Takuma Sato lived up to pre-race expectations as he dominated the 48th Macau Formula Three Grand Prix to add the blue riband event to his successes in the British championship and the annual Zandvoort Masters.

The Japanese ace fought off intense pressure from one of the strongest fields in recent years to claim victory in both the preliminary qualifying heat and the main event, to beat Frenchman Benoit Treluyer and Sweden's Bjorn Wirdheim to the chequered flag.

"I am totally happy now," said Sato, who showed his delight by doing his trademark jump on the podium, "This is obviously my last major F3 Grand Prix race ever and I am so happy to come back here. It is always difficult to race here but, in the end, I drove so hard, enjoyed my racing and won."

It was a far from straightforward day for any of the drivers, though, as a series of incidents brought drama and excitement to the thousands of spectators who attended the event.

The first race of the day had to be red flagged on the first lap following two spectacular accidents. In the first Derek Hayes locked up under braking for Lisboa and caused a multi-car pile-up, while just one corner later, at San Francisco Bend, Sakon Yamamoto ran wide and hit the barriers before being collected by several other cars.

At the restart, pole position man Wirdheim led away from the grid, but Sato showed he meant business as he got into the Swede's slipstream and made a move into Lisboa Bend. Once ahead, the Jordan F1 recruit immediately began to open out a lead and, at the end of the first lap, was 1.3secs clear.

Sato maintained that advantage until the Safety Car was called out to clear the debris left when Jonathan Cochet spun at the last corner and was collected by Ryo Fukuda.

After four laps of controlled pace, the field was released again, but the Safety Car was immediately called back into action when Mark Taylor lost control of his Manor Motorsport car at the last turn and hit the wall.

Racing resumed at the start of lap eleven, and Sato immediately made a break for it as he steadily opened out his advantage over Wirdheim. He eventually finished nearly 1.5secs ahead, with TOM's driver Paolo Montin third after getting past Treluyer on lap four.

Sato maintained his advantage at the start of the second race, when he made a brilliant start and fought off intense pressure from Montin into the first corner. He made the most of his lead and pushed incredibly hard thereafter to ensure his 1.4secs lead at the end of the first lap.

Although Treluyer, who had moved up to second on the first lap when Montin dropped back, tried as hard as he could to close the gap, there was nothing he could do to stop Sato roaring away to a well-deserved victory. The pace of the second leg underlined the reduced number of incidents, as Sato completed the 15 laps some ten minutes faster than he had earlier in the day.

Wirdheim shadowed Treluyer all the way to the flag, but could do little to find a way past and was happy to finish third on his first visit. Japan completed the top five with Kousuke Matsuura and Yuji Ide to back up Sato's success.

Matteo Bobbi, who had made the most of the first race incident to pick up handfuls of places, took sixth overall after failing to find as much success in race two, while Australian Peter Hackett overcame his qualifying shunt to record two race finishes and earn seventh spot.

The top ten was completed by late entry Heikki Kovalainen and local Macau racers Michael Ho and Lei Kit Meng, but others showed that they could have been a force had it not been for incidents in one or other leg.

Britain's Andy Priaulx charged to fifth place in race two, but his late retirement in the first leg left him outside the top 15 overall. It was a similar story for his fellow British series regulars as Bruce Jouanny took tenth in race two, but trailed Priaulx overall, and Taylor, whose race-interrupting accident left him well down the order. Hayes, meanwhile, bounced back from his first race incident to take eleventh in race two, and earned the fastest lap of the weekend.

Pre-race favourites Pierre Kaffer, Fukuda and Cochet all joined the hapless Enrico Toccacelo on the sidelines, wit Toccacelo among the first out in both races.


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