John Martin won the first Superleague Formula race of round nine at Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal for Beijing Guoan.
Martin controlled the race from the rolling start, and pulled out a 1.2sec lead over fellow front row man Davide Rigon (Anderlecht) before the mandatory pit stops. The leading pair took them simultaneously at the end of lap 10 and, following similarly long stops, rejoined in the same order.
On fresh tires, Martin got the hammer down, and extended his lead to as much as 3.6sec before backing off near the end. His only problem was the cold he has been suffering from since Thursday, and he admitted he "made a few little mistakes because I can't breathe properly" but brought it home with a margin of 1.174sec over Rigon at the flag.
"The car was absolutely awesome, credit to the boys," said Martin. "Another amazing pit stop. The car was so easy to drive, and on new tires we were extremely fast."
Rigon's second place gives him the championship lead by one point over Tottenham's Craig Dolby, who finished fifth. Dolby ran as high as third early on, but a spin at Turn 4 soon after the pit stops cost him several places.
"This is fantastic for the championship," said Rigon. "Martin was very fast, very quick. He was the best today. Now we will see what happens in race two – there is 50 points for a win, so one point is not much. It's my first time in the lead this year, so I hope to stay in first until the end."
The third title protagonist, AC Milan's Yelmer Buurman, had been set to re-take the points lead but was slapped with a drive-through penalty for not respecting track limits during a duel for third with Galatasaray's Andy Soucek. Both were given penalties, and Buurman could only finish 10th, instead of fourth where he had been running, which drops him 18 points back in the championship.
Local hero Alvaro Parente finished third, despite a painfully slow pit stop that cost him at least 3sec and undid all his overtaking moves from the first stint. He battled back to fifth, and inherited a podium place after Soucek's and Buurman's drive-throughs.
"We had a good strategy for this race," said Parente. "I lost a little bit of time in the pits but got it back in the track. My pace was even better in the second stint, but struggled a bit at the end."
Frederic Vervisch finished fourth for Liverpool from 11th on the grid after a stunning opening couple of corners. Behind Dolby, Corinthians' Robert Doornbos was sixth, ahead of Max Wissel (who was boxed out at the start for FC Basel), Duncan Tappy (who suffered a costly off at the final corner which cost him time early on for Flamengo), Soucek and Buurman.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. John Martin Beijing Guoan 45m37.236s
2. Davide Rigon RSC Anderlecht + 1.174s
3. Alvaro Parente FC Porto + 19.488s
4. Frederic Vervisch Liverpool FC + 21.957s
5. Craig Dolby Tottenham Hotspur + 29.944s
6. Robert Doornbos Corinthians + 31.212s
7. Max Wissel FC Basel + 32.121s
8. Duncan Tappy Flamengo + 39.813s
9. Andy Soucek Galatasaray + 40.837s
10. Yelmer Buurman AC Milan + 41.091s
11. Tristan Gommendy Olympique Lyonnais + 44.419s
12. Marcos Martinez Sevilla FC + 1m12.937s
13. Julien Jousse AS Roma + 1m15.060s
14. Neel Jani Olympiacos + 1m15.318s
15. Maxi Cortes Sporting + 1m35.479s
Hywel Lloyd PSV Eindhoven 26 laps
Maria de Villota Atletico de Madrid 2 laps
Celso Miguez Girondins 1 lap