Marcos Martinez mastered treacherous conditions at Barcelona to complete an amazing double victory on the opening weekend of the 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 series.
Martinez's Pons team timed its mandatory pitstops to perfection, waiting until a mid-race rain shower had set in before stopping for a set of wet tires.
"It started to rain after a while, but the team told me to wait and not to come in," said Martinez. "On one sector it was really wet. When I did eventually exit the pits with wets I was in effect first, as there were five cars ahead of me on the road, and they had yet to change tires. It has been a dream start to the season."
Sten Pentus also benefited from good strategy, but drove superbly from 19th on the grid to finish second for Mofaz Fortec.
The Estonian even held the lead of the race on lap 21 after Martinez ran wide through the Turn 11 gravel. However, the more experienced Martinez recovered his position within half a lap, finding greater traction on the exit of the left-hand SEAT corner to power past the Fortec rookie.
Formula Master champion Chris van der Drift acknowledged his good fortune in holding on to the final place on the podium. After aquaplaning off the road, the Epsilon Euskadi driver had slipped back to seventh position when the race was red-flagged on the last scheduled lap.
A heavy accident for Frankie Provenzano exiting the final corner had left his Prema car in a dangerous position, and the organisers had little choice but to fly the red flags in place of the checkered flag. The final classification was given on countback to lap 22, and van der Drift was reinstated into third.
Before the rain turned the race on its head, pole-sitter Charles Pic and British Formula 3 champion Jaime Alguersuari had engaged in a thrilling duel for the lead.
Both men made relatively early pit stops for dry tires, Pic dropping behind Alguersauri in the process, but pitting before the rain would scupper their chances of a strong result. Despite his two pit stops to Martinez's one, Pic recovered to sixth place while Alguersuari retired his Carlin machine with suspected fuel pressure failure.
P1's James Walker had started from the front row but was forced to retire after damaging his front right suspension on the back of team-mate Daniil Move's car on lap two, with Move then losing second to the charging Alguersauri and ultimately falling to 12th amid the weather and pit stop chaos.
Bertrand Baguette also held second for a while before parking his Draco machine, while his team-mate Marco Barba was an early victim of the conditions and brought out the safety car after a heavy accident.
It was under the full course yellow that van der Drift, Martinez and Pentus dived into the pits for the change to wet tyres that secured their podium finishes.
"I think the trick was to wait a lap after the rain started falling," said Pentus. "I just kept my eyes open and kept calm while other people made mistakes."
Racing resumed on lap 18 with Martinez leading Adrian Zaugg. The South African would drop back to fifth, but Martinez survived a number of scares, including cutting the last chicane, to add a second victory to his debut FR3.5 win achieved in race one yesterday.
Adrian Valles backed up his third place from race one to finish a strong fourth for Epsilon Euskadi. The Spaniard had chased Pentus over the finish line on the last lap, but lost out from the count-back from the race stoppage.
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Marcos Martinez Pons 41m20.462s
2. Sten Pentus Fortec + 1.819s
3. Chris van der Drift Epsilon + 2.908s
4. Adrian Valles Epsilon + 4.334s
5. Adrian Zaugg Interwetten + 6.314s
6. Charles Pic Tech 1 + 7.214s
7. Fairuz Fauzy Fortec + 8.033s
8. Pasquale di Sabatino RC + 13.097s
9. Brendon Hartley Tech 1 + 13.682s
10. Greg Mansell Ultimate + 19.193s
11. Oliver Turvey Carlin + 20.432s
12. Daniel Move P1 + 23.502s
13. Mihai Marinescu Interwetten + 41.043s
14. Miguel Molina Ultimate +1m24.670s
15. Frankie Provenzano Prema +1m37.138s
16. Jaime Alguersuari Carlin + 1 lap
17. Anton Nebilitskiy Comtec + 1 lap
18. Federico Leo Pons + 1 lap
19. Omar Leal Prema + 3 laps
Driver Team Laps
Harald Schlegelmilch Comtec 14
Marco Barba Draco 13
Bertrand Baguette Draco 12
James Walker P1 3