Eighteen year old Monegasque rookie Charles Leclerc made the most of an excellent start from the second row to claim a brilliant debut victory in the 2016 GP3 Series opener in Barcelona. The ART Grand Prix driver was in total control of the race and took the win by over six seconds over pole-sitter Jake Hughes with team-mate Nirei Fukuzumi coming home in third.
At the race start it had been an all DAMS front row with Hughes on pole and Kevin Jörg alongside him, but a lightning quick getaway from Leclerc saw him in the lead before they reached the first corner. Jörg lost a number of places at the start, whilst Fukuzumi and Antonio Fuoco also made impressive getaways to find themselves in third and fifth respectively.
As the racing got underway Hughes remained close to the rear of Leclerc’s machine, but the young Monegasque driver was able to hold off all of his efforts. Behind them, Jörg and Alexander Albon were battling it out with the DAMS driver managing to keep the latter behind.
Leclerc managed to maintain the advantaged that he held over Hughes as the laps ticked down, who in turn had Fukuzumi a few seconds adrift of themselves.
Most eyes turned to the battle for tenth place which had become a three way fight between the Koiranen GP trio of Ralph Boschung, Matevos Isaakyan and Matthew Parry – who remained line astern throughout the entirety of the 22 lap race.
As the midway point approached, Leclerc’s lead over Hughes was 2.2s as dark clouds began to loomed above. Fuoco had his mirrors filled with Jörg, Albon, Jake Dennis and Oscar Tunjo in the closing stages but the remains remained as they were.
As the chequered flag dropped Leclerc took his first of what is likely to be many GP3 victories, whilst Hughes claimed second place for DAMS on their debut and Fukuzumi rounding out the podium. The top ten was rounded out by Fuoco, Albon, Dennis, Tunjo, Nyck de Vries and Boschung.
Tunjo starts the Sprint Race from pole position after having finished in eighth place and the racing gets under way at 9.15 am local time.
Circuit de Catalunya Race 1 Results
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