Marussia Manor Racing's Dean Stoneman made the best use of a front row start and the tricky track conditions on Sunday morning to claim his first win in the GP3 Series at Barcelona, an emphatic declaration that the 23-year-old is back in business in open wheel racing after his enforced time away from competition while battling testicular cancer.
Having survived an embarrassing spin on the formation lap while warming his tyres, Stoneman went on to get a decent start in the second GP3 race of the weekend, but polesitter Matheo Tuscher got an even better one in the Jenzer Motorsport and had a clear lead going into the first corner. Stoneman was still able to safeguard second place from Dino Zamparelli (ART) and Jimmy Eriksson (Koiranen GP) who were battling for position behind him, while the big loser at the start was Saturday's race winner Alex Lynn in the Carlin, who dropped four places from eighth on the grid in the run down to the first corner.
It was immediately clear that the track was far wetter and more treacherous than the drivers - who had all started on slicks - had been expecting, making the first lap was a matter of survival as the 27 cars tip-toed around a full lap of the Circuit de Catalunya somehow without major incident, although there was plenty of light contact and lurid slides as the track limits temporarily became a mildly helpful suggestion rather than a strictly observed rule.
It wasn't until the start of lap 2 that contact with Status GP's Nick Yelloly spun Stoneman's team mate Patrick Kujala off at turn 1. Stoneman meanwhile had other matters on his mind, as he was now secure enough in the handling of his car in the wet conditions to allow him to take the attack to the race leader. He made the pass in turn 4, and - even though Tuscher made contact with the rear of his car as he fought back - Stoneman was able to make it stick.
A brief safety car period followed to enable the marshalls to retrieve the stricken Trident of Denis Nagulin, who had spun in turn 3. Lynn and ART's Alex Fontana took the opportunity to pit for wet tyres, but it was soon evident that the light drizzle was not enough to justify the call and both men failed to make sufficient progress before the track dried and their tyres cooked themselves to obsolescence, despite the race ending earlier than expected after being time-capped at 30 minutes.
The race resumed on lap 6 with Jann Mardenborough spinning the Arden in the chicane before taking the green flag, and seconds later Status GP's Alfonso Celis Jr understeered into contact with Pal Varhaug in the #20 Jenzer Motorsport car, leaving both cars in the gravel' Cellis was subsequently given two penalty points and a five place grid penalty for Austria as a result of the "reckless" move. Koiranen GP's Carmen Jorda also retired from the race at the end of lap 9 after losing the car going through the final corner.
Up front, Stoneman continued to assert control over the race even though Tuscher and Zamparelli had both set fastest laps in their efforts to close him down, just two seconds covering the top three along with Richie Stanaway in fourth place. Stoneman remained tantalisingly out of reach of his pursuers as Tuscher was forced to commit all his attention to holding off Zamparelli to the finish.
In the final minutes of the race, Zamparelli's tyres fell away from him and he was left fighting for his life against Stanaway. That freed up Tuscher to concentrate on applying the pressure on Stoneman for the lead, but the Brit was up to the challenge and when the chequered flag finally came it it was the Briton who claimed the honours and the top step of the podium with Tuscher and Zamparelli joining him for the prize-giving.
Behind Stanaway in fourth, ART's Marvin Kirchhöfer won a tough battle with Jimmy Eriksson, while Nick Yelloly and Carlin's Emil Bernstorff picked up the final points positions - although ninth-placed Patric Niederhauser also got some compensation for his efforts with two points for the fastest lap of the race. Luis Sa Silva completed the top ten for Carlin.
Despite finishing down in 18th place after his poor start and backfiring wet tyre gambit, Alex Lynn still leads the GP3 championship after the first weekend of competition by eight points over Stanaway, with Eriksson and Stoneman just a further point apiece further back. That's how things will remain for the next six weeks, as the GP3 Series doesn't return to action until June 20-22 when it visits the Red Bull Ring in Austria for the first time.
Full GP3 race 2 results and championship standings