Raphael Matos took over at the head of the Firestone Indy Lights point standings after completing a consummate 40-lap, flag-to-flag victory in the first half of the series' Mid-Ohio double-header.

The Brazilian pulled away from the start and won by 4.2603secs over Franck Perera, who again proved his road racing prowess, and the victory was enough for Matos to turn a pre-race deficit into a three-point lead over Richard Antinucci, who finished third. It was the AFS/AGR driver's third win since moving to Lights as reigning Atlantics champion, and completed a hat-trick of first leg wins in this season's double-header events after similar wins at St Petersburg and Watkins Glen.

"It doesn't get better than this," Matos enthused, "I just have to thank the entire AFS/Andretti Green Racing team. It was a great day for us. We've turned it around.

"We've had some trouble this year, especially with the ovals, but we knew we could be strong on the road courses. We're doing a consistent job on the ovals, and we've been kind of dominating on the road courses. We did it again. Hopefully, we'll make the proper changes to the race car for Sunday and try to get another victory."

Perera picked up his best result of a season he started late, having lost his ride in the IndyCar Series. The Frenchman, who had taken pole at Watkins Glen, had struggled in races on his supposedly favoured permanent tracks up to this point, and was happy enough with second.

"It feels good to finally finish a race on a road course," he admitted, "This is my first season, so I'm trying to do what I can on the road courses and learn the ovals and, here, we were able to start on the front row. I was trying to keep close to Rafa during the race, but we didn't have any yellows so I couldn't do anything. It's good for the team to finish second, though, and we'll go for the win on Sunday. But it will be tough to overtake here without a yellow."

Antinucci racked up his seventh top ten finish of the season by completing the podium, but could do little about preserving his pre-race points lead.

"Track conditions were really bad at the beginning, and that's where we lost most of our time," the American commented, "We got pretty fast at the end with the Lucas Oil/LifeLock car, but there was no point in doing something stupid to gain a couple tenths of a second. I think, hands down, Matos deserved this win. Their team has been strong all weekend.

"Congratulations too to Perera, who was uncatchable for me most of the race. I'm pretty happy with the points, although I think we lost the lead in the championship by a hair. But we're right there, and we gained ground on the rest. Big picture, we're still close."

Antinucci will start second and Matos fourth in race two of the double-header on Sunday morning.

New Zealander Jonny Reid finished fourth, his first career top-five finish since joining the series mid-season, but admitted that he had struggled with handling problems.

"The car was very loose on the American Le Mans Series rubber, and we were shy in one area of the car, and that kind of cost us," he sighed, "But we have another race tomorrow.

"It was definitely a learning experience. It was my first time to race here, and I am pleased with finishing fourth. The team put a lot of time and hard work into getting us here this weekend, and all in all it is a good way to go into tomorrow's race."

Early season points leader JR Hildebrand notched up another top five finish to keep himself in the top four overall, closing in on Nashville winner Ana Beatriz, who could only manage 14th.

"The track seemed pretty slick and greasy running after the ALMS, because they put a lot of rubber down on the track," Hildebrand commented, "We started peeling that away through the race, so it was a little better by the end. The first half of the race, the car was really slipping around a lot and sliding. I think everyone was kind of dealing with that to a certain degree, so I just tried to kind of hang in there for the first half of the race and tried to pick it up at the end of race. I was able to take advantage of a few guys taking themselves out there at the end.

"We will make a few changes and be ready for tomorrow. We didn't test here like a lot of the other teams did so I feel like we have learned a lot over the last couple of days. I think we should be ready to do a pretty good job tomorrow."

Dillon Battistini, who had appeared to be Antinucci's biggest rival earlier in the year, finished two laps down as the race became the eighth in Firestone Indy Lights history without a caution flag. The Briton has dropped to sixth in the standings, some 75 points off Matos' lead.