There may have been a title fight in progress, but all eyes at Spa-Francorchamps were firmly focused on runaway race winner Fernando Alonso.
For someone in only his second year out of karts, the Spaniard did not put a foot wrong to lead from start to finish in the final round of the FIA F3000 championship, but still had his achievement overshadowed by the fact that Bruno Junqueira and Nicolas Minassian were duking it out for the crown.
Alonso needed to make two good starts for, as has become common in F3000, the Safety Car made its obligatory appearance as early as lap three to remove Mario Haberfeld's crumpled car from the pit-straight, but the Spaniard made no mistake, and quickly opened out an unassailable advantage.
The restart slightly bettered the original for the Astromega man, for he didn't have to worry about the advances of team-mate Marc Goossens. The Belgian had almost succeeded in taking the early lead as Alonso ran wide at La Source first time around, before finding himself swamped by the field on the run to Les Combes.
If this allowed Alonso to make good his first escape, the restart did an even better job, for the little Spaniard was not seen again by the rest of the field until everyone returned to parc ferme
Junqueira held sway in second as the field completed the first lap, but this was the highest the champion-elect would manage all afternoon. Knowing that title rival Minassian had to win the race appeared to have a soporific effect on the Petrobras driver, and he was more than willing to concede positions to prevent himself being taken out in an optimistic manoeuvre. Even when Minassian himself caught the Brazilian, Junqueira allowed the place to slip, figuring that, with Alonso in such dominant form, the Frenchman had little chance of taking the ten points he needed to triumph.
Minassian's afternoon, like qualifying, looked to be going any way but the right one. At the first start, he tried the outside line into La Source, only to see the places he had gained at the lights taken away again at the first corner. From then on, and helped by the Safety Car, he began a drive worthy of a champion, picking off those ahead of him almost at will on the run through Kemmel to latch on to the top four with just under ten laps to run.
The last of these was Super Nova team-mate David Saelens and, if the Belgian did not make it easy for Minassian to pass, he did not make it too hard either, as the Frenchman swept around the outside going into Les Combes. Once free of the other silver D2 car, Minassian then began to reel in second-placed Goossens, only to find time against him. Whether he would have caught Alonso is a moot point, but the Frenchman made sure he would be in a position to capitalise of problems for the front-runners, and more than deserves a place in a higher formula next season.
All the while, the man who would be king continued his downward progress through the field. Once Minassian had passed him for sixth, Junqueira then yielded to Tomas Enge, Bas Leinders, Ricardo Mauricio and Christijan Albers, before taking an eventual ninth place finish.