Alvaro Parente took the first win for the Ocean Racing Technology team with a masterful demonstration of pace and guile as he led from lights to flag at Spa-Francorchamps.
With only a late safety car period reducing the gap back to Nico Hülkenberg and Lucas di Grassi, the Portuguese ace held on to claim victory in the 100th GP2 Series race. Hulkenberg, meanwhile, strengthened his claim to the title after main rival Vitaly Petrov succumbed to a rare engine failure on his Barwa Addax entry and was forced to retire after only six laps.
The race was delayed for 15 minutes after a serious accident in the pit-lane but, when the lights went out, all eyes were on La Source, the scene of regular first corner mayhem. Parente was slightly slow to get away, with fellow front row starter Hülkenberg appearing to have the early advantage, but the ORT driver had the inside line and was able to pip the German to the corner and lead the field down to Eau Rouge.
di Grassi also seemed to make a slow start from row two, after acquiring a blocking penalty from Friday qualifying, but a good run from the first turn saw him slot past Diego Nunes for third, with Pastor Maldonado just behind the pair. Petrov, meanwhile, went the opposite way and had fallen to ninth by the end of the first lap, perhaps giving the first indication of the drama to come.
Parente knew his job and carried it out to perfection, pulling out a gap to Hülkenberg on every lap as the rest of the field dropped out of the German's mirrors. Karun Chandhok, in particular, was going backwards, dropping from sixth as the pit-stops approached and delaying those looking to get past the second ORT machine.
Petrov's race was finally over on lap six as his engine gave up on him, while Chandhok came out of the pits on the same lap and tried an optimistic move on Davide Valsecchi at the end of the main straight. The Indian spun, taking the hapless Davide Rigon into the wall with him as the Italian was left with nowhere to go.
Perhaps expecting a safety car, the leaders came in over the next two laps, with Parente holding position ahead of Hülkenberg and setting about increasing the gap
between them as soon as he resumed.
On lap 13, Luca Filippi, who had moments before slid inside Valsecchi at the Bus Stop for tenth, lost his car at the end of the run to Les Combes and spun, leaving his countryman with no way to avoid him. This time, the safety car did come out, forcing Parente to rebuild his lead all over again.
With one lap to go, however, it appeared that Parente has the measure of Hulkenberg, despite the German having closed in, and was holding on to top spot when Durango rookie Stefano Coletti - who was running an impressive ninth - went straight on at the bottom of Eau Rouge and slammed into the barriers at the start of the rise. With the safety car emerging once again, the race was destined to end under caution, with Parente leading Hülkenberg across the line just a lap later.
di Grassi duly completed the podium, having similarly been holding on from Maldonado in the battle for third, while Nunes took fifth after a strong performance - despite nearly being taken off by iSport team-mate Giedo van der Garde. Spaniard Roldan Rodriguez took advantage of the confusion at the Bus Stop, sliding past the Dutchman for sixth with five laps remaining, while Kamui Kobayashi claimed the final points-paying position, and pole position for Sunday morning's sprint race.
Late injury reports suggest that Coletti is suffering from minor injuries to his heel, and possibly, to some of the discs in his back, while the Trident mechanic involved in the pit-lane incident that stalled the start time is out of danger, but remains in hospital to undergo further tests.