Briton takes third win of the season ahead of Palmer and De Marco
Dean Stoneman took a commanding victory in the second race in Portugal, the Briton jumping Jolyon Palmer from the start and setting a relentless pace to eventually clinch his third win of the year by just over four seconds.
Palmer limited the damage done to his championship lead by finishing second, although the Briton came under intense pressure from Nicola De Marco and Benjamin Bailly as the race drew to a close.
De Marco crossed the finish line less than half a second behind Palmer, clinging on to third after running wide at turn 13 on the final lap to give Benjamin Bailly a sniff of his third podium in a row. Bailly had trailed De Marco by less than one second for almost the entire race, but wasn’t quite close enough and had to settle for fourth.
Such was the competition between Palmer, De Marco and Bailly that the trio were covered by less than one second, although it emerged after the race that Palmer has been running with a loose wheel nut on his front left tyre.
Romanian Mihai Marinescu drove to a lonely fifth place, after improving from ninth on the grid. Much of his progress was made during a first lap melee, which sent Kazim Vasiliauskas and Armaan Ebrahim out of the race and Benjamin Lariche to the back of the field.
The drama on lap one continued when Jack Clarke tipped Kelvin Snoeks into the gravel and both cars retired on the spot, leaving a disjointed feel to the lower end of the top ten. The contest began to calm down on lap two and it was Britain’s Will Bratt who emerged in sixth place, although with visible damage to his front wing.
Clearly struggling for downforce, Bratt set about defending for the entire race as a gaggle of cars bunched up behind him. Philipp Eng attacked time after time in the early stages, before Bratt began to find his pace and hold position. A surging Sergey Afanasiev had made his way up to eighth from 14th on the grid, but the Russian had Ricardo Teixeira in his mirrors throughout as the pair closed in on Bratt and Eng ahead.
The fight ended for Afanasiev and Teixeira on lap 17 however, when both cars spun into the gravel at the final corner – narrowly avoiding the stricken machine of Plamen Kralev who had crashed out a few laps earlier.
Bratt and Eng went on to claim sixth and seventh, ahead of another great tussle for eighth. Despite spinning at the turn five hairpin at the midway distance, Ivan Samarin recovered to claim eighth after passing the impressive Natalia Kowalska late on. The Polish female racer went on to score her second points paying position of the weekend however, capping a memorable event for the 20-year-old.
Lariche was able to score a solitary point after coming back from his opening lap disappointment, but the Frenchman still has a credible record of scoring points in seven of the ten races so far this season.