Racing Engineering's hitherto traumatic weekend ended in joy as Javier Villa claimed his first victory in the series by holding his nerve in a tricky sprint race at Magny-Cours.

The Spaniard looked set for a podium finish after slotting in behind polesitter Nicolas Lapierre at the start but, when the circuit 'expert' slid off under braking at Adelaide on lap 17, the youngster was left out front, with Luca Filippi and race one winner Giorgio Pantano applying the pressure.

The morning was not as incident-filled as Saturday's feature, but began in dramatic fashion when several drivers, including the luckless Andi Zuber and Michael Ammermuller, spun on their way to the grid, caught out by the greasy surface left by overnight rain in central France.

The conditions did not pose the expected problems at the start, however, with Lapierre making a good getaway and the field slotting in behind through the opening corners without incident. The action started at Adelaide, with the two Arden cars of Bruno Senna and Adrian Zaugg making contact - the third incident of 'blue-on-blue' contact this weekend - as the Brazilian made an optimistic bid for third. Zaugg was pitched up on two wheels and, despite continuing for another lap, eventually retired.

Senna inherited the final podium spot, but was to throw it away just over a lap later when he ran wide at the Imola chicane, dropping to eighth as a result. With Filippi passing Pantano at Adelaide shortly before the Brazilian's excursion and Jason Tahinci being spun at the hairpin by Roldan Rodriguez, the order was already receiving a shake-up, although the order at the front remained static, with Lapierre heading Villa by an increasingly comfortable margin.

The battle for the minor points took on extra significance next time around as Timo Glock's weekend took another turn for the worse. Having been involved in an intra-team clash with Zuber at the start on Saturday, the German crawled into the pits with suspected gearbox problems, leaving him pointless - and podium-less - for the first time this season. Although his points advantage was enough to ensure that he will go to Silverstone at the head of the field, Filippi, Pantano, Lucas di Grassi and Senna all saw the chance to close the gap.

Although Ammermuller and Xandi Negrao both spun off, unaided, in separate incidents, there was no suggestion of the rain returning until Lapierre exited unexpectedly at Adelaide on lap 17. Even then, however, precipitation was not thought to have been the cause of the Frenchman's demise, the rear wheels on his DAMS Dallara barely locking as it skated, rapidly, across the gravel trap and into the tyre barrier.

The mishap, however, left Villa at the front of a GP2 race for the first time - feature race pit-stop windows aside - but the Spaniard showed no signs of being fazed, extending his advantage over Filippi as the 28-lap event moved into it closing stages. Filippi, in turn, was not really being threatened by Pantano, who did not appear to have the same sort of pace as on Saturday, while Vitaly Petrov, di Grassi and sixth-placed Mike Conway were all well adrift of the podium.

Conway was soon even further adrift, the Super Nova car slowing dramatically and being passed by Pastor Maldonado, Senna and Kazuki Nakajima as the trio battled over the last remaining point. The Venezuelan's Trident car sounded rough, however, a damaged exhaust not helped by a touch from Senna as they braked for Lycee, and Maldonado was soon the next to be demoted, both Senna and Nakajima going through in an instant at Adelaide.

The rain finally returned, as drizzle, with four laps to run, and Villa's gap halved at a stroke as the Spaniard began to take extra care with his lines. Filippi, too, found his cushion back to third beginning to shrink as Pantano closed in, but the margins eventually stabilised at a matter of tenths, the youngster's pursuers keeping one eye on the bigger picture.

"I think we have shown that our rhythm is always really good," Filippi commented, "Now Timo has had a zero point weekend, we have had bad luck once each. In Silverstone, it would be really nice to have a good fight with him."

"I hope I can close the gap to Glock," di Grassi echoed, "I'm here to win the championship, not to be a number."

Senna and Nakajima, however, were showing no such caution as they battled over the final point. The Japanese driver made the most of a move at Adelaide to squeeze inside his Brazilian rival, but Senna was having none of it, responding with a move of his own at the 180. The two cars made contact as the Brazilian dived to the inside, but it was the Red Bull machine that came off worst, Senna spinning onto the grass before resuming, chastened.

At the front, meanwhile, Villa had held on to his lead, crossing the line to the obvious delight of the entire Racing Engineering crew, which had been happy with the Spaniard's seventh place on Saturday after team-mate Ernesto Viso's violent accident had caused the race to be red-flagged. If ever there was a tonic to be administered, this was it.

"This is good," Villa admitted, "Normally, when you are in the front and they are pushing you all the way, it's a really hard race, but this was comfortable. I was hoping it would be more difficult!"