Audi’s Lucas di Grassi won the first race of the New York Formula E double-header on Saturday, as Jean-Eric Vergne was crowned champion despite starting from the back of the grid.

Vergne charged up the order after being excluded from qualifying, while di Grassi also battled his way up from 11th on the grid to lead home Audi team-mate Daniel Abt in a one-two result for the German manufacturer.

Sam Bird finished ninth and therefore could not take the title fight down to Sunday’s season finale.

At the start, polesitter Sebastien Buemi held the lead off the line while and was followed by his Renault e.dams team-mate Nico Prost as Mitch Evans failed to accelerate way from second on the grid despite launching at the lights.

With Evans out with a suspected driveshaft failure, Abt followed Prost and took second on the second tour as Buemi controlled the early stages.

Vergne spent the opening laps at the very rear of the field as his Techeetah team-mate Andre Lotterer, also excluded from qualifying for the same software glitch, quickly made places up the order.

Abt stalked Buemi and then seized the lead on lap six of what would become a 43-tour event on the run to Turn 11 at the end of the Brooklyn Circuit’s second straight.

Di Grassi was also steadily making his way up the order as Prost fell away from the podium places, with Venturi’s Tom Dillmann subsequently running third.

Bird had also moved into the points from his 14th place grid spot, but after the Techeetah drivers had saved energy in the early stages, they used their advantage to make a series of moves, with Vergne passing Bird for 10th place on lap 16.

By this stage, Di Grassi had risen to third place and set about catching Buemi, who had begun to fall away from Abt.

On lap 20, di Grassi seized second from Buemi on the run to the new-for-2018 Turn 6, with Abt holding a lead of over three seconds.

The field piled into the pits at the end of lap 22, with a slower stop costing Abt and allowing di Grassi to close in.

The Audi team-mates were suddenly nose-to-tail and on lap 24, just after they made contact at the flowing Turn 7/8 complex, di Grassi attacked and passed Abt for the lead approaching the big stop at Turn 11 with an aggressive move.

Abt fought back a few laps later before Audi appeared to order the pair to hold stations.

On lap 29, Vergne eased by Lotterer to move into the place that would guarantee him the title with Bird back in ninth.

The race was suspended on lap 35 when Bird’s Virgin Racing team-mate Alex Lynn lost the rear of his car going through the rapid left of Turn 5 and hit the barriers on the outside of the corner in a big impact.

The safety car was called into action as a result, which bunched the field up and meant the race was capped at 45-minutes plus one lap.

The race resumed at the start of lap 40, with di Grassi easing clear of Abt and Buemi to win by 0.9s and claim his second victory in succession.

Bird had to pass Maro Engel and Prost in the final dash to flag and although he managed to pass the latter one lap after the Venturi driver had made a move for eighth, he could make it into that position, which he needed to keep the title alive.

Dillmann finished fourth on his FE return in place of Edoardo Mortara, with Nick Heidfeld beating Lotterer to sixth.

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