F3 Euroseries rookie champion Kamui Kobayashi picked up where he had left off in the Macau Grand Prix qualification race today, converting pole position into victory to earn himself the prime staring spot for tomorrow's all-important final.

It was not quite a lights-to-flag performance from the rising Japanese ace, though once he had regained his lead and his composure after a jittery start he was pretty much untouchable, pulling away from the chasing pack to eventually come home more than three seconds clear of early weekend star Marko Asmer. The finishing positions in the qualifying race will determine the starting grid for Sunday's main event.

Although he let slip his advantage as the lights went green, Kobayashi soon manoeuvred his ASM Dallara-Mercedes back to the head of the field thanks to some intelligent slipstreaming on the run down to Lisboa. From there on he was untroubled as he raced on to an impressive triumph.

It marked the 20-year-old's maiden victory in F3 after finishing eighth overall in the Euroseries this year with a string of impressive showings, the highlights of which were podium finishes at Brands Hatch, the Norisring and the Nurburgring. Should he succeed in going one better and winning again tomorrow it would complete his debut campaign in the formula in the best possible style.

"Early in the race I could already pull clear," he admitted afterwards. "Until the fifth lap, I tried to push. After that my gap was big enough to drive home without taking any risks, so I am confident for tomorrow."

Behind Kobayashi, Asmer was forced to use all his guile to stave off the challenge of front row starter Kohei Hirate - who had damaged his front wheel following a minor brush with a barrier on the opening lap - for second place, ultimately holding on by a mere six tenths. Euroseries champion Paul di Resta was a strong fourth, keeping alive his hopes of completing the unique treble of clinching the Euroseries, F3 Masters and Macau Grand Prix titles all in the same season.

Kodai Tsukakoshi and newly-promoted GP2 ace Kazuki Nakajima made it an even better day for Japan with fifth and eighth places, the former having tussled race-long with Japanese F3 champion Adrian Sutil after starting down in tenth and 14th positions respectively. Tsukakoshi, indeed, had been the architect of a lightning getaway that saw him lying a startling third at the end of lap one, only for the Prema Powerteam ace to subsequently lose out to Hirate and di Resta - with whom he briefly rubbed wheels - on successive laps.

British champion Mike Conway staged an equally impressive charge through the field from 11th on the grid to seventh at the chequered flag - setting the race's fastest lap along the way for good measure - with series runner-up Oliver Jarvis, superb on his Macau debut from 22nd at the start, four places further back.

There was disappointment, however for Euroseries runner-up Sebastien Vettel and qualifying star Romain Grosjean. Vettel failed to shine after starting a lowly ninth, eventually ending his race prematurely and in the wall on the penultimate lap, while Grosjean - seeking his maiden F3 victory at the end of a frustrating Euroseries campaign - stalled on the grid. Though he fought his way stirringly back up through the order, 15th was still a far cry from what he had been hoping for.


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