Rowland survived a scare at the start of race one – in which cars must run in low-downforce configuration – when he and Lotus team-mates Matthieu Vaxiviere Meindert van Buuren ran three abreast through the first bend. Van Buuren emerged ahead and won the race on the road but was later given a costly time penalty for jumping the start.
That gave Rowland the win – his second in as many years at Motorland Aragon – ahead of Malaysian Fortec team-mate Jazeman Jaafar and fellow Briton Dean Stoneman, making his 3.5 debut for the Red Bull Junior DAMS team. France’s Vaxiviere and Dutchman van Buuren were fourth and fifth in the results.
Rowland said: “I wasn’t expecting to win. The low downforce configuration brought so many differences and if someone told me yesterday I wouldn’t have believed them! At the start, the Lotus pair didn’t leave me any room and I did everything I could to avoid contact. I soon wondered if Meindert had maybe jumped the start because mine was good. I tried to maintain the gap between myself and Jazeman and I am very happy with this victory.”
Notably Rowland also dedicated his win to his mentor, the ex-Renault Formula 1 racer Derek Warwick.
In race two – stopped briefly because of severe rain – Vaxiviere took victory thanks to a daring move on McLaren protégé Nyck de Vries (DAMS) just two corners from home. Rowland was third having run off the track briefly on the first lap.
British team Strakka Racing’s Cypriot racer Tio Ellinas was fourth ahead of France’s Tom Dillman driving for the British-based Carlin team. Stoneman would have been seventh but a costly time penalty for speeding in the pit lane dropped him to 12th.
Vaxiviere, just three points behind Rowland and second in the standings, is clearly keen to come out on top at the next two events – Monaco (24 May) and Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium (30-31 May).
He said: “I missed my chance of winning in race one, but I was able to score a lot of points. In race two I remain focused and pressured Nyck. The team did an excellent pit stop, allowing me to get closer. I managed my rain tyres in such a way as to keep them cool on a drying track surface and I saw an opportunity. I had a go on the following lap and I am very happy to take this victory. I hope it continues like this at Spa and Monaco.”
Leading points: 1 Oliver Rowland (GBR) 40; 2 Matthieu Vaxiviere (FRA) 37; =3 Niyck de Vries & Jazeman Jaafar (MAL) 34; 5 Meindert van Buuren (NED) 18; 6 Dean Stoneman (GBR) 15 etc.