Beijing Guoan's John Martin led from start to finish to win the opening race at the new Navarra track in Spain during the final round of the Superleague Formula season.
Martin grabbed the lead from poleman Davide Rigon (Anderlecht) at the start, and controlled the race from there. Martin was 2.6 seconds ahead of Rigon before the mandatory pit stops and, after the quickest stop of the race from his ADR crew, he rejoined over 6sec clear and cruised to the finish, which featured a few spots of rain.
Points leader Rigon enjoyed a clean run to second to extend his championship lead to 23 points, which means he should clinch the title in the second race – which starts just 25 minutes after the finish of the first. He complained that Martin jumped the start, but was content to pick up the points for second.
"Yes, it's good," said Rigon of his points advantage. "I think Beijing started before me, which was wrong, but he was faster than me today. The track was quite different from yesterday. Now I have to stay calm, and be relaxed in race two."
Of the quick turnaround between the races, he said: "For me, it's better there is no time to think! I will try and follow Craig [Dolby, who starts ahead of him], make sure I'm right behind him, and that's it."
Dolby (Tottenham), who finished third, moves up to third in the points, one point behind Max Wissel (FC Basel) who finished sixth after a tremendous start from 13th on the grid.
"I can beat [Davide], although he drove a great race," said Dolby, who is suffering from a flu-like virus. "I struggled with the car, and I'm feeling awful in myself. It's tough, but I'll put on a show in the last race of the season. Once the helmet's on, I'm a machine. It's not over until the fat lady sings, and I've not heard her yet!"
Wissel added: "I had a brilliant start, and there was a huge gap in front of me, it was perfect. The pace was okay, but not too good. We have to keep the car how it is, because of parc ferme [rules], so it is what it is for race two."
Frederic Vervisch should have finished on the podium for Liverpool, but a loose wing sent him into the pits just as he was lining up Rigon for a pass for second. Andy Soucek finished fourth for Flamengo, ahead of Franck Perera (Bordeaux).
AC Milan's Yelmer Buurman finished seventh, and is now out of the title fight. Olympiacos' Ben Hanley was hit with a drive-through penalty, after crossing the white line at the pit exit while running side-by-side with Robert Doornbos (Corinthians), and is also virtually out of the title running.
Comeback kid Chris van der Drift (Galatasaray) spun off early on and did not finish. He will start from the front row in race two, however.
Pos Driver Team Time/Gap
1. John Martin Beijing Guoan 41m02.447s
2. Davide Rigon RSC Anderlecht + 6.050s
3. Craig Dolby Tottenham Hotspur + 14.256s
4. Andy Soucek Flamengo + 16.122s
5. Franck Perera Girondins de Bordeaux + 16.846s
6. Max Wissel FC Basel + 30.455s
7. Yelmer Buurman AC Milan + 31.198s
8. Alvaro Parente FC Porto + 31.424s
9. Robert Doornbos Corinthians + 32.640s
10. Adrian Valles Sporting Clube de Portugal + 40.660s
11. Esteban Guerrieri PSV Eindhoven + 50.908s
12. Ben Hanley Olympiacos + 58.860s
13. Maria de Villota Atletico de Madrid + 1m10.416s
14. Tristan Gommendy Olympique Lyonnais + 1m12.234s
15. Marcos Martinez Sevilla FC + 1m19.751s
16. Frederic Vervisch Liverpool FC + 1 lap
Chris van der Drift Galatasaray 6 laps
Maxi Cortes AS Roma 2 laps