The German and Italian F3 championships were both in action at the weekend, the former supporting the FIA GTs at Oschersleben and the latter at Mugello.

Laurens Vanthoor maintained his strong start to the ATS Formel 3 Cup with a near perfect weekend at the eastern German circuit, replicating Bas Leinders' double victory for van Amersfoort Racing at the same venue eleven years ago. Only pole position for the opening race eluded the Belgian, who now has his sights set on emulating Leinders' title success.

Having been fastest during free practice on Friday, Vanthoor followed up an outside front row performance in first qualifying with a fourth pole of the season in the second, having appeared easily the fastest man on track.

"In all honesty, it was a difficult assignment," he insisted, "Never before have I experienced so many problems due to slower competitors - and, on top of that, there were numerous yellow flags and a fair amount of dirt on the track. I wasn't able to get the most out of my tyres at their peak and missed out on [race one] pole by a hair's breadth.

"The second session wasn't perfect either, but my fastest lap was good enough for the pole. We still need to carry out some fine-tuning on the car before the races, but I'm fully determined to grab both victories here."

the van Amersfoort driver duly lived up to his promise, winning the first race of the weekend by ten seconds, having led all the way from second on the grid on Saturday evening. Race two, on Sunday, proved to be a carbon copy, with the Belgian again leading from start to finish. Markus Pommer and Nico Monien completed the first race podium, with Monien and Rafael Suzuki doing likewise second time around.

"I took a great start and immediately built up a lead [in race one]," Vanthoor commented, "I completed several laps at qualifying pace, after which I steadied the rhythm to save my tyres. [In race two], it was more difficult on a damp track because you mustn't be taken by surprise under these conditions, but also take care that you don't wear out your front tyres, because this is one the characteristics of this track. I'm absolutely delighted with the weekend, everyone worked truly hard and I've now extended my lead in the championship, allowing me to start driving strategically."

Vanthoor currently holds a 26-point advantage over van Amersfoort team-mate Stef Dusseldorp, with Rahel Frey a further nine points adrift, after neither made the podium at the weekend. Sixth and seventh, respectively, in race one was the best either could manage as their rival, fresh from an F3 Masters outing with Carlin Motorsport, took a firm grip on the series.

The Mugello double-header produced wins for Daniel Zampieri and Sergio Campana, although the Lucidi Motors pilot should have claimed both victories after starting from pole.

Indeed, Campana began the last lap of race one in the lead, only to slip up at turn one and allow points leader Zampieri through into a lead he would not lose. While Campana slipped back to fifth by the time he had recovered, Marco Zipoli (Ghinzani), Pablo Sanchez Lopez (Alan Racing) and Daniel Campos Hull (Prema) followed BMW-Target's winner across the line. Francesco Castellacci's sixth place was good enough to secure the Prema man top spot on the semi-reversed grid for race two. Stephane Richelmi (RC Motorsport) took seventh, with Edoardo Liberati (BVM Target) and Lucidi team-mates Francesco Prandi and Giovanni Nava completing the top ten.

Race two provided an immediate opportunity for Campana to make amends, and he seized the opportunity with both hands. Starting from second on the grid, he made short work of Castellacci and then kept both Sanchez Lopez and Zampieri at bay to the chequered flag. Zipoli, Campos-Hull, Castellacci, Prandi, Nava, Federico Glorioso and Edoardo Liberati rounded out the top ten.

"We ruled with Campana throughout the weekend, apart from the fatal final kilometres of race one," eponymous Gabriele Lucidi noted, "The fastest lap in both races and the first victory of the season make the outcome of our weekend extremely positive, while the battle for the leadership in classification is open."

His slightly better haul from the weekend allowed Zampieri to extend his championship advantage to eight points over Campana, with Campos Hull a further seven adrift in third place.

"Thanks to yesterday's victory and the third place obtained today, Zampieri confirmed his leadership in the overall classification, but the battle behind him is still tight and I think that we will see a thrilling championship until the end," BVM-Target boss Giuseppe Mazzotti admitted.

The ATS F3 Cup returns to action over 4-5 July at the Lausitzring, while the Italian series protagonists have to wait a further two weeks before getting back to business at Misano on the weekend of 19 July.