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Nico Hulkenberg has kept a perfect record for pole positions in the GP2 Asia series. The German made his debut at the top of the grid in Bahrain last month, and finds himself again at the best starting spot for the Feature race in Qatar at the Losail circuit. The ART rookie is still searching for his maiden win in the series. With luck Hulkenberg won’t have to wait to long to earn it.

“When you start from pole position, your expectations are always quite high and we set our targets high,” explained Hulkenberg. “For sure, we will try to finish on the podium and try to win. But GP2 is competitive. We have long races and it’s not easy. We have to manage the pitstop. But I’m confident in my team. We have high hopes for the race tomorrow.”

For the first time the GP2 teams are trying their hand at night racing. Like the MotoGP event held last year the Losail circuit has turned on their floodlights for the weekend. Night racing in the Qatar makes sense, allowing both local and European fans the chance to watch all the action live without anyone having to get up early or stay awake past their bedtime. It’s also nice to race in the cool night air in a region where the sun can be oppressive.

“The night conditions are different,” said the new GP2 star, “it’s something else and special. I like it! I also like the circuit: it’s very quick, very flowing which maybe suits my driving style. Generally, I like this kind of circuit.”

Before Hulkenberg laid down the fastest lap it was Vitaly Petrov who seemed to have the set-up figured out. The Russian was fastest in the practice session and held the best time for the majority of qualifying. Then, near the end of the session was red flagged when iSport’s Al Fardan had spun off into the gravel trap, just as Hulkenberg set a quick pace in sector one.

With just three and a half minutes to go the circuit was back in business and almost the entire field tried to get in one final good lap. Petrov tried to defend his best time but before he crossed the Hulkenberg had already bested the Russian. Petrov set a respectable time soon after but was soon trumped by his own Campos Racing teammate, Sergio Perez. When the session was ended Hulkenberg had three quarters of a second over Perez, a huge gap for such a competitive field. For Perez the gap isn’t too much to worry about, with the win in Bahrain under his belt the youngest driver in the series is confident he can get the lead during the long Feature.

When asked if he will overtake Hulkenberg, Perez replied, “Well, I will try in the start. But I’m on the dirty part of the track and it is quite dirty. But the race is quite long and I’m not worried. If we have a good pace, I think we can fight Nico. Vitaly will be strong as well. We will have a good car for the race and the race is very long. Anything can happen and of course, we will go for the win tomorrow.”

The more experienced driver in the Campos team thought he had the pole once the red flag came out. Unfortunately there was just enough room left on the clock for the youngsters to trump him.

“Not really slippery,” commented Petrov about the night conditions, “because I have some experience from 24 hours in Le Mans and for me, it’s not something. I actually like it. It’s something new also because it’s a lot of light. So tomorrow, it will be really interesting. We have some tactics already and you can never know what can happen at the start. We will do our best. It’s true that this race is very important for our team. We want to have a good finish here.”

Points leader Kamui Kobayashi will start fourth, on the outside of row two. The DAMS driver will need all the points he can get as his championship rival, Davide Valsecchi is starting eighth. If Valsecchi is still in the same position at tomorrow’s finish then the Durango driver will be on pole for Saturday’s race. From there Valsecchi has a good chance of getting a maximum amount of points from the Sprint race.

“The day’s been pretty good overall,” said Kobayashi. “Free practice didn’t go off as well for us as we’d expected because the track was very slippery. It was better in qualifying. I’m starting from the second row tomorrow and I can aim for a rostrum finish — why not victory? — which will help me extend my lead in the championship. That’s my aim for the coming weekend.”

The first ever GP2 Asia series night race will get underway tomorrow at 7pm local time, 4pm GMT.

Motorsport.com


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