Matias Laine scored his first GP3 Series victory in the second race at Spa-Francorchamps on Sunday. But a charging drive to second place by Antonio Felix da Costa was the highlight of the race, and the performance moves him into second in the championship with one round remaining. His title rivals, Mitch Evans and Aaro Vainio, both failed to score.
MW Arden driver Laine leapt into the lead at the start after a great getaway, and although reversed-grid poleman Lewis Williamson briefly grabbed it back at La Source, Laine outdragged him on the run to Eau Rouge.
After making a poor start, Conor Daly passed Tio Ellinas and Williamson on the opening lap to take second, with Ellinas whacking Vainio into a spin at Les Combes, from which Vainio rejoined 25th and last. Williamson repassed Daly at Les Combes on lap two, while title rivals Evans and da Costa touched at the final chicane, both continuing without damage.
Da Costa had a great run through Eau Rouge and Raidillion on lap five, to help him zap past Evans on the Kemmel Straight on lap five, and set a sequence of fastest laps to chase down the duelling Williamson and Daly ahead of him. Evans then tumbled down the lap chart, thanks to a quite startling slump in pace, and would even be passed by the recovering Vainio. Evans finished 15th, with Vainio also out of the points in 14th. It was only Evans's fourth finish outside the points from 14 races so far in 2012.
Williamson cracked under Daly's pressure at Pouhon on lap eight, and then suffered almost an Evans-like drop in pace, falling from second to seventh.
Da Costa chased down Daly, and grabbed second with two laps remaining on the Kemmel Straight. He trimmed the gap to winner Laine to 2.4sec by the finish after a quite brilliant drive to keep his title hopes burning.
Daly finished third, ahead of Alex Fontana, Daniel Abt (delayed by the Ellinas/Vainio clash on lap one), Patric Niederhauser, Williamson and Will Buller.
The result means that Evans's lead over da Costa, going into the final rounds at Monza next weekend, is 21.5 points, with a maximum of 48 available.
Evans came into the race 24.5 points ahead of Vainio, as Saturday's shortened event was only awarded half points due to Robert Cregan's huge crash at Pouhon.
Results - 12 laps:
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. Matias Laine MW Arden 26m39.329s
2. Antonio Felix da Costa Carlin + 2.404s
3. Conor Daly Lotus + 3.460s
4. Alex Fontana Jenzer + 7.151s
5. Daniel Abt Lotus + 8.494s
6. Patric Niederhauser Jenzer + 9.671s
7. Lewis Williamson Status + 10.961s
8. Will Buller Carlin + 17.259s
9. Giovanni Venturini Trident + 18.754s
10. Tamas Pal Kiss Atech CRS + 19.460s
11. Alex Brundle Carlin + 19.828s
12. Alice Powell Status + 22.462s
13. Robert Visoiu Jenzer + 23.628s
14. Aaro Vainio Lotus + 26.226s
15. Mitch Evans MW Arden + 28.547s
16. Marlon Stockinger Status + 29.267s
17. John Wartique Atech CRS + 29.469s
18. Dmitry Suranovich Manor + 30.471s
19. Vicky Piria Trident + 31.849s
20. Kevin Ceccon Ocean + 33.410s
21. Fabiano Machado Manor + 33.967s
22. Ethan Ringel Atech CRS + 34.451s
23. Carmen Jorda Ocean + 54.689s
David Fumanelli MW Arden 6 laps
Tio Ellinas Manor 4 laps