Weather: Very hot, sunny
The grid had undergone a minor reshuffle at the start when Team Rosberg withdrew Nico Rosberg, who was not at all well. With him gone, first reserve Andrew Thompson (Hitech Racing) was drafted in to start the race. This meant that every one of the British series contenders got to start the race. It was a good advert for the strength of the series, if somewhat unusual. After the morning warm up, when driveshafts failed on two of their four Dallaras in the space of about five minutes, Carlin had been working flat out to get their cars ready. The start of the race probably came as a relief to the hard working engineers and mechanics.
The start of the Marlboro Masters is prone to get a bit messy, probably because of the sheer size of the field (37 cars) and the fact that there is a very long straight run to Tarzan corner. This added to the difficulty of overtaking in Formula Three, means that there is often a tendency to heroics at that point. Interestingly, this year it wasn't too bad, although Fabio Carbone (Signature-Plus) jumped the start, easing out into the middle of the grid long before anyone else started to move. He seemed to hesitate after that and ended up stuck behind his best friend in British F3, Richard Antinucci (Carlin Motorsport) who had lost out badly to Alan van der Merwe (Carlin Motorsport). At the front, Nelson Piquet Jr. (Piquet Sports) made yet another of his not very good starts, which was enough to allow Christian Klien (ADAC Berlin-Brandenburg) to ease into the lead before they got to Tarzan. Piquet was lucky not to lose 2nd to Ryan Briscoe (Prema Powerteam) when he went wide and the Australian tried to go up the inside. The Brazilian just managed to close the door on Briscoe, who settled in just ahead of Jamie Green (Carlin Motorsport). In the middle of the pack, the colonials were not having an easy time. Billy Asaro (Menu Motorsport) was pitched into a spin and dropped right to the back, while Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing) was busy banging wheels with Alvaro Parente (Team Ghinzani). Another who made a dreadful start was Adam Carroll (Menu Motorsport), dropping all the way down to 19th from what had been a very good grid position (6th). Antinucci, meanwhile, started attacking van der Merwe, looking for a way past. The leader of the British series was standing no nonsense, however, and Richard found the door shut firmly in his face. Of course, he'd got Fabio right behind him so you could see why he might want to get away!
And that was just the first lap!
Things calmed down a little after that, Klien holding the lead from Piquet, and Briscoe, while Green parried Lapierre (Signature-Plus), the latter being given a hard time by Markus Winkelhock (ADAC Berlin-Brandenburg). Behind him, the ASM drivers Olivier Pla and Alexandre Premat were running in close formation, the latter getting considerably more attention from van der Merwe than was good for him. A lap later, after initially being rebuffed by the tall Frenchman, the South African was through, getting the place with a run up the inside towards Tarzan. Now he could turn his attention to Pla.
At least someone at Carlin was making progress (though not necessarily friends). This was more than could be said for Ronnie Bremer who was playing pinball with his fellow drivers. Leaving his braking incredibly late, or maybe forgetting about it all together, the Dane arrived at Tarzan locked up and managed to knock Eric Salignon (Hitech Racing) into a spin and Danny Watts (also Hitech) into the gravel. Eric got going again quickly, while Danny took a little longer to extract himself and was close to last as a result. Ronnie had better not expect any favours back in Britain after that.All three of them survived but it did them no good.
At the front Klien was still holding position, while Briscoe tried to find a way round Piquet, and van der Merwe set the fastest race lap to that point as he chased down Pla. Premat, having been passed by van der Merwe, was now having trouble keeping Carbone at bay after Antinucci went missing, diving into the pits and out of contention, while Joao Paulo de Oliveira (Alan Docking Racing) followed his countryman closely. Otherwise things were calming down, although Piquet was now closing on Klien, and took a brief look to see if he could get past. He couldn't.
At the back, there was a collection of people who really should not have been that far back, and it now included Antinucci, who rejoined in a tearing hurry and presumably a furious mood.
Within the first five laps the top three had broken away from the rest, and Lapierre, having finally past Green, was a lonely 4th. Green now had Winkelhock breathing down his exhaust, the German giving the youngster quite a lot to think about as he tried to take 5th place off him.
Unfortunately things were still messy in the middle of the pack. Salignon and Asaro tangled on the way into Tarzan, the former ending up in the gravel on the outside of the exit and the latter getting going again but ending up beached on the kerb on the inside and unable to get going again. Salignon couldn't pull off a second escape either, and his car was craned away. Asaro was not so lucky and what followed was farcical as the marshals repeatedly failed to move the stricken Menu car, despite the assistance of the Canadian. It got to the point where the crowd stationed around Tarzan started catcalling and booing. Luckily for the marshals, after two laps of struggle, they got a safety car period. It was unlucky for the man who caused it, Bernhard Auinger. The little Austrian was fighting his way up the order when one of the guys in front chopped across his nose, sending him spinning into the barriers at 130 miles and hour. It was very scary and he was lucky to walk away from it. It also made an awful mess of the car and left bits of debris scattered all over the place. In addition, Alexandre Margaritis (MB Racing Performance) was also off with a massive hole in the nose of his Dallara. And so, the survivors lined up behind the Safety Car.
Klien still led from Piquet and Briscoe. In 4th was Lapierre, with Green, Winkelhock, Pla, van der Merwe, Premat and Carbone rounding out the top ten. There was a gap to begin with back to de Oliveira in 11th, Carroll in 12th and Bremer in 13th. 14th place went to Margaritis' teammate Daniel la Rosa, while Robert Dahlgren (Fortec Motorsport), Will Davison (Alan Docking Racing), Robert Kubica (Prema Powerteam), Bruno Spengler (ASM), Clivio Piccione (Manor Motorsport) and Jan Heylen (Kolles) filled the places to 20th. Robert Doornbos (Team Ghinzani) had started 30th and was now 21st, although he was still proving that being the Marlboro backed Dutchman at this meeting does you no good at all. At least he was now ahead of Andrea Zuber (Team Rosberg), Stefano Fabi (Manor Motorsport), Tor Graves (Manor), Parente and the other Dutch driver in this race, Charles Zwolsman (Kolles), who had started five places ahead of him. The rear was being brought up by Ernesto Viso (Fortec Racing), Timo Glock (Opel Team KMS), who really ought to have been further forward, and Marcel Las