Tech 1 Racing's Kevin Korjus bounced back from being tipped into a spin at the first corner to take a remarkable win in the second Formula Renault 3.5 race at the Nurburgring.
Crucially, the Estonian made his mandatory pit stop to replace a set of wrecked tires before the safety car was called out on lap nine. Korjus, Mofaz Racing's Fairuz Fauzy and Sten Pentus (Epic Racing) all benefited from their early pit calls.
Korjus moved up the order as others pitted later in the race. A torrent of rain over the closing laps made watching the race a nerve-racking experience for the Tech 1 team, but Korjus maintained control to establish a 5.6-second margin of victory.
"It wasn't my strategy to spin at the first corner, but the team then made a very wise decision to bring me in," said Korjus. "I think my pit board said P21 at the end of the first lap. I knew the safety car would work in my favor, but it was a question of passing the slower cars as quickly as possible so that I didn't lose too much time to the leaders."
From pole, race one winner Robert Wickens was harried for the lead by Brendon Hartley (Gravity-Charouz) over the race's early stages, pulling out a 3.7s margin to Wickens' Carlin teammate Jean-Eric Vergne in third before the appearance of the safety car.
The full-course yellow was brought out following a heavy crash involving KMP Racing's Anton Nebylitskiy and Jake Rosenzweig. Both men slammed into the pit wall after Nebylitskiy moved across the road to defend his position and tagged the Mofaz driver.
Fauzy was running ahead of Korjus in 17th when the race went green. A possible victory slipped away from the Malaysian when he locked-up his front wheels on a damp patch attempting to overtake a backmarker at the Veedol chicane and was forced to make a grassy excursion.
Hartley pitted from second place on lap 19, but suffered rotten luck during his tire change. The Gravity-Charouz crew encountered problems securing his left-front wheel in place and the Kiwi would drop to an eventual sixth.
Wickens came in from the lead for his own mandatory change on the next tour. The Canadian rejoined the track in third, but reeled in and overtook Fauzy for second on the entry to the Ford Kurve two laps from home. After sustaining early pressure from Daniel Ricciardo (ISR), Vergne pulled 3.5s clear of his fellow Red Bull Junior driver to take fourth place.
P1 Motorsport's Walter Grubmuller did not take the start after crashing heavily in qualifying. Fortec's Alexander Rossi also had a day to forget after sustaining a puncture on the opening lap.
Wickens' domination of the weekend has moved him into the head of the drivers' standings on 132 points. The Virgin Formula 1 reserve driver has a 30-point advantage over Korjus and Vergne who are tied for second. Renault-Sport confirmed that Wickens will receive a half-hour shakedown in a Renault F1 car on Friday at the forthcoming Hungaroring meeting, and an exhibition run on Saturday, as a prize for leading the championship at the midway point.
"I expected to go well, but I didn't think we would be fastest in both practice sessions, take two poles and have the results that we've had," said Wickens. "You take every opportunity that you can to drive a Formula 1 car, but I was trying not to think about the possible Lotus [Renault] run over the weekend. I can't wait for Budapest."
Results - 24 laps:
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Kevin Korjus Tech 1 46m36.753s
2. Robert Wickens Carlin + 5.644s
3. Fairuz Fauzy Mofaz + 6.464s
4. Jean-Eric Vergne Carlin + 7.854s
5. Daniel Ricciardo ISR + 11.364s
6. Albert Costa Epic + 16.024s
7. Brendon Hartley Gravity-Charouz + 17.699s
8. Cesar Ramos Fortec + 24.453s
9. Daniel Zampieri BVM Target + 28.892s
10. Sten Pentus Epic + 30.862s
11. Sergio Canamasas BVM Target + 31.591s
12. Andre Negrao Draco + 35.059s
13. Stephane Richelmi Draco + 36.416s
14. Arthur Pic Tech 1 + 37.585s
15. Nelson Panciatici KMP + 37.947s
16. Oliver Webb Pons + 52.856s
17. Jan Charouz Gravity-Charouz + 54.688s
18. Daniil Move P1 + 58.456s
19. Daniel de Jong Comtec + 1m02.021s
20. Daniel McKenzie Comtec + 1m07.354s
21. Michael Herck Pons + 1m10.598s
Anton Nebylitskiy KMP 8 laps
Jake Rosenzweig Mofaz 8 laps
Nathanael Berthon ISR 3 laps
Alexander Rossi Fortec 1 laps