Polesitter Robert Kubica made the most of his front row start to fend off a concerted challenge from Italian rival Paolo Montin and win the opening leg of the inaugural Sardinia F3 Masters.

Kubica led from start to finish in the 28-lap event, but had Montin looming large in his mirrors throughout a tense half-hour battle. The Pole appeared unruffled as he threaded his way between the unforgiving walls, but had to survive a last-ditch assault from his rival which saw the two cars make contact on the final lap.

Kubica, driving his regular Prema Powerteam Dallara-Mugen, appeared to have the race won, but Montin had other ideas and launched a final attempt to pass the Pole with just a handful of corners remaining. The move failed, but both cars were fortunate to continue running, Montin having come off worst and being forced to limp to the line with damaged suspension. Kubica was less troubled and went on to complete a four-second victory.

Third place went to single-seater returnee Andrea Belicchi, the former kart ace having plied his trade in Renault Clios in recent years. Starting from the outside of row two, Belicchi made the most of a slip from Coloni's Marco Bonanomi to claim a top three finish and secure the inside of row two for the second and final race of the weekend on Sunday.

Ernesto Viso was another to take advantage of Bonanomi's problems, vaulting past the Italian to claim fourth place on the road. The Venezuelan, carrying Crash.Net logos on his Carlin Motorsport Dallara came home seven seconds adrift of Kubica.

Bonanomi was left to fend off a train of cars as the top four broke away, eventually guiding his Lola/Dome-Mugen to fifth place some 20secs down on Viso. In his wake, the Coloni star led team-mates Michele Ruggolo and Christian Montanari, while Lucidi team leader Gregory Franchi maintained a watching brief in eighth place.

The only driver not to see the chequered flag was Alessandro Bonetti, who departed early in the proceedings, and the remaining seven cars all made it to the finish in relative states of health. Swiss visitor Philipp Baron and Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy completed the top ten as the race order showed just one different face in the top half from qualifying.

Matteo Cressoni was the man to lose out, dropping to an eventual 14th position as Stefano Gattuso, Fausto Ippoliti and Andrea Tiso all got the better of him. Andrea Scafuro brought up the rear of the field, some eleven laps behind the leader. Clivio Piccione did not start after his practice crash on Friday.

 

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