Marcos Martinez registered his breakthrough success in the World Series by Renault in the 2009 curtain-raising outing in Barcelona today, leading consummately from lights-to-chequered flag after gaining the jump on countryman Adrian Valles to get his title challenge off to the perfect start on home soil.
The reverse grid system was in operation for the first race of the season, meaning it was Valles on pole position under the Spanish sun, with Pons Racing star Martinez, International Draco's Bertrand Baguette and Oliver Turvey next in-line. The first mishap came even before the action had got underway, however, with Sunday pole-sitter Charles Pic losing control on the formation lap and crashing into a tyre wall, ending the race before it had even begun for the hapless Tech 1 Racing ace.
Valles spun his wheels when the lights went out, allowing Martinez through to lead into the first turn, with Baguette, Valles and Carlin Motorsport duo Jaime Alguersuari and Oliver Turvey in hot pursuit. Out of luck, meanwhile, were Federico Leo and Frankie Provenzano, who found themselves limping back into the pits following a coming-together over the course of what was an eventful first lap.
With Valles, Alguersuari and Turvey beginning to pile the pressure on second-placed Baguette, further down the field Ultimate Motorsport's Miguel Molina drew upon all of his experience and guile to find a way past Tech 1 Racing rival Brendon Hartley for 13th place.
Up front, meanwhile, there were changes in the order when Turvey got the better of team-mate Alguersuari to move up into fourth seven laps in, as Martinez made good his escape, holding a two-second advantage with 15 minutes completed. Behind him Baguette and Valles continued to duel ferociously, with their squabbling enabling Turvey to keep firmly in touch behind.
Molina, for his part, was providing spectators with the principal source of entertainment further down the field. After making his way past Ultimate's Greg Mansell, he moved on to attack Daniil Move for ninth, overcoming the Russian's staunch defence to get by on lap 15 and leave Move to try to fend off the unwelcome advances of Pasquale DiSabatino, Mansell, Hartley, Adrian Zaugg and Haralds Segelmilhs. It was Zaugg who ultimately emerged on top in this group in grabbing tenth place, ahead of DiSabatino and Hartley.
The final few minutes of the race were interminable for the entire Pons Racing team, with Martinez having to deal with a comeback from both Baguette and Valles in the closing stages, but to his credit the Madrid native held his nerve all the way to the finish line to triumph over his two pursuers, with debutant Turvey coming home as best-placed rookie in fourth and Alguersuari and Epsilon Euskadi's Chris Van der Drift rounding out the top half dozen.
“In free practice, we had a problem with the differential,” the winner revealed afterwards, “so we couldn't work properly. In qualifying, I managed to get into the first eight and that was my goal. The car worked like clockwork today. It's great to take my first win here.”
“It was a very difficult race,” contended runner-up Baguette. “Our car wasn't performing perfectly and Adrian put me under pressure all through the race. It's good to start with a second place, though. Tomorrow will be difficult for us, but I'm sure we will be on top form for Spa, in front of my home crowd.”
“First I must thank Epsilon Euskadi for giving me this chance to get back into the Formula Renault 3.5 Series,” added Valles. “The conditions are right for us to be able to compete for the title. I messed up my start today – it has to be said it's a while since I had to handle a standing start! The car was good during the race, but Bertrand fought like a lion and I couldn't get past him.”
Martinez's debut win represents Pons' first triumph since 2007 when Molina also won at the Circuit de Catalunya. It is also a first podium in well over a year for the Epsilon Euskadi team.