ghiotto posted the fastest lap of the race in fourth, ahead of Eriksson, Janosz, Mardenborough, Celis. Jr, Antonio Fuoco and Ralph Boschung.
Ocon now holds a three point lead over Ghiotto in the Drivers’ Standings, whilst Kirchhöfer has moved back into third place, five points clear of Bernstorff. ART Grand Prix wrapped up their fifth team’s title out of six attempts, with Trident and Arden International in second and third with all to play for.
Race 2 will commence at 09.00 am local time tomorrow (GMT+3) with Celis. Jr starting from reverse pole.