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Di Sabatino wins chaotic FR3.5 race

Julian Leal, Pasquale di Sabatino, Marco Barba on the Hungaroring podiumPasquale di Sabatino held his nerve to take a shock maiden Formula Renault 3.5 victory in a chaotic race at the Hungaroring.

Starting from 15th on the grid, the Italian was one of few drivers to opt for an early pitstop. He lucked in when a safety car period followed shortly afterwards, then pulled away from closest challenger Marco Barba over the final laps.

The result brought ecstasy to di Sabatino's RC Motorsport crew, who had to sit out all of the closed-season testing, and were only able to field a single entry in the opening two races.

Behind Barba, who repeated his runner-up position from Saturday, Colombian former Italian Formula 3000 champion Julian Leal took the final place on the podium, having been another to pit early.

"When I woke up this morning I thought, 'oh no, we're starting 15th,' even though our car was quite good I didn't expect to be on the podium," said di Sabatino. "We did no testing in the winter, really the first races for us were tests. I am extremely happy for the team, because they have worked so hard."

Chris van der Drift finished fourth on the road for Epsilon Euskadi, but the Formula Master champion's result is provisional as the Kiwi tipped Adrian Zaugg into a spin at Turn 10 on the opening lap. The gentle nudge had expensive consequences. Zaugg's Interwetten Dallara ended up broadside across the track, triggering a spectacular five car pile-up.

Among the retirees was Greg Mansell, who had the misfortune to be first on the scene and collect Zaugg. Mansell in turn sustained multiple impacts; first rammed by GP2 racer Edoardo Mortara; then the Epsilon car of Adrian Valles and finally Monaco winner Oliver Turvey who piled into Mansell head-on. Filip Salaquarda and Federico Leo took to the gravel in avoidance, but were able to resume.

Pole-sitter Marcos Martinez then led the field under caution from Mansell's Ultimate Motorsport team-mate Miguel Molina, while Bertrand Baguette had jumped up to third place following a tardy getaway by P1 Motorsport's James Walker.

The restart did not go to plan for the leaders. Championship leader Martinez's Pons mount expired on the approach to the Turn 12 hairpin on lap four. Molina unexpectedly inherited the honour of leading the field across the start finish line, but would hold the position for a matter of a few hundred metres before being out-braked by Baguette into Turn 1.

Pic and Walker held station behind Molina in third and fourth positions, but the next instalment of drama was imminent as former Carlin F3 team-mates Brendon Hartley and Jaime Alguersuari fought heatedly over fifth place. Entering Turn 2 on lap six, Alguersuari made an opportunistic move, and tagged the rear of the Tech 1 machine, sending the Kiwi off the road.

Race winner Di Sabatino, and Leal, pitted on the next tour, but the safety car was soon required again when James Walker crashed sideways into the pit entrance on lap eight.

Baguette stayed out in the lead until lap 16, when he received a new set of fronts in 5.5s. The Belgian rejoined in ninth place, ahead of Molina - who would later retire with gearbox related problems.

Martinez and Baguette are now tied on points at the head of the classification. The outcome of van der Drift's meeting with race control will determine who will receive the mid-season points leader's prize Renault R28 roadshow test at Silverstone next month.

Pos  Driver                Team             Time
 1.  Pasquale di Sabatino  RC               46m54.069s
 2.  Marco Barba           Draco             +  0.926s
 3.  Julian Leal           Prema             + 11.991s
 4.  Chris van der Drift   Epsilon Euskadi   + 12.445s
 5.  Michael Herck         Interwetten       + 15.306s
 6.  Bertrand Baguette     Draco             + 17.044s
 7.  Fairuz Fauzy          Fortec            + 17.346s
 8.  Charles Pic           Tech 1            + 18.329s
 9.  Daniil Move           P1                + 19.177s
10.  Jaime Alguersuari     Carlin            + 19.622s
11.  Jon Lancaster         Comtec            + 27.696s
12.  Mihai Marinescu       RC                + 35.775s
13.  Brendon Hartley       Tech 1            + 36.273s
14.  John Martin           Comtec            + 40.046s
15.  Federico Leo          Pons              + 40.613s
16.  Sten Pentus           Fortec            + 40.836s


     Miguel Molina         Ultimate         19 laps
     Filip Salaquarda      Prema            18 laps
     Anton Nebylitskiy     SG               15 laps
     James Walker          P1                7 laps
     Edoardo Mortara       SG                7 laps
     Marcos Martinez       Pons              4 laps
     Oliver Turvey         Carlin            1 lap
     Adrian Zaugg          Interwetten       0 laps
     Greg Mansell          Ultimate          0 laps
     Adrian Valles         Epsilon Euskadi   0 laps

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