Oliver Rowland achieved a record breaking eighth Formula Renault 3.5 victory of the season in Saturday's opening race of the weekend at Jerez.
The Fortec driver, who wrapped up this year's drivers' crown in the preceding meeting at Le Mans, was made to work hard for the result by poleman Tom Dillmann and Egor Orudzhev in the early laps.
Double 2015 winner Orudzhev offered strong pressure to second-placed Rowland when conditions were at their worst in the initial running, and the champion elected to save his tyres in anticipation of the circuit drying.
Both men had reeled in early leader Dillmann by lap eight, when the top three was separated by just 1.5 seconds.
After some close Michelin-to-Michelin racing, two tours later Rowland grabbed the lead with a gutsy move into the sweeping right-hander at Turn 5, and thereafter streaked clear to achieve a 10.8s margin of victory.
Carlin racer Dillmann's hopes of breaking his 2015 victory drought ended when his Jagonya Ayam-backed car slowed with a left-rear puncture shortly after being passed.
Rowland felt light contact at Turn 4 was likely to have been responsible.
"I think there may have been very minor contact between Tom and I, but I really had nowhere to go," said Rowland, who also achieved a record for the most points scored in a season in FR3.5's 11-year history.
"I asked the team for a car that would be gentle on tyres, as I thought 40 minutes on a set of wets could be pushing it if the circuit began to dry.
"I think it's clear that's what they gave me, so thank you to Fortec."
Orudzhev's second place keeps the Russian in the hunt for third in drivers' standings.
The position was held by Dean Stoneman entering the weekend, but the Red Bull junior driver slips five points behind DAMS team-mate Nyck de Vries, who finished fourth, as a consequence of losing out on a slick tyre gamble.
Dillmann was also among those to, unsuccessfully, chance a change onto slick tyres in the closing stages, before throwing in the towel when well out of contention.
Championship runner-up Matthieu Vaxiviere emerged on top from a furious early battle with Jazeman Jaafar to claim the final place on the podium.
"I think qualifying was really complicated this morning with the red flags, and then after the beginning of the race I thought we couldn't achieve the win," said Vaxiviere.
"I am pleased to finish ahead of a DAMS car, though.
"It's important for the teams' standings, and de Vries was really quick during the middle of the race."
Tio Ellinas completed a relatively lonely run to fifth; the Cypriot is one of six drivers who remain in contention for third in the standings along with the DAMS pair, Orudzhev, Jaafar and Dillmann.
RESULTS - 23 LAPS:
|1||Oliver Rowland||Fortec Motorsports||43m14.735s|
|2||Egor Orudzhev||Arden Motorsport||10.879s|
|4||Nyck de Vries||DAMS||16.481s|
|5||Tio Ellinas||Strakka Racing||26.020s|
|6||Jazeman Jaafar||Fortec Motorsports||43.150s|
|7||Nicholas Latifi||Arden Motorsport||48.729s|
|8||Andre Negrao||International Draco Racing||52.543s|
|9||Roy Nissany||Tech 1 Racing||56.522s|
|10||Yu Kanamaru||Pons Racing||58.066s|
|11||Gustav Malja||Strakka Racing||58.633s|
|14||Nikita Zlobin||Pons Racing||1m14.231s|
|16||Sean Gelael||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||1m37.926s|
|17||Marlon Stockinger||Lotus||1 Lap|
|-||Aurelien Panis||Tech 1 Racing||Retirement|
|-||Tom Dillmann||Jagonya Ayam with Carlin||Retirement|
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