Pastor Maldonado used the outside move into Les Combes that he has been perfecting all weekend to claim victory in the GP2 Series sprint race at Spa-Francorchamps.

Having been denied his usual run to glory at Monaco, the Venezuelan charged from sixth on the grid - having been handed a podium finish on Saturday - pulling off a series of passing moves on the long drag from the top of Eau Rouge to the chicane, before stalking long-time leader Jerome d'Ambrosio at the same spot to deny the local favourite a win at his home track.

d'Ambrosio had led from pole, surviving an initially damp track to pull away in company with Andy Soucek, before the rain returned at the end to catch more than a few drivers out.

Among them was Bruno Senna, who failed to capitalise on title rival Giorgio Pantano's exclusion after clipping the rear of Sebastien Buemi's car and damaging his right front suspension.

As had been the case on Saturday, the GP2 race was preceded by rain but, this time, the track was dry enough for the field to start on slicks, although certain sections of the longest track on the calendar remained damp offline. d'Ambrosio made the best of the cautious starts, and led Soucek - who took advantage of Mike Conway's wariness - into La Source. Most of the frontrunners filed through roughly where they had started, although Conway was down to ninth, before Karun Chandhok found himself being turned around by Sakon Yamamoto, the ART driver becoming the race's first retirement as the result of his indiscretion.

Soucek's pursuit of d'Ambrosio saw him misjudge the grip levels at Les Combes, the Spaniard running deep down the escape road before finding another piece of tarmac that led back to the track just before Malmedy and rejoining without losing a place. As a result, d'Ambrosio led the Super Nova car, Buemi, Vitaly Petrov, Alvaro Parente and Maldonado across the line at the end of an eventful opening lap that culminated with both Andi Zuber and Marko Asmer pitting.

Maldonado was not hanging about, however, and passed Parente for fifth on lap two, as feature race winner Romain Grosjean jumped Kamui Kobayashi for seventh. Senna, meanwhile, was keen to make up as much ground from his eleventh place start as possible, and began his climb by disposing of Luca Filippi at the Bus Stop second time around. The Brazilian had company, however, for the third contender, Lucas di Grassi, having made one of the better getaways, was dogging his every move, dispensing with Filippi and La Source on lap three to keep tabs on his fellow countryman.

Maldonado came close to claiming another scalp approaching Les Combes on the third lap, but could just as easily ended his own hopes as he hit the back of Petrov approaching the braking area. Both had already cleared Buemi and, fortunately, given the speed and proximity of the barriers at that point, escaped to fight on, although the Piquet Sports car exhibited a pair of flat-spots on his front tyres as war wounds.

The Venezuelan finally got his man next time around, again racing up the outside of the Campos car approaching Les Combes, while Parente followed suit to dump Buemi another place further back. Senna was now battling for ninth, with di Grassi all over the back of the iSport car, but the pair were elevated another place closer to the all-important points when Conway looped his Trident machine out of the final chicane and into the barriers opposite the pits.

The Briton's demise was the first indication that rain may be returning, although he didn't help himself by putting a wheel on the kerb to the right of the track before departing stage left. When Alberto Valerio crashed out in similar fashion approaching Rivage, however, the entire field had time to take stock, as the safety car made its first appearance of the morning.

It took three laps to clear the wreckage of yet another Durango chassis, but the delay claimed another frontrunner - promoting Senna and di Grassi to seventh and eighth - as Parente locked up massively heading into the Bus Stop, burying the Super Nova car into the tyre wall. Slightly further back, Diego Nunes was caught out by Filippi running wide into the same section as the field prepared to take the restart and punted both into early retirement.

The single-file return to racing did not lead to many surprises as the field went through La Source and Eau Rouge, but the end of the lap again provided some key action. Buemi continued to be something of a stopper to those bottled up behind, leading Grosjean to make a move on the Swiss through Blanchimont. The ART ace discovered quickly, however, just how damp the track remained offline, and the resulting tankslapper convinced him to step back into the Arden car's wake.

The incident, however, could prove crucial in helping decide the outcome of the title as, sensing his opportunity to make capital from the confusion, Senna tried to sneak up the outside of Grosjean into the Bus Stop, only to be boxed in by the Frenchman and find Buemi braking earlier than he expected. Unable to pull up or out, Senna possibly saw his title hopes end in a touch with the rear of the car in front, bending his right front wheel back into the bodywork and forcing him out of the race.

As Senna fumed on the iSport pit perch, Grosjean got the better of Buemi for fifth at Les Combes - before then spinning away his new-found position at Stavelot and dropping to eleventh, allowing Kobayashi - who had been behind Senna at the time of his incident - into sixth and di Grassi, who had dropped back behind the DAMS car after a query about his earlier passing move on the Japanese, into seventh.

Maldonado's progress continued on lap 14 as, having already banged wheels with the Spaniard, he finally got the better of Soucek with his signature move at the top of the hill. The Super Nova car was not long for the race, however, as Soucek joined team-mate Parente on the sidelines with a big off of his own, this time at Stavelot.

The Spaniard, fortunately, went off earlier in the corner than Davide Valsecchi had on Saturday, and avoided the sort of unabated head-on collision that sent the Italian to hospital, but still endured a sizeable impact and subsequent rebound as he waved a podium position good bye for the second time this season. In a nice piece of symmetry, however, Soucek's accident promoted Valsecchi into the points, the Italian having risen from his hospital bed to take the start in 23rd spot and made his way through the field to pass Kobayashi at La Source at the start of that very lap.

The Japanese driver had been passed by di Grassi at Les Combes on the previous tour, promoting the Brazilian to fifth, immediately behind the ongoing squabble between Campos team-mate Petrov and Buemi, which culminated in the Swiss driver being forced wide exiting La Source on lap 15, albeit without losing a place.

Soucek's accident fortunately did not require the intervention of the pace car but, with two laps remaining, it did not appear to concern Maldonado, who showed no signs of needing artificial assistance to haul in the leader.

Clearly closing throughout lap 17, the Venezuelan made full use of what appeared to be superior power in the back of his Piquet Sport machine - something team-mate Zuber was no doubt keeping counsel about - to tuck in behind d'Ambrosio as they crested the rise out of Eau Rouge for the final time. d'Ambrosio, like those before him, attempted to defend, covering the inside line, but was merely buying time as Maldonado pulled out to the left and completed the move well before the right-left that ended the straight.

From there, it was a cruise for the Venezuelan, who claimed his first win of an otherwise erratic year and finally gave his team the sort of reward that had expected more often given the quality of its line-up. d'Ambrosio came home a disappointed second, with Petrov surviving the attentions of Buemi to complete the podium party.

The Russian's points, added to those of team-mate di Grassi, who came home fifth ahead of Kobayashi and Valsecchi, edged Campos two clear at the top of the teams' championship, but there was no move on the drivers' side, as Pantano and Senna remain locked, eleven points apart, in first and second.

di Grassi and Grosjean are now tied for third overall in their own private RDD-sponsored battle, but all eyes will be on the fluctuating fortunes of the top two as the series heads to its Monza finale. There are still sufficient points on the board for any one of the top four to take the crown, but it would require both Pantano and Senna to score low if the outsiders were to come good.

Then again, the lead pair have mustered just eight points between them in the past two rounds - a figure that includes four for a pole apiece.....