Atte Mustonen produced an impressive performance in the F3 Masters at Zolder to take a top six finish despite starting well down the grid for the annual non-championship event.
The Finn had endured a difficult qualifying session at the Belgian circuit but still lead the Double R brigade in 24th place on the grid ahead of both John Martin and F3 rookie Henry Arundel.
Mustonen made a fine start to the race and avoided a number of incidents on the opening lap to quickly climb up to eleventh place and he soon climbed up into the top ten after coming out on top of a heated battle with Jaime Alguersuari and Edoardo Mortara.
Mustonen then battled past Richard Philippe into eighth place before taking sixth in one go when he passed both Rodolfo Gonzalez and Daniel Campos-Hull in the same move – securing an impressive top six finish in the process.
"I'm very pleased with sixth place, it was a hard race, but I really enjoyed it," he said. "Qualifying was disappointing, I think we showed in the race that we deserved to be higher up, and I think we can be proud to have made up so many positions to finish sixth."
John Martin could finish only 23rd after electing to gamble on slick tyres following the formation lap, which dropped off the lead laps as a result, but Arundel produced an impressive performance on his first appearance at the Masters to take 13th – making up 20 places in the process.
"It was a weekend of firsts for me, my debut at the F3 Masters, a first on the Kuhmo tyres and my first visit to Zolder, so it was a big learning curve," he said. "As a rookie I think it was a good experience to drive on new rubber and adapt my driving style accordingly. Our qualifying performance was very disappointing, but I was determined to make up positions in the race. I'm really pleased to have finished so near the top ten, I kept my head and kept the car on track."
Team principal Anthony Hieatt admitted that qualifying had left the team on the back foot but said he was encouraged by the way his drivers had performed in the race itself.
"Our qualifying results hurt us quite a lot this weekend," he said. "We clearly had the pace to be further up the grid, and considering the competitive nature of the F3 Masters field, I think the number of positions made up by both Atte and Henry is extremely impressive.
"Unfortunately we took a tyre gamble with John which didn't work out, but sometimes you have to take these risks in order to get the results. I'm impressed with the way in which all three drivers performed over the weekend, and hope we can carry that momentum forward into the final stages of the British F3 Series."