Liverpool FC's Adrian Valles scored a dominant win in the opening round of the 2009 Superleague Formula season at Magny-Cours in France on Sunday morning.
The Spaniard overtook Corinthians' ex-Formula 1 racer Antonio Pizzonia, who started from pole, on lap five and romped away to an easy win by six seconds - but it could have been double that margin had he not backed off near the end.
The race was punctuated by an early safety car, as last year's champion driver Davide Rigon (Olympiacos) clattered into Yelmer Buurman's Anderlecht car and spun at the Adelaide hairpin after an over-optimistic pass on Porto's Tristan Gommendy. Gommendy also rotated, as did John Martin (Rangers), while a host of cars took to the gravel trap to avoid the chaos.
As Pizzonia had sprinted into the lead from the rolling start, Tottenham's Craig Dolby pulled a brave move on Valles entering Grande Courbe on the opening lap, only for Valles to repass him on the straight before the Adelaide hairpin almost immediately.
Valles made a poor restart when the race went green again on lap three, but soon reeled in Pizzonia and passed him with a similar move to that he pulled on Dolby into Adelaide on lap five.
Dolby then started attacking Pizzonia, who pitted at the end of lap nine but was delayed significantly by a sticking right-rear wheel. Dolby's stop was also quite slow, and he lost places to Buurman and Giorgio Pantano, who had steered clear of the opening lap mess to leap from 16th to fifth in the AC Milan car.
Valles left his stop until half distance, and rejoined with an 8s lead over Buurman, which he extended to as much as 12s before backing off near the end.
Buurman had a great battle with Dolby in the last 10 laps, but the Briton could not find a way past no matter how hard he tried. Pizzonia recovered to fourth on the last lap, as Pantano retired with just two corners to go - a sad end to his epic early charge.
Another hard luck story involved Atletico Madrid's Ho-Pin Tung, who lost a likely sixth place due to a sticking wheel in his pitstop and then stalling, which cost him a lap.
Pantano's late exit handed Galatasaray's Duncan Tappy a welcome fifth place, a reasonable result from 12th on the grid, ahead of Flamengo's Enrique Bernoldi.
The second race features a reversed grid, so those involved in the opening lap shunt get a huge chance of a reprieve as they will start from the front row.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Adrian Valles Liverpool 45m57.400s
2. Yelmer Buurman Anderlecht + 6.298s
3. Craig Dolby Tottenham Hotspur + 7.237s
4. Antonio Pizzonia Corinthians + 16.968s
5. Duncan Tappy Galatasaray + 27.801s
6. Enrique Bernoldi Flamengo + 37.807s
7. Pedro Petiz Sporting + 44.178s
8. Kasper Andersen FC Midtjylland + 55.903s
9. Miguel Molina Al Ain +1m03.281s
10. Maxmilian Wissel FC Basel +1m03.907s
11. Dominick Muermans PSV Eindhoven +1m26.555s
12. Giorgio Pantano AC Milan + 1 lap
13. Nelson Panciatici Olympique Lyonnais + 1 lap
14. Ho-Pin Tung Atletico Madrid + 1 lap
Jonathan Kennard AS Roma 17 laps
Tristan Gommendy FC Porto 8 laps
John Martin Rangers 1 lap
Davide Rigon Olympiacos 0 laps