Franck Mailleux proved unstoppable on his way to his maiden F3 Euroseries triumph of the 2008 campaign in race two at Brands Hatch, but it was Nico H?lkenberg who left the Kent circuit having opened up a 13-point comfortable championship lead as the season races towards its conclusion.

With the race shortened to 48 laps and overtaking famously at a premium around the short Brands Hatch Indy Circuit, there was drama at the start when Sam Bird narrowly averted disaster by just managing to jink around a stalled Christian Vietoris, whilst up at the front Mailleux got the jump on countryman and pole-sitting Signature-Plus team-mate Jean-Karl Vernay to lead the field into Paddock Hill Bend.

Mailleux had already pulled out an advantage of a second by the time the opening lap was out, with Renger van der Zande third ahead of erstwhile championship leader Edoardo Mortara, Yann Clairay and Nico H?lkenberg, who had an eventful opening lap.

Further back, meanwhile, there were cars running four-abreast along the Cooper Straight, and the luckless Stefano Coletti was the biggest loser, being spun onto the grass and down to plum last, with Richard Philippe likewise going for a spin at Druids shortly afterwards.

There was better news, though, for home favourite Jon Lancaster, who had gained two spots to seventh place by the end of lap two, whilst a handful of tours later Mailleux had eked his lead out to 1.7 seconds, as the Frenchman looked to stamp his authority on proceedings.

Further back, Niall Breen found a way past Martin Plowman for 19th place all the way around the outside, with the RC Motorsport ace's subsequent lap of momentum allowing Jules Bianchi and Kazuya Oshima to sneak by into the bargain.

Vietoris would receive a black flag for having started his engine whilst being pushed off the starting grid by the marshals, as the gap at the front of the pack remained static at 1.7 seconds a third of the way through.

Sadly for Lancaster, the British rookie ran wide through the gravel trap at Paddock Hill Bend, and as he rejoined was muscled out wide off the track again by Cong Fu 'Franky' Cheng through Druids, dropping him from a points-challenging position to just about clinging onto a spot inside the top ten.

H?lkenberg was looking increasingly menacing behind fifth-placed Clairay as the young German title challenger and race one winner looked to gain a place, with Henkie Waldschmidt coming along to play behind in seventh too as half-distance neared. An error by Clairay - who locked up under braking under pressure going into Druids - would subsequently allow his pursuer past, whilst some way behind them Bird was having to fend off the attentions of an aggressive Bianchi.

With 17 laps to go, Mailleux had stretched his lead out to some 3.6 seconds over Vernay, with Mortara and H?lkenberg beginning to close in on the back of van der Zande for the final podium position, and the Dutchman in turn ramping up the pressure on second-placed Vernay, who was rapidly given a wake-up call by his team.

Mailleux, though, was left to motor on untroubled to victory, with Vernay hanging onto the runner-up position by just half a second, ahead of van der Zande, Mortara, H?lkenberg and Clairay who rounded out the points-scorers.

The top ten was completed by top-placed rookie Waldschmidt, Koudai Tsukakoshi, Cheng and the unfortunate Lancaster.

"I knew that you can hardly overtake here," related Mailleux afterwards, "so I was focussed on the start. I absolutely wanted to get that right and make it out of the first corner ahead of Jean-Karl Vernay, which I did. In the first laps, I tried to extend the gap over Jean-Karl. After that, I safely drove victory home."

"I have a huge blister on my left hand," explained Vernay, "so I am happy that I have finished on the podium in the first place. Franck Mailleux had a better start, and as he didn't make a mistake in the race, my chances of victory were gone. My race was good, but unfortunately the start wasn't."

"Basically, after the start, my race was already run," rued van der Zande. "I could close the gap to Jean-Karl Vernay, but whenever I was close behind him, I lost downforce and my car started sliding. Third place is a good result, though, and even more so as I am now third in the points' standings again."

To see the race results in full, click here


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