Marcos Martinez delighted his home crowd by claiming a breakthrough Formula Renault 3.5 victory in the opening race of the season at Barcelona.
Martinez lined up on the front row alongside compatriot, and pole-sitter, Adrian Valles. The Epsilon-Euskadi driver achieved his starting position through qualifying eighth in this morning's Super Pole, but lost any chance of victory after suffering a poor getaway.
Third place qualifier, Bertrand Baguette, also made the jump on Valles away from the line, but the Belgian was unable to mount any challenge on Martinez as he struggled with the race set-up on his Draco Dallara.
Martinez was able to stretch his lead by 0.4s a lap in the early running before regulating his pace, as Baguette created a bottleneck, and enjoyed a clear run to the flag.
The second year man's previous best result was a second place finish at Silverstone last year, also achieved with Sito Pons's eponymous squad.
"I had a problem with the diffuser in practice on Friday," said Martinez, "but today we realised my objective of qualifying in the top-eight. I then made a really good start, and my car remained strong throughout the race. I have to say a big thank you to everyone at Pons for working so hard this weekend."
Valles hounded Baguette to the finish, rarely more than 0.5s away from the Draco car's gearbox. The pair ran side-by-side at Turn 1 on lap 11, but Valles opted out of the move on the exit of the corner rather than face being squeezed across over the kerbs. Baguette eventually held on to second by the slenderest of margins, just 0.3s.
"I think everyone can see that I made a mistake and got too much wheel-spin at the start," said Valles. "I haven't raced here since 2005, and I didn't do any practice starts before today. The race was very frustrating, but I have to say well done to Bertrand, he didn't make any mistakes."
In a race that featured a scarcity of overtaking manoeuvres among the leaders, Oliver Turvey's pass of Carlin team-mate Jaime Alguersuari for fourth position on lap six was a welcome distraction. Alguersuari held onto fifth place ahead of P1 Motorsport's James Walker.
Ultimate-Motorsport's Miguel Molina had a more eventful race. After losing his provisional pole for a tyre infringement, Molina was handed a huge let-off when expected title rival Charles Pic crashed on his way to the grid at Renault, the long right hand Turn 3.
Tech 1 team founders Sarah and Simon Abadie were left to analyse data from the car to determine the cause of the unusual accident.
Molina dropped two places from his 12th place grid position on the opening lap after an experimental wide line at Turn 1 failed to pay dividends. Molina stage an excellent recovery, setting fastest lap on his way ninth and two championship points.
Pos Driver Team Time 1. Marcos Martinez Pons 47m05.443s 2. Bertrand Baguette Draco + 1.443s 3. Adrian Valles Epsilon Euskadi + 1.707s 4. Oliver Turvey Carlin + 4.764s 5. Jaime Alguersuari Carlin + 5.532s 6. James Walker P1 + 6.440s 7. Chris van der Drift Epsilon Euskadi + 8.829s 8. Fairuz Fauzy Fortec + 10.539s 9. Miguel Molina Ultimate + 20.490s 10. Adrian Zaugg Interwetten + 21.778s 11. Pasquale di Sabatino RC + 32.081s 12. Brendon Hartley Tech 1 + 37.707s 13. Greg Mansell Ultimate + 41.265s 14. Daniel Move P1 + 44.919s 15. Omar Leal Prema + 45.251s 16. Harald Schlegelmilch Comtec + 45.816s 17. Anton Nebilitskiy Comtec +1m06.857s 18. Sten Pentus Fortec +1m18.043s 19. Federico Leo Pons +1m26.529s Retirements: Driver Team Laps Marco Barba Draco 4 Mihai Marinescu Interwetten 3 Frankie Provenzano Prema 1 Charles Pic Tech 1 0