Fabrizio del Monte stamped his championship credentials all over the opening round of the Superfund Euro 3000 Championship by storming to victory at Brno and leaving fellow podium finishers Norbert Siedler and Nicky Pastorelli in his wake.
From pole position, the Italian rocketed away at the start, securing a lead he would not relinquish in the course of a truncated 27 lap race. By lap three, del Monte had already secured an eight-second advantage and, despite the briefest of interruptions while GP Racing team-mate Tor Graves' car was extracted from the gravel, he continued to build on that to take a comfortable 15-second margin of victory.
The only subsequent threat was from the weather, as an increasingly heavy rainstorm gathered overhead, eventually bringing a premature conclusion to events.
“This is only my second race win in Euro 3000, and both times it has been in Brno, so this must be a good track for me!" the Italian laughed, "It was a tough race, but my car was perfect. The rain at the end was pretty hard, but I had a 17-second lead on Norbert, so I could go carefully until the red flag came out.”
Tipped off the front row late in Saturday's qualifying session, Pastorelli regained a position on Siedler at the first corner, but the safety car's exit gave the Austrian a chance to retaliate and, on lap five, the ADM driver repassed his Draco rival for the runner-up spot. Pastorelli was unable to fight back for the pace car period had given newcomer Bernard Auinger the chance to close, but the Dutchman eventually held on for third.
“I had a bad start and lost a place but, after the safety car phase, I attacked Pastorelli immediately," Siedler confirmed, "It was on the limit, but it worked. del Monte was very strong and I couldn't catch him, so I just protected my second position until the finish.”
“I got a good start and got passed Norbert but, after the safety car, I could do nothing as he overtook me for second," Pastorelli echoed, "Bernard Auinger's car was faster than mine too, so we had some good battles on the track, but I defended my position and I'm happy with third today.”
The midfield saw its own share of action. A lap six overtaking manoeuvre by Cristiano Rocha on Allam Khodair resulted in the latter's retirement from the race, but his assailant remained unpunished and, having started from the back of the grid due to the non-conformity of his car in qualifying, continued to surge through the field. The Brazilian newcomer overtook the second Draco car of Fausto Ippoliti for eighth on lap eleven, and then began hunting down Zele team-mate Sven Heidfeld, who had lost out to Mathias Lauda in the battle for sixth on the same lap.
By lap 13, the rain had started to fall lightly, allowing Heidfeld and Rocha to close in on Lauda and create a three-way battle for the final points position. Rocha continued to be the most feisty of the trio, and eventually won out, despite his front left endplate touched - and puncturing - Lauda's front right tyre as he barrelled through. Lauda retired after returning to the pits, while Heidfeld faded in the closing stages, eventually being passed by Kiwi Jonny Reid.
The John Village Automotive rookie had started from fourth on the grid, but fell to 16th by the first corner after a problematic getaway. That, however, was the catalyst for a storming drive, pulling him up to seventh by lap 24.
Next time around, the rain became very heavy and, with all the drivers on slick tyres, the race director took the decision to red-flag the race on lap 27.