Nelson Piquet Jr led from start to finish in the opening round of the 2006 GP2 championship in Spain, clinching a second series victory by an overwhelming 16 seconds.

The Brazilian bolted away from pole, and was only out of P1 during the mandatory pit-stops, opting to pit on lap twelve of 45 and having to wait until his successors cycled through before resuming in front.

When he was returned to the lead, however, Piquet simply continued in the same vein as early in the race, stretching away from the two ART Grand Prix cars to put the result beyond doubt, barring mechanical disaster or driver error. Neither came, and Piquet added win number two to his earlier point for pole.

"This is what we've been dreaming of since Spa last year," Piquet commented, "It is the start to the championship we've been dreaming of, and it's started perfectly, so I'm really, really happy. The team did an excellent job, we're at the top now, and we?EUR(TM)re going to be fighting as one of the top guys."

Behind the Brazilian, it appeared that reigning champion ART would at least be able to add a couple more podiums to its tally, only for the seasoned Alex Premat to run out of road at turn two of the tricky Ricardo Tormo circuit and hand the advantage to team-mate Lewis Hamilton.

The Briton proved far more footsure and continued a solid race, marred only by a tardy first GP2 getaway, to claim second on debut and keep Campos Racing's Adrian Valles at a safe distance.

"I think it's a nice strong start for myself and the team, and the team has done a great job here," Hamilton said, "To come to the first race and finish second is great, and it's a great starting point for me."

"I think it was a good race, and I hope to keep this rhythm and get some more good points,"?EUR? fellow rookie Valles echoed, "?EURoeThere are still many races to go, but I hope to be there all the time, fighting for the top five."

The Spaniard, already pushing Campos further up the grid than normal, jumped into second at the start, and continued to be too good for the iSport pairing of Tristan Gommendy and Ernesto Viso in the opening stages. When Gommendy exited on lap three, the Spaniard's task eased, although he lost ground to the ART pair during the pit-stops.

Running behind Hamilton and Premat, Valles at least managed to remain in front of the flying Nicolas Lapierre, the Arden driver having used an early pit-stop to vault several places up the order from his lowly grid slot. Running quickly enough to earn the bonus point for fastest lap, the Frenchman found himself ahead of both Lopez and Bruni after the cycle had played out, and with enough of a cushion to remain there to the finish, moving up to fourth as Premat fell away.

Like Bruni, Viso was to suffer during the mandatory tyre changes, even though the iSport team appeared satisfied with his turnaround. When he resumed, however, the Venezuelan found himself outside the top ten, and only climbed back to ninth as the race entered its final stages.

Premat was the only casualty in the closing stages, the Frenchman's spin uncovering other woes that eventually saw him sink to ninth as Viso caught him in the final laps to steal a valuable point.

It is often said that the narrow and twisting nature of Valencia's Circuit Ricardo Tormo does not make overtaking easy but, as was so often the case in the inaugural season of GP2, action was in plentiful supply, with overtaking manoeuvres, both successful and otherwise, throughout the race.

The race was not without incident, either. Trident's Andreas Zuber finished his race in the gravel after a robust challenge from the flying Lapierre, while Adam Carroll drove a highly entertaining, but ultimately fruitless, race to 14th for Racing Engineering.

Premat headed a three-car French train just outside the points, with DPR's Olivier Pla and DAMS' Franck Perera taking tenth and eleventh, ahead of the latter's team-mate Ferdinando Monfardini, who drifted backwards in the waning laps.

Alex Negrao was next up, the Brazilian having emerged in front of a contentious scrap with Carroll that saw the Irishman spin after contact and the stewards take a hard look at the incident.

Fairuz Fauzy, Timo Glock, Lucas di Grassi and Javier Villa completed the classified runners, although the teenage Spaniard was three laps off the pace having stalled at the start and required two attempts to get going in the pit-lane.

The nine retirements included the experienced Hiroki Yoshimoto, Sergio Hernandez and Clivio Piccione alongside newcomers Zuber, Luca Filippi, Felix Porteiro, Gommendy and Jason Tahinci, the Turk not even completing the opening lap of his GP2 debut.