Olympiacos scored a superb first-ever Superleague Formula by Sonangol victory after a stunning second half fight back saw the Greek giants grab a win from Liverpool with just three minutes remaining in race 1 at Estoril.
New signing Esteban Guerrieri, a summer transfer from Spanish club Sevilla, made a scintillating debut for his new club but still had to win the hard way. Leading at the first corner from second on the grid, the Argentinian driver was in control of the race early on but dropped to third during the compulsory pit stops. A late charge, aided by some slower traffic, saw him recover the win with clean passing moves on Corinthians and Liverpool in the dying stages.
Liverpool and their driver Adrian Valles will not be too disappointed with second place however, as the British club extended its lead at the top of the Superleague Formula by Sonangol League Table to a healthy 43 points as main title rival FC Basel failed to even make the grid due to gearbox problems.
A messy start to the race combined to give Guerrieri a comfortable lead by the first corner. Pole sitter Antonio Pizzonia in the Corinthians car slowed dramatically just before the cars crossed the start/finish line on the rolling grid which allowed Olympiacos to streak into the lead. Pizzonias poor getaway also caused problems for third placed Liverpool, Valles ramming the back of the Cornithians machine, although both drivers escaped relatively unharmed to slot into second and third.
The front three pulled away from the rest of the pack in the opening stages, Guerrieri, Pizzonia and Valles all posting similar lap times in the 1 minute 30 second range as the rest of the field failed to break the 1 minute 31 second barrier.
The pit stops began on lap 9 with leaders Olympiacos and third placed Liverpool both diving in. Despite Liverpool trailing the Greek club by two seconds prior to the stop, a stunning job by the British clubs mechanics saw Valles vault into the lead. Worse was to follow for Olympiacos on the next lap as Corinthians made its stop, Pizzonia also emerging ahead of Guerrieri, but behind new leader Valles.
The gaps between the top three remained fairly stable until the last third of the race when the late-stopping Atletico Madrid car of Superleague Formula by Sonangols first female driver Maria de Villota, emerged from the pits right in front of the leaders.
As Liverpool tried to lap the Spanish club, Valles was frustrated at being unable to find a gap, his lead disappearing all the time as Corinthians closed in. After Liverpool eventually squeezed through, it was the Brazilian clubs turn to be stuck behind the tail ender, Pizzonia struggling to get by as Olympiacos closed in behind.
Both clubs eventually made it past but now Guerrieri was right with Pizzonia. Argentina soon got revenge on Brazil for last nights World Cup Qualifying defeat, as Guerrieri got the better of the former Grand Prix driver after a dice which saw the pair go side-by-side through turn 6 and swap places twice on the run through turn 7 before the move was finally made decisive in the turn 8 right hander.
Guerrieri, who admitted he had been looking after his tyres throughout this period, now began the hunt of Valles and quickly caught the Liverpool man with just five minutes remaining. After stalking his prey for a couple of laps, Guerrieri made his move, diving inside into turn 3 after Valles had run slightly wide on the exit of the previous corner.
From there the win was a formality as Olympiacos celebrated a first ever Superleague Formula by Sonangol victory from Liverpool in second and Corinthians third.
Best of the rest was Belgian club Anderlecht, for whom Yelmer Buurman has been a star performer all weekend. After holding his fifth place off the line, Buurman used the pit window to good effect, tying the time for fastest lap on his first tour on new tyres to jump Rangers and take fourth.
Australian John Martin, who won the Super Final in the last round at Donington Park, guided Rangers to fifth ahead of Italian giants AC Milan and AS Roma in sixth and seventh. Tottenham Hotspur moved to second in the League Table as Craig Dolby avoided the midfield maladies which often come with starting from 13th, to claim eighth, with home outfit Sporting Lisbon and Dutch side PSV Eindhoven completing the top ten.
Sportings Pedro Petiz did a strong job in the early stages, charging from 12th to eighth in the first few laps, but he lost several spots at the pit stop and couldnt recover.
FC Porto were hoping to cause an upset in Sportings back yard, especially after Alvaro Parente starred in qualifying during his first Superleague Formula by Sonangol race meeting of the season. He too started strongly, much to the delight of the watching club President Jose Nuno Pinto da Costa and former star goalkeeper Vitor Baia, but just after his pit stop he ended his race in the barriers after spinning in avoidance of the sliding Atletico car.
The cruelest tale of woe from the opening race was reserved for FC Basel and German driver Wissel. A gearbox problem prior to the race, which the team was due to start from fourth on the grid, meant the star of the Donington weekend was forced to sit out the race, severely denting his title bid.
Race 2 will see the entire grid reversed, with Guerrieri, Valles and Pizzonia hoping to charge from the back to score strong points.
Olympiacos: Esteban Guerrieri (ARG)
We got a good start and pulled away. Then when I came into the pit lane the cars around us were very close and I couldnt stop straight. So when I came out Id lost time. I pushed but not at 100%. I think the other two went a bit harder and wore out their tyres whereas I still had some life left in mine. It will be tough to come through from the back in race two but Ill try to avoid incidents and get to the front.
Liverpool: Adrian Valles (ESP)
We had a bit of trouble with the brakes at the end. But I think well be able to have a good second race. The important thing will be to build a bigger gap in the championship before we get to Monza. At the start Antonio was on full power and then on the brakes so I crashed into the back of him. We didnt damage the car so second place was a good result and important for the championship.
Corinthians: Antonio Pizzonia (BRA)
The race director said he would only start when the grid was packed which didnt happen. There were lines of three cars maybe and Guerrieri was maybe four car lengths ahead of me when the lights went green so it was ridiculous. I was trying to hold everyone up and make sure they were all in line. I was looking in my mirrors and they were everywhere.
My diffuser was destroyed although I dont think we had a car quick enough to win race one anyway. Starting from the back in the second race will be difficult but well see. The target is to make the Superfinal and try to get points.