Jon Lancaster withstood intense pressure from championship leader Bertrand Baguette to claim his maiden Formula Renault 3.5 victory at Portimao today.
Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Jaime Alguersuari came through from seventh on the reversed grid to complete the podium for Carlin Motorport.
From pole position, Lancaster was handed a break at the start when the second and third qualifiers, Epsilon Euskadi team-mates Chris van der Drift and Dani Clos, collided into the first corner. The infuriating accident for the Basque squad appeared to be the result of over-optimism on the part of GP2 racer Clos.
Baguette passed Guillaume Moreau for second place over the start-finish line commencing lap two, just prior to the safety car being deployed while British Formula 3 championship leader Daniel Ricciardo's car was moved out of danger following a crash with Prema Powerteam's Julian Leal.
On the restart, Baguette tucked himself behind Lancaster's Comtec machine exiting the final corner. The Draco driver's promising attempt at stealing the lead was met with fierce resistance from Lancaster, who moved across the track towards the pitwall to cover the inside line into Turn 1.The frenzied slipstreaming continued until the chequered flag, where Lancaster held an advantage of 0.5s.
"That wasn't easy at all," said Lancaster. "I wouldn't say I was comfortable at the start, but I was reasonably happy until about three laps in when I began to push. My rear tyres just went straight away.
"Then it became a case of staying really focused and consistent through the final corner. Nine times out of ten it seemed to work, but a couple of times Bertrand got a really good slipstream. My only real mistake was at Turn 11 when he got a wheel inside me. I want to dedicate this to my girlfriend's mum, Eileen Hillas, who passed away last week."
Baguette's second position gives the Belgian a 28 point lead in the championship over James Walker who recovered from a poor qualifying, thought to have been caused by running the car too low, to finish in sixth place.
The first five cars circulated in tight proximity throughout an entertaining race. Behind Lancaster and Baguette, Moreau was involved in a heated battle with Charles Pic and Alguersuari. The trio exchanged positions on a number of occasions. Pic briefly took third from Moreau on lap 12, but within two laps both Frenchmen had been demoted by Alguersuari.
Alguersuari's Carlin team-mate Oliver Turvey lost ground running wide at Turn 1 in the Epsilon Euskadi incident, and was again an innocent victim when he was unable to avoid the aftermath of Daniil Move's collision with Pasquale Di Sabatino at Turn 6 on lap 14.
Much action was provided by Miguel Molina, who lost six places with a spin when running behind Di Sabatino at Turn 6. Thereafter the Spaniard knuckled down to a charging drive and reclaimed his seventh position.
Fairuz Fauzy also produced plenty of drama as he worked his way from last on the grid to eighth. The Malaysian survived wheel-to-wheel contact with Marco Barba along the way, which pitched the unfortunate Spaniard into retirement.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Jon Lancaster Comtec 36m45.926s 2. Bertrand Baguette Draco + 0.568s 3. Jaime Alguersuari Carlin + 1.110s 4. Charles Pic Tech 1 + 1.444s 5. Guillaume Moreau SG + 2.142s 6. James Walker P1 + 4.606s 7. Miguel Molina Ultimate + 5.240s 8. Fairuz Fauzy Fortec + 6.686s 9. Sten Pentus Fortec + 7.710s 10. Filip Salaquarda Prema + 10.832s 11. Greg Mansell Ultimate + 10.990s 12. Anton Nebylitskiy SG + 12.622s 13. Federico Leo Pons + 13.464s 14. Pasquale Di Sabatino RC + 13.850s 15. Marcos Martinez Pons + 16.010s 16. Marco Barba Draco + 19.530s 17. Alberto Valerio Comtec + 41.638s 18. Julian Leal Prema + 1 lap 19. Michael Herck Interwetten + 3 laps Retirements: Daniil Move P1 17 laps Oliver Turvey Carlin 15 laps Daniel Clos Epsilon 14 laps Daniel Ricciardo Tech 1 1 laps Chris van der Drift Epsilon 1 laps