Justin Wilson took a long-awaited first F3000 victory for himself and simply a long-awaited one for his Nordic Racing team after overcoming a crowd of Brazilians to win at Interlagos.

The young Yorkshireman kept a cool head and was best placed to capitalise on a struggling Jaime Melo Jr after an early race pace car intervention, going onto beat both Mark Webber and the Durango driver by several seconds at the chequered flag. There was more - much more - to his win than that, however, as Wilson sprung from fourth to first in the course of a few dramatic laps.

The start of the race, the first of the modern era to be held outside of F3000's European heartland, was also marked by drama, as home favourites Antonio Pizzonia and Mario Haberfeld were both slow to start the warm-up lap. 'Jungle Boy' made it to his fourth grid slot, but Haberfeld, still to claim his first series point after two years, was relegated to the back of the grid for his troubles.

Although Pizzonia regained his rightful place, the Petrobras team's troubles were not over, as the British F3 champion's team-mate, Ricardo Sperafico, all but stalled as the lights went out and, in his haste to make up lost ground, put his Lola into the wall at the bottom of the Senna 'S'. Scratch one Brazilian.

All of this left poleman Melo out in front, but his advantage was not to last too long. With Sperafico's car jutting out onto the line exiting the first corner complex, the organisers decided to scramble the safety car while it was removed. Seeing the yellow flags and SC boards beginning to spring up around the circuit, Melo backed off - too sharply in some eyes - forcing the following Pizzonia, Rodrigo Sperafico and Tomas Enge to take avoiding action.

When the race was restarted three laps later, Wilson also jumped the Durango driver, forcing Melo towards the grass on the run down to turn one. At the front, Pizzonia almost suffered the same fate as both Enge and Sperafico tried to take advantage of his tardy getaway. The Petrobras man held on, but Enge managed to find a way past on the inside of Sperafico as they raced down to Senna for the fifth time.

With the field now strung out, Pizzonia was able to put the hammer down and stretch away from his rivals. Enge and Sperafico were quickly joined by Wilson in a three-way battle for second, with Melo heading David Saelens for fifth. Sebastien Bourdais and Darren Manning held station just outside the top six, tracking Mark Webber who had made progress from his disappointing qualifying position without breaking into the points.

Further back, Germany's Patrick Friesacher made the best of a good start to close in on Red Bull team-mate Antonio Garcia. As he pulled alongside, the two rookies put on a display of controlled driving to negotiate the Senna 'S' side-by-side, before Friesacher moved ahead, but Garcia was having none of it later in the lap. Sensing a gap inside the sister car, the Spaniard stuck his nose alongside, only for Friesacher to close the gap and take both cars onto the grass and out of the race. Words were exchanged later - but worse would have awaited them as the pair returned to face team boss Helmut Marko!

The incident preceded Viktor Maslov's departure by a couple of laps, and Haberfeld's demise by a couple more, the Brazilian succumbing to mechanical failure after battling back from the rear of the grid to 15th. It also provided a dramatic precursor to the main talking point of the entire race.

Now several seconds to the good, Pizzonia's lead was further increased when Enge dived for the pits on lap 18. When no work was carried out on the Coca-Cola-backed Nordic machine, reality suddenly dawned on the partisan crowd, who knew that, barring a miracle, both Brazilians in the top three would also be making unscheduled stops to serve stop-go penalties for passing Melo back on lap two. When this proved to be the case, it left Wilson in front, with a handful of seconds' advantage over the down-on-power poleman. Pizzonia, Enge and Sperafico rejoined in twelfth, 14th and 16th respectively, scratching the last two Brazilians
from the reckoning.

With Wilson clear in front, attention switched back to the battle for second, which now saw Webber bearing down on Melo. Twice the Australian title hope feinted to pass the pale blue Durango car before he finally made the move stick at Bico de Pato but, once through, Webber was able to extend the gap and eat gradually into Wilson's advantage.

There was never enough time for the Super Nova signing to make an impact, however, and Wilson was able to reel off the laps to take his first win at this level. His concentration had been faultless, particularly when Melo slowed for the yellow flags, and his experience told in pacing his tyres for the entire 35 laps. Only after the flag did he make an error, jumping on the brakes early for Senna and all but spinning his car into the pit-wall!

Webber took a comfortable second, with Melo well ahead of Bourdais in third. Fourth should have belonged to another Yorkshireman, but Manning spun away his hard-earned points within two laps of having finally found a way past the DAMS driver. Eighth was poor reward for a drive that elevated him from 15th on the grid, but Manning had to make do with following, not only Bourdais, but also Saelens, Switzerland's Joel Camathias and F3000 veteran Fabrizio Gollin across the line.

Pizzonia was nine seconds adrift of the Arden car at the end, with Enge and Sperafico scrapping over twelfth. Between them, Bas Leinders recovered from a spin to take tenth, ahead of Andrea Piccini, who survived a rude nerf from the recovering Giorgio Pantano on the penultimate lap. The Astromega driver was recovering from a first lap stop, having tapped Ricardo Sperafico into the Senna wall, and simply ran into the back of the black European Minardi car approaching the first part of the same corner.

Despite having four cars in the top four places on the grid, it was not a happy day for Brazil. For Justin Wilson, however, it was the 'real thing'.


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