Pre-season title favorite Daniel Ricciardo got his British F3 championship challenge off to the perfect start by winning the first race of the year at Oulton Park this morning.
The Red Bull-backed Australian sat behind his pole-sitting Carlin teammate Max Chilton in second place for most of the race, with his mirrors full of the Mygale Mercedes of Nick Tandy.
Having pulled out a comfortable lead early on, Chilton's challenge fell away badly in the closing stages having learned he would be penalized for a jump start.
He gradually fell back into the clutches of the chasing pair and lost out to both on consecutive laps with only a handful of tours left, but not before infuriating the rapid Tandy who felt Chilton had blocked him deliberately for a lap while Ricciardo tried to escape with the lead.
Whatever, championship veteran Chilton's fate was already sealed. He finished third on the road but dropped to 17th after the flag, with one minute added to his time for the jump start.
That left race two poleman Walter Grubmuller to inherit the final podium place for former champion team Hitech, well clear of debutant Daisuke Nakajima. The Japanese rookie held third for the first few laps before he dropped behind Tandy and Grubmuller and spent the rest of the race defending from fellow series debutant Riki Christodoulou.
Expected front-running squad T-Sport, which has struggled so far this weekend, showed better pace in the race today. Adriano Buzaid and Wayne Boyd benefited from trouble at the start for Henry Arundel, Carlos Huertas and Oliver Oakes and finished sixth and seventh.
They also set quickest laps 0.8s slower than Tandy's new lap record 1m28.772s in the race – an improvement of half a second compared with Buzaid's gap to the front-running pace in qualifying.
Results to follow