Bertrand Baguette paid back the large numbers of home fans who had travelled to Spa-Francorchamps to support him in the best possible way, by triumphing in race one around the challenging Ardennes circuit this weekend.
In fine weather, the Belgian avoided Spa's many pitfalls to take the chequered flag ahead of Salvador Duran and Guillaume Moreau. According to the reverse top eight grid format from SuperPole, Miguel Molina began the race from the prime starting position, from Duran, Baguette and Julien Jousse.
Whilst the top four and fifth-placed Giedo Van der Garde made perfect getaways when the lights went out – with Jousse and van der Garde jumping Baguette over the course of the opening lap, and the championship leader going on to successfully attack his Tech 1 Racing rival for third too – Robert Wickens, Fabio Carbone and Borja Garcia clashed at the tight La Source hairpin, though all were able to continue.
Molina subsequently picked up a drive-through penalty for being adjudged to have jumped the start, promoting Duran to the head of proceedings at the end of the lap four, from Jousse – who had re-passed van der Garde – with Baguette fourth and Moreau fifth.
Further back, meanwhile, the battle over tenth spot was no less exciting, with little to separate Marcos Martinez, Charles Pic, Marco Barba and Alexandre Marsoin. Pic attacked Martinez on lap eight, and as the two cars came together, the Tech 1 Racing machine rolled off the track. More shaken than hurt, the young Frenchman thankfully escaped unharmed, whilst Barba ran into the gravel trap in avoidance.
That incident brought the safety car out, with the top ten reading Duran, Jousse, van der Garde, Baguette, Moreau, Mikhail Aleshin, SuperPole pace-setter Marco Bonanomi, Alexandre Marsoin, Pablo Sanchez and Mario Romancini. Duran retained his lead at the re-start but, behind the Mexican, van der Garde drew level with Jousse at Blanchimont and the two collided at full throttle, bringing the safety car immediately back out onto the track.
That promoted Baguette to second and Moreau to third, and spurred on by his public, the Belgian immediately attacked for the lead following the safety car's disappearance once more. Twice the Draco star drew alongside Duran, who resisted, but that resistance would ultimately prove futile as Baguette made a move stick into the Bus-Stop Chicane the next time around, sending the crown into rapture. Further back, meanwhile, almost unnoticed, Bonanomi passed Aleshin for fourth.
The order would stay that way to the flag, with Baguette eventually prevailing by more than 2.5 seconds at the end of 20 laps of racing, from Duran and Moreau, the Frenchman narrowly holding off Bonanomi's late charge for the final rostrum spot. Aleshin came home fifth, ahead of leading rookie Marsoin in sixth.
“After the first lap I was quiet worried,” a relieved Baguette admitted afterwards, “as Jousse and van der Garde had overtaken me. Then the car started going very well. I profited from the mistakes of the other drivers and it's all gone my way today – for once I've got nothing to complain about. My car was very quick and the team has worked hard. It's terrific to get a home win!”