Despite losing his lead on the opening corner Pietro Fantin went on to score his first British Formula Three win in the first of three races at Rockingham.
He had made the best of the initial starts, momentarily pulling away from Felipe Nasr in second, but the championship leader was back ahead, driving around the outside of the sweeping turn one as Fantin struggled for power going up through the gearbox in his Dallara.
This weekend the story of the championship is all about Nasr potential to seal the championship with six races still to go and it appeared as if the Brazilian would take a big step towards that goal in the first half of the race.
After an early safety car period following a lap one crash Nasr jumped into the lead, consistently pulling away from Fantin lap after lap. Meanwhile the closest of the distant championship chasers were mired in the midfield. Carlos Huertas took sixth soon after the safety car returned to the pit at the end of the seventh lap while Will Buller, after starting ninth had made little progress through a midfield gaggle led by Scott Pye.
Their championship reprieve was Nasr's misfortune, the first of several drivers to collect a drive through penalty for not respecting the track limits. He served the penalty with just nine minutes of the race remaining, handing Fantin the lead and dropping down to eighth behind Buller and Pye in the middle of a battle that had come to include much of the bottom half of the top ten.
In the closing laps of the race Nasr recovered some ground, passing Pye for seventh before getting the better of Buller after a brief duel. The Fortec Motorsport driver took the defensive tight line into the hairpin at Deene, keeping the place through the left hander by sacrificing his line on exit while Nasr could take the optimum line. A better run through the following corner at Yentwood allowed Nasr to take the place with a simple move the inside at Chapman.
Though he had warned that there would be little overtaking Nasr was not the only driver to make progress through the field.
Kevin Magnussen had continued his luckless season, a mistake at Deene just as the Safety Car was scrambled dropped him from fourth to 13.
From there the Dane was on a charge, pushing forward with aggressive moves, twice passing through the banked turn one – though given his overtaking moves earlier in the season at Snetterton he is no stranger to adventurous overtaking.
The second of those moves put him past Scott Pye for eighth place, which became seventh after the checkered flag when Will Buller was penalised for not respecting the track limits.
In seventh Magnussen was able to latch onto the tail of the Carlin train that took second to seventh behind Fantin. Rupert Svendsen–Cook took second place, 1.219 seconds back from Fantin with Jack Harvey rounding out the podium.
The race winner told The Checkered Flag; “my start itself was really good but when I went to second gear I felt it slip a bit because the clutch before got too hot before the start. But second place was still OK – my aim was to be on the podium. After qualifying I was already happy, the weekend was done after that but I had a little bit of luck and I got the win.”
“I saw the board with the marshals on the straight with number 31 but I could see what it was for. Whatever it was it would be good, whether it was him to come in or not I was already really happy with second place!”
Jazeman Jaafar finished ahead of Nasr and Magnussen. Scott Pye, Menasheh Idafar and Hywel Lloyd rounded out the top ten.
National Class honours went to Luca Orlandi after his only rival Kotaro Sakurai was taken out in the lap one crash at Deene.
The Japanese was behind everyone filing into Deene for the first time and was unable to avoid Fahmi Ilyas and Yann Cunha having an accident ahead of him.
“I almost stalled the engine at the start so I was right behind everyone so that's why I tried to overtake at [Deene] but two guys just crashed in front of me.” Sakurai explained his view of the accident. “I had no space to go inside and no space to go to the right hand side. I was already on the inside and I just had gravel on my left. I pressed the brake as hard as possible but I still crashed into them. We still have two races tomorrow.”