Fabrizio del Monte stormed to his third Superfund Euro 3000 victory in a row by taking his GP Racing entry to the top step of the podium at Jerez.

The Italian was the only expected face on the rostrum, however, as Mathias Lauda (Euro 3000-Traini Corse) came in second and New Zealander Jonny Reid (John Village Automotive) took third, both drivers gratefully accepting the first Euro 3000 podiums.

For his second consecutive race, pole sitter Norbert Siedler had problems pulling away at the start and dropped back through the field to tenth position as the rest of the competition charged past him. Championship leader del Monte had no such problems, however, rocketing off the start line and overtaking Bernhard Auinger into the first corner to secure the lead.

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The Italian then maintained his advantage throughout the race, steadily increasing the gap by almost a second a lap as the race progressed, only being reined in when the safety car appeared to help protect those removing Loic Deman's spun Scuderia Fama machine.

Before its appearance, del Monte had established a thirty-second lead over the field, but this shrank to almost nothing while the pack trundled around behind the pace car. However, once released again, the championship leader eased back into the comfort zone, eventually coming home a couple of seconds clear of his pursuers.

"Three wins out of three and thirty points - it's a dream start to the championship for me!" del Monte beamed, "I had a magnificent race and the car was perfect. My start was excellent and I managed to get away from the rest of the competition very early.

"Of course, I was frustrated that the safety car came out, as I had worked hard to build up a thirty-second lead, but I just kept my concentration and held on to win the race. I'm really looking forward to the next race in front of my home crowd at Monza, but I can't afford to sit back and relax yet, as there are still seven races left before the end of the season."

While del Monte's race may have been straightforward, behind him there was plenty of action for second and third places.

Auinger, Nicky Pastorelli and Mathias Lauda engaged in a lengthy battle until lap 22, when the Euro 3000-Traini Corse driver attempted to overtake Pastorelli on the outside for third position. The move resulted in Lauda going temporarily off track and Pastorelli damaging his front wing, eventually losing five places replacing the nose cone in the pits.

On lap 25, Lauda overtook Auinger for second place, leaving the Euronova driver battling with Jonny Reid for the remaining podium position. His pace compromised as the race wore on, Auinger had little defence as the New Zealander succeeded in finding a way through on the next lap and, with the safety car being deployed on lap 28, had little time to respond.

"This is an amazing achievement for me and the team," Reid admitted, "We've all worked really hard for this moment, and I'm so happy my family was here to see me on the podium. I didn't have a good start and I managed to benefit from a few people not finishing, but it was a good clean result for me and I am delighted!"

Lauda's efforts earned him the 'man of the race' nomination, the Austrian taking 65 per cent of the votes from viewers of the live DSF broadcast and the series' website.

"This is my first time on the podium and it feels fantastic!" Lauda, who is also competing in the FIA F3000 Championship, smiled, "My start was quite bad and I dropped down to sixth place in the race. Overtaking is really tough and I realised after trying a few times that passing on the inside was not possible so I had to go outside to gain places. It was a really tough race and I'm looking forward to celebrating my result today!"

Behind the podium finishers, Auinger's slide continued, eventually depositing him in seventh position - out of the points and behind the recovering Pastorelli. The Dutchman claimed the final marker after finishing just 18secs adrift of del Monte thanks to the pace car intervention, and joined Draco team-mate Fausto Ippoliti in the top six. The Italian took fifth place, improving on his only previous points score despite having to pit after losing his front wing in a first lap brush with Siedler, while 'Babalus' completed a good day for the Euro 3000 team by backing Lauda up in fourth spot.

"If Fausto had enjoyed a better qualifying position, he would have won today," maintained Draco's Nadia Morini, "He recorded some incredible times [in the race], but will to learn that, in Euro 3000, qualifying is very important. It's a pity."

Maxime Hodencq paid the price for his naivety, the 17-year old overtaking team-mate del Monte while the safety car was on track and being disqualified a sa result.

Among the retirements, Siedler last just six of the 34 laps, while Cristiano Rocha and Tor Graves both exited just one tour after the start. That, however, was still one better than Giacomo Ricci....

"Tor didn't get a chance to compete because he was hit at the start and the car's suspension was bent," revealed GP boss Tancredi Pagiaro, "It's a real pity because the cars would have allowed him and Maxime to be front-line drivers in this race. I just hope that they will be able to get some satisfaction at the next race in Monza."