Bertrand Baguette survived a wheel banging run down to the first corner to claim his maiden victory of 2009 at Le Mans today.
The result thrusts the Belgian into the overall lead of the Formula Renault 3.5 Series.
From third on the grid, Baguette ran three-abreast with slow starting pole-sitter Marco Barba and Hungaroring winner Pasquale Di Sabatino away from the line. Contact was made between Baguette and Di Sabatino at the braking point for the Dunlop Chicane, forcing Baguette to cut the exit of the corner as he completed the manoeuvre and took the lead.
"I had a big vibration after hitting Di Sabatino," said Baguette, "and my car was particularly difficult in the left-hand corners. The team told me on the radio that [championship rivals Marcos] Martinez and [James] Walker were in trouble, so I just managed my pace at the end."
Second on the road went to Baguette's Draco team-mate Barba, but the Spaniard was slapped with a 10 second post race penalty, and dropped to an amended fifth, for cutting the exit of the Dunlop chicane while passing Di Sabatino on lap 19.
Oliver Turvey scored his third consecutive third place, displaying excellent racecraft from sixth on the grid. Turvey dived inside Carlin team-mate Jaime Alguersuari at La Chapelle when the reigning British Formula 3 champion locked a front right wheel and drifted wide on lap 23.
Charles Pic completed the top six behind Alguersuari, although the Frenchman trailed Jon Lancaster across the finish line. Lancaster's charge from 12th on the grid was one of the highlights of the race, but the Comtec man was another to be hit with a 10 second penalty for running outside the limits of the track.
In the closing laps Fairuz Fauzy responded to Lancaster's attempts at building the necessary time buffer to secure seventh place, and pipped the Englishman by 0.7s.
First and second in the standings entering the weekend, Martinez and Walker endured troubled races. Martinez's chances of finishing in the points were killed with an early puncture, while Walker retired following an attempted pass on GP2 racer Edoardo Mortara at Dunlop. The ensuing contact resulted in the instant retirement of both men.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Bertrand Baguette Draco 46m14.448s 2. Pasquale Di Sabatino RC + 4.870s 3. Oliver Turvey Carlin + 6.811s 4. Jaime Alguersuari Carlin + 7.378s 5. Marco Barba Draco + 10.675s 6. Charles Pic Tech 1 + 10.820s 7. Fairuz Fauzy Fortec + 18.039s 8. Jon Lancaster Comtec + 18.769s 9. Miguel Molina Ultimate + 21.924s 10. Daniel Clos Epsilon Euskadi + 24.392s 11. Daniil Move P1 + 26.178s 12. Greg Mansell Ultimate + 26.321s 13. Guillaume Moreau SG + 29.062s 14. Sten Pentus Fortec + 33.143s 15. Chris van der Drift Epsilon Euskadi + 33.454s 16. Mihai Marinescu Interwetten + 51.390s 17. Marcos Martinez Pons +1m08.277s 18. Federico Leo Pons +1m09.062s 19. Cristiano Morgado Comtec + 1 lap Retirements: Edoardo Mortara Tech 1 24 laps James Walker P1 24 laps Julian Leal Prema 23 laps Filip Salaquarda Prema 16 laps Anton Nebylitskiy SG 0 laps Adrian Zaugg Interwetten 0 laps