Under pressure to perform in what is his third season in the FIA F3000 Championship, Patrick Friesacher finally delivered his first win at the Hungaroring, in a race that will be remembered as the first to feature pit-stops.

The introduction of the pit-stop element transformed the face of the race, with early leader Vitantonio Liuzzi dropping to fourth after his decision to stop late in the race dropping him to fifth on the road, and other drivers further down the field, notably new champion Bjorn Wirdheim, gaining ground.

Starting from first and third on the grid, the Red Bull duo of Liuzzi and Friesacher made the most of the clean side of the track to jump into an early 1-2, while the second place starter, Giorgio Pantano, struggled with the dusty surface offline and dropped back down the order.

It appeared that the Italian veteran did not just have the track conditions to blame for his slide down the order, however, as fourth and sixth placed starters Townsend Bell and Ricardo Sperafico managed to vault ahead of the pale blue Durango car on the run to the first corner, with Wirdheim, who gridded a seasons-worst fifth also losing out to Sperafico.

At the end of the opening lap, the two Red Bull cars were making good their escape, followed by Bell, Sperafico, Pantano, Wirdheim and Tony Schmidt, who made a good getaway from ninth to lie seventh in the early stages. Enrico Toccacelo, meanwhile, joined Pantano in the loser stakes, dropping a couple of places from eighth to lie behind Jaroslav Janis and Raffaele Giammaria as well as the German.

Schmidt's fortune turned around shortly afterwards, however, slipping back to tenth after a brief incident, but it was the advent of the pit-stops that really shook the order up on a circuit not known for promoting changes of position.

With the pit window opening on lap eight, it was interesting to see who adopted what strategy, with wisdom divided between taking new tyres early on to try and steal a march on the opposition, or running as long as possible on older rubber in order to have a late race advantage.

The new champion opted for the former, pulling in at the end of lap nine - one after Schmidt - and dropping towards the end of the field. Pantano and Sperafico followed soon afterwards, the Brazilian not rejoining, followed by Toccacelo, while Giammaria opted for the halfway mark as his time to stop.

The losses appeared to be limited by the lateness of each drivers' stop, with Giammaria only conceding a couple of places compared with team-mate Pantano's six. However, the two Italians crossed paths during the former's pit-call, suggesting that getting onto new rubber earlier may have been an advantage.

This boded ill for the leaders, therefore, with Bell, Friesacher and Liuzzi all still to stop as the race passed lap 17. The American was the first to blink, dropping behind Arden team-mate Wirdheim and the recovering Pantano in the process, while Friesacher lost further ground when his mechanics struggled to change all four tyres first time.

Liuzzi and the fast-rising Jaroslav Janis were the last of the frontrunners to stop - only BCN rookie Ferdinando Monfardini running longer - and dropped to fifth and seventh respectively before using their new rubber to close the gap on those ahead of them.

After the reshuffle, it was Wirdheim - who had been seventh when he stopped - who now led, although he had the later stoppers baring down on him in the closing stages. Friesacher shrugged off his pit problem to quickly pass Pantano for second, while Bell had his hands full fending off the challenge of former leader Liuzzi. The Italian hassled his American rival heading into the closing stages, swapping places before going on to challenge Pantano for third place. An error of judgement while looking for a podium finish, however, dropped the Red Bull car off the road and both drivers back into the battle with Bell, who duly took advantage to secure his first F3000 podium - and the teams' title for Arden.

Ahead of them, Friesacher had reeled Wirdheim in by lap 26, and wasted no time in squeezing past before using his fresher tyres to eke out an advantage by the chequered flag.

The Austrian was overjoyed with his victory, having taken a long time to realise the potential many had staked their faith on. The win was the first for Red Bull since switching its allegiance to Coloni's satellite operation, and the end to Friesacher's comeback from a broken arm suffered in round two at Barcelona.

With one round to run, at Monza next month, the battle for second overall behind Wirdheim remains open, with Pantano, Sperafico and Liuzzi all gunning for the spot. It may not be quite the tense title thriller of 2002 but, given some of the history between the combatants, should still be one to watch in three weeks' time.