Ricardo Sperafico made the most of his pole position to become the third different winner in as many races in this year's FIA F3000 Championship, taking the spoils in a relatively uneventful Austrian race.
The Brazilian got the jump on the field as the lights went out, and was never headed on his way to the chequered flag to complete a hat-trick of pole-to-victory winners in the opening three rounds of the series. Despite overtaking being easier at the A1-Ring than at some other venues on the schedule, Sperafico was able to pull out enough of an advantage to bring home a three-second margin at the end.
This was vital as points leader Bjorn Wirdheim, the winner at Imola in race one, dogged the Coloni car all the way to the line to rack up his third podium finish of the season and cement himself firmly in top spot as championship favourite. The Swede has yet to finish lower than second in 2003, and had chased the winners of rounds two and three to the line, having fended off Patrick Friesacher in similar fashion in the opening race.
Although the first two cars home occupied similar positions on the grid, neither of the second row starters managed to complete the podium. Instead, that honour fell to Giorgio Pantano, who brought his pale blue Durango machine through from fifth - just as he vowed to do after qualifying. The Italian - this season's other race winner - disposed of American Townsend Bell and Red Bull rookie Vitantonio Liuzzi on his way to the podium, although had a tough job getting rid of his fellow Italian before opening out a nine-second gap in the closing stages.
Poor Bell could not even hold on to fifth place, dropping to seventh by the flag, as both Enrico Toccacelo and Nicolas Kiesa found a way past the second Arden car. The Italian continued his strong run of form for Super Nova by taking another top five finish, while Kiesa will have been relieved to get some points on the board after a difficult start to his season with Den Bla Avis.
The blue-and-white WilliamsF1 'look-alike's both managed to make the points on this occasion, as a second American rookie, Phil Giebler, took eight place in only his second race in F3000. The Den Bla Avis driver started eighth but had to fight back after a poor start dropped him a couple of places in the opening laps.
The race was not so good for the third American in the field, as Derek Hill found his wings clipped - literally - while involved in a battle with series newcomer Bernhard Auinger. The Austrian had never sat in an F3000 car before being asked to sub for the injured Friesacher, but did a competent job to bring the car home in eleventh after battling Hill and Rob Nguyen for some time.
Jaroslav Janis narrowly missed out on another haul of points, trailing Giebler by four-tenths at the flag, while fellow Jordan test signee Zsolt Baumgartner took tenth. There were two retirements, as Hill was joined by Yannick Schroeder, the victim of a touch from Raffaele Giammaria.