For once the world's most famous Formula Three race was won by a world famous driver, not a rising star. Formula One ace Takuma Sato joined the elite band who have raced to glory at the Macau Grand Prix when he won the 48th running of the race in blazing sunshine yesterday. Michael and Ralf Schumacher, Ayrton Senna and David Coulthard have all won the blue riband race, but victory for them took place long before they became Formula One stars. Sato becomes Macau champion having already signed to drive for the Jordan F1 team next season. Sato - the first Japanese winner of the Macau Grand Prix - admitted the pressure of winning was almost too much to bear and when he took the chequered flag, an enormous burden was lifted off his slender shoulders. Sato was already well known before he took to the starting grid and the Japanese sensation's start-to-finish victory on the 3.8-mile Guia circuit was testament to his sublime skills. As an established racing star, Sato, second on the grid after Friday's final qualifying, attracted more attention than any other driver in the history of the race. Throngs of reporters and spectators followed Sato's every move and the former collegiate cycling champion was happy to sign autographs for his admirers, many who had come from Japan to watch him race, following his dominating victory. 'I am totally happy now,' said Sato, who pumped his fist and later jumped for joy at the victory ceremony after winning both legs of the race in his Dallara F301 Mugen Honda. 'The first leg was really difficult because it was red flagged as a result of accidents, but I really, really enjoyed it in the end.' The 24-year-old Carlin Motorsport ace beat Frenchman Benoit Treluyer and Swedish pole setter Bjorn Wirdheim to the chequered flag in a relatively incident-free second leg. 'This is obviously my last major F3 Grand Prix race and I am so happy to come back here. It is always difficult to race here but, in the end, I drove so hard, enjoyed my racing and won,' said Sato, who admitted the pressure was on before the race. 'The pressure was enormous because everybody wanted to beat me and it seemed as though I had something to prove. Macau is my favourite circuit. That's why I came back to race again. The combination of the long straights and the mountain side - this circuit is absolutely amazing.' Sato's victory was far from straightforward as he had to endure some anxious moments before finally climbing on to the victory podium. The first leg began dramatically with eight cars involved in two separate accidents. The first race had to be red flagged after Sakon Yamamoto ran wide and hit the barriers, causing a five-car pile-up. That incident happened moments after Briton Derek Hayes locked up under braking at Lisboa Bend, forcing two cars behind him to crash. At the restart, Wirdheim led away from the grid, but Sato got in the Swede's slipstream and shot past him in a blistering move into Lisboa Bend. Sato immediately opened up a lead and by the end of the first lap he was 1.3 seconds ahead. Sato maintained his advantage before the safety car was called out when Frenchman Jonathan Cochet spun at the last corner and was collected by Japanese Ryo Fukuda who took the full impact. After four laps behind the safety car, the field was released again but the safety car was called back into action when Mark Taylor lost control of his Manor Motorsport car at the last turn and hit a wall. Racing resumed at the start of lap 11 and Sato immediately made a break for it as he steadily opened up his advantage over Wirdheim, winning the race by almost 1.5 seconds, with TOM's driver Paolo Montin third. Sato maintained his advantage with a clean start in the second leg, fighting off intense pressure from Montin to reach Lisboa Bend first. And the rest, as they say, is history. Sato kept the momentum going, fighting off Treluyer, who had moved up to second when Montin dropped back, to eventually take the chequered flag. 'Macau is good practice for Formula One. It's nice to join some familiar names who have won Macau like Senna and Schumacher. For me, Macau has made a big impact in my memory,' said Sato. Treluyer said Sato was too good on the day. 'It was a bit disappointing for me. I tried to save my tyres because I had used my old set. But you can see that Takuma was very good. That's why he is in Formula One,' said the Frenchman. Wirdheim, who wowed the crowd in Friday's qualifying, clocking one of the fastest times ever recorded on the circuit, finished with disappointment etched on his face. 'Obviously, it was a bit disappointing. When you take pole position, you want to win. I had a chance but I didn't make it. To have this result, it is good but it could have been better,' said the 21-year-old.