Stoneman romps to home win Dean Stoneman romped home to an emphatic eight second victory in the opening race at Brands Hatch, the Briton closing to within five points of Jolyon Palmer in the overall championship as a result. Starting from pole, Stoneman made a great start as fellow front-row man Sergey Afanasiev bogged down, bunching the field up behind him and allowing Stoneman to pull clear through the opening few corners.
Jack Clarke stormed around the outside of Afanasiev at Paddock Hill Bend and the Russian then made contact with Will Bratt at Druids. Bratt briefly got airborne as both cars lost further ground - Ivan Samarin and Tom Gladdis profiting as a result to move into third and fourth respectively. While Bratt and Afanasiev continued without damage, their collision marked a remarkable start for Samarin, who found himself improving from sixth to third before the cars had even reached Graham Hill Bend for the first time.
Race leader Stoneman had pulled a gap of more than five seconds at the quarter distance stage while Clarke held a comfortable second, but it was the quartet fighting for third that provided the entertainment during the 40 minute race.
Samarin defended well in the early stages as a fascinating game of cat and mouse developed. Every time Gladdis would make a failed attempt to pass Samarin, he would leave himself open to attack from Bratt and Afanasiev behind. The waiting game eventually paid off for Bratt after Gladdis ran wide through Graham Hill Bend on lap 14, losing momentum on the run down to Surtees in the process. Bratt accepted the invitation and nipped down the inside of his 19-year-old rival to take fourth place before the duo made their way onto the Grand Prix loop for the 14th time. Stoneman meanwhile was busy establishing a furious pace that the rest of the field struggled to match, his winning margin not reflecting his true dominance as he backed off in the closing stages of the race and didn't use a single one of his boosts for the entire 28-lap contest.
Stoneman's win was made all the more sweet as championship rival Jolyon Palmer failed to improve upon his seventh-place grid slot, the Briton eventually finishing eighth and conceding 21 points in the title battle.
Clarke held on to claim second position - his best ever finish in Formula Two - whilst Samarin's third place was his first podium in international motorsport. Despite continued pressure from F2 returnee Gladdis, Bratt took fourth with Afanasiev completing the top six.
Nicola De Marco stormed from tenth on the grid to seventh in the first two corners of the race after blasting past Philipp Eng and Kazim Vasiliauskas off the line. He also sneaked by Palmer at Druids, as the Briton was held up by the Bratt/Afanasiev clash. The Italian went on to withstand race long pressure from the championship leader to claim seventh at the finish.
Palmer himself came under pressure from Armaan Ebrahim during the race, eventually finishing just over three tenths clear of the Indian pilot. A slightly disappointed Philipp Eng rounded out the top ten, with the Austrian's slender title hopes now hanging by a thread after dropping to fourth in the overall standings. Plamen Kralev was the only non-finisher after the Bulgarian spun at Surtees on lap two.
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