Young New Zealand open-wheel racer Mitch Evans continues to impress in his first foray into Europe, and after the weekend's third round of the GP3 championship, in Valencia Spain, now leads the series.

Evans overcame a frustrating qualifying session to give himself a great birthday present to finish a fighting third at the opening race of the European Grand Prix GP3.

Evans started fourth on the grid, despite being able to complete only one flying lap before mechanical problems set in and curtailed his session.

"After qualifying it was pretty hard to judge how things in the race were going to go after the issue I had in qualifying, we didn't know if it was going to be fixed," Evans said at a press conference.

"I had a bit of an issue on the warm-up lap when the miss came back, but it cleared and I was able to get on with the race. Lewis [Williamson MW Arden teammate] and I had a good little scrap but we just didn't quite have the pace. I was really happy to settle for the points."

In race two, Evans started sixth in the reverse top-eight grid and although he passed Williamson when the lights went out - he was soon able to nose back in front.

Settling into sixth, Evans set off after Gabby Chaves and Dean Smith and soon passed both to claim fourth.

It was the fifth points finish from six GP3 starts for Evans, who has extended his series lead to four points over Nigel Melker and Andrea Calderalli. There's even better news for Evans on his march towards potentially his first European championship - Melker has been pinged with a 10-grid spot penalty for the next race and Calderalli is set to compete in the Japanese Formula Three championship.

The fourth round of the GP3 Series will be held at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Great Britain, July 8-10.