Lucas di Grassi turned in a storming performance to win the Macau F3 Grand Prix, twice passing pre-race favourite Robert Kubica to clinch victory in a dramatic 15-lap finale.

The Brazilian started only third on the grid, based on the results of Saturday's 'qualification' race, but wasted little time in passing Kubica for second at the start of lap two. Both, however, were some way behind poleman and early leader Loic Duval, who ended the opening lap with a two-second gap on the rest of the field, having survived the traditional rush to turn one.

The reason for Duval's advantage quickly became apparent, however, as his number appeared alongside the penalty board, the Frenchman having allegedly jumped the start in his haste to avoid any possible pile-up. Although the ASM driver did not stop for several laps, it made di Grassi's move appear all the more vital.

Kubica wasn't about to settle for second for the second year in a row, however, and hounded the Brazilian for several laps, before eventually spotting a chink in the Manor man's defence and slipping through at Lisboa at the start of lap ten.

That appeared to be that, as the Pole seemed to have the measure of his pursuer, but Macau continued to prove unpredictable, with the usual array of incidents both accounting for midfield runners and causing unforeseen obstacles for the leaders. It should have been no surprise, then, when the pace car appeared to help clear up a three-way tangle between UK series runners Danny Watts, Charlie Kimball and Dan Clarke - the man Watts had helped to tutor earlier in the year.

When all three cars had been cleared away, the race was restarted over two laps, and di Grassi decided that it was all or nothing if he wanted to walk away with the category's blue riband title. As soon as the green flags waved, the Brazilian was alongside Kubica, finally squeezing ahead into the first turn. With the rest of the circuit providing little in the way of overtaking opportunities, Kubica was powerless to respond.

"It was a great win,"? said di Grassi, "If it hadn't been for the safety car, then I don't think I would have been able to respond to Robert, but I took my chance and I am obviously very happy. The race here isn't necessarily won by the driver with the fastest car, but by the one who's got the best strategy.

"?I've been waiting for this for the entire season. This is the best day of my career, particularly as I came out on top against the best F3 drivers in the world."

Sebastian Vettel, having jumped into fifth at the start, survived his Macau debut intact to claim the final podium spot, ahead of new Japanese series champion Joao Paolo de Oliveira and Kazuki Nakajima. The German was comfortably ahead of his pursuers at the flag, with de Oliveira three seconds adrift and Nakajima, the son on former F1 pilot Satoru, a further 1.6secs back, and, although he couldn't close in on the leaders, Vettel - making his AMS debut ahead of an expected Euroseries campaign next year, secured a solid third place, the first for Germany in Macau since Ralf Schumacher's win ten years ago

"This third place is the result of four days of hard work and I'm really content," the Euroseries rookie of the year said, "In spite of the mulled qualifying session, I never gave up, and that paid off today. I'm happy with both the result and my first appearance for my new team."

Duval's penalty dropped him well down the order, but the Frenchman responded by setting a pace few could match on similarly clear laps. After setting the fastest tour of the race on lap nine, the other ASM recruit was slowed by the safety car, but had done enough to recover to sixth place by the flag.

"I had the chance of winning the race but messed it up," a contrite Frenchman admitted, "At the start, I slipped off the brake, just for a short moment, but the drive-thru penalty was justified. It's a major disappointment."

The Clarke-Kimball-Watts battle could have been for seventh spot had it not come to its messy end, but it allowed another British series regular, Christian Bakkerud to complete his Macau debut in seventh spot. That put the Dane ahead of race veteran Paolo Montin, while another rookie - and one with far less F3 experience - Romain Grosjean took ninth ahead of Franck Perera, who up and down weekend was largely undone by a poor qualifying race result, and only saw him finish just ahead of fellow Frenchman Guillaume Moreau.

Moreau headed home former Macau podium finisher Fabio Carbone by nearly three seconds, while Karl Reindler got the better of Britain's Mike Conway, who had run near the front in the early stages only to be undone by an incident not long afterwards. di Grassi's Manor team-mate for the weekend, Conway eventually claimed 14th spot, ahead of the assorted Macanese runners, headed by Michael Ho, with Daisuke Ikeda and the luckless Steven Kane completing the listed finishers.

Joining Watts, Kimball and Clarke on the sidelines, Stephen Jelley completed a poor day for the British speakers, while Bruno Senna added a second opening lap retirement to the one earned in the qualifying race.Cheong Lou Meng, Naoki Yokomizo, Kohei Hirate and Filip Salaquarda also failed to see the chequered flag.


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