Monday, October 22, 2012

Audi Sport Italia and Andrea Sonvico runners up in Italian GT




Audi Sport Italia Press Release

For second successive season Andrea Sonvico is Italian Gran Turismo runner-up

Tough end to a long year for Audi Sport Italia as their R8 LMS ultra drivers rally at Monza decider—but wind up second and third

It's been a tough, tough end to a long year for Audi Sport Italia camp, the garage filled with emotion this afternoon following a gut wrenching finale in Monza  where Andrea Sonvico narrowly missed out on his maiden Italian GT3 title. Sonvico, again paired here with sportscars mainstay Dindo Capello, put in a gutsy effort in this weekend legs but lost out to Team BMW Italia duo Thomas Biagi-Stefano Colombo after fourteen hard-fought rounds by a lone point. Sonvico had also been 2011 Italian GT3 runner-up to works Audi driver Marco Bonanomi.

On a mild and sunny weekend a healthy crowd was entertained by a drama-filled plot which, at times, is typical of the close racing in these series, but this time out proved almost maddening. The atmosphere at the historic F-1 venue was certainly livelier than at the previous six meetings as twenty entries were bunched up for the season finale where a three-way battle between BMW leaders Thomas Biagi and Stefano Colombo and Audi Sport Italia's Andrea Sonvico, Davide Di Benedetto and Alex Frassineti was set to take place. Having swept the wins at the previous meeting Biagi and Colombo had a 13-point cushion on runner-up Sonvico and an even broader edge on Di Benedetto/Frassineti. But the Z4 drivers were also wary of their performance at the ultra-quick circuit in the park, moreover they had to handle a hefty 30-second time handicap at the mandatory pit stop on Saturday. A 20-second time handicap was also lurking for Di Benedetto/Frassineti, whilst Sonvico and team mate Capello had no such worries.

Saturday things played out well for Audi, although in a kind of freakish way. As Porsches were topping the standings as they had throughout most of practices and races--911 GT3Rs wound up taking 1-2 wins in both rounds--Sonvico hung on to try to nail down the title despite a tough initial stint, as he had to cope with a faulty flow meter that hindered his and Capello's effort. None the less Sonvico and Capello accomplished their first goal of the weekend as they scored 12 points for a third place as the leading Z4 drivers added a meager 4 points to their own box score. This Top3 finish actually came out of the bag of tricks of the 3-time Le Mans winner, who with one lap to go was lying fifth with barely time to catch up the McLaren in front of him. On the final lap the two leading Porsches tussled and Barri's car left debris and rubble at tricky Lesmo corner, which triggered panic among pursuers barring Capello, who kept at bay his R8 LMS ultra powerslide managing in the process to get past the McLaren, whose driver wasn't as quickly in her response to havoc. Frassineti and Di Benedetto toiled with their hefty time handicap at the pit-stop and wound up seventh just in front of Biagi/Colombo's Z4.

Therefore the three Audi Sport Italia team mates had still one final race on Sunday to determine who would earn this year’s championship with Sonvico still having a 5-point gap from the leading BMW pair and Di Benedetto/Frassineti as dark horses 13 points adrift of leaders. The R8 LMS ultras were well positioned on row 2 just behind an all-Porsche front row, whilst Colombo had been stuck in the middle of the pack on row 5. As Frassineti opened the race powering on through the opening stages, sadly Sonvico plans were dashed early as his team mate Capello was soon caught up in tussles triggered by entries which had taken to the track apparently set to prove that they had nothing to lose. Capello on contrary was all too aware that BMWs drivers were far behind and he did not seek eventful tactics--as posting more points than foes may have done the job for Audi Sport Italia. Never the less the title-chasing #31 Audi slipped soon to the back of the field when one of the swipes had as unwelcomed outcome a rear tyre puncture. The next twist of fate was just around the corner, as the series leading BMW was sidelined by mechanical trouble in a plume of smoke. As the driver and a concerned BMW pit wall watched now powerless, a hard charging Sonvico, who had taken  the relay from Capello, was still down the order scoreless and could only expect some further late race drama in front of him to make up ground but this time the drama was fading, and the lack of further retirements played out in Biagi's favor. The lone point that Sonvico and Capello could clinch confirmed the former as first in points scored at 145, but taking into accounts valid points (two rounds had to be discarded) the haul of 143 won it all for the BMW duo by one point. The second R8 LMS ultra managed to post a fourth place finish with a Top3 within its reach, but the youngest Audi Sport Italia pair had to post a second place to pull up a surprise climb to the top and at a track that had Porsche written all over it this may well have been a hurdle too high to clear. Therefore Di Benedetto and Sonvico confirmed their third spot in the final points standings just nipping the best Porsche crew.

Round 13 - Monza, October 20:
1. M. Malucelli/C. Passuti (Porsche) 28 laps  51:26.527 avg speed 189.188 kph
2. P. Ruberti/M.Cordoni (Porsche) +18.416s;
4. C. van der Drift/A. Neri (McLaren) +28.610s;
5. A. Palma/R. Giammaria (Ferrari) +31.653s;
Round 14 - Monza, October 21:
1. A. Balzan/G. Barri (Porsche) 27 laps 51:18.860, avg speed 182.885 kph
2. L. Rangoni/A. Garofano (Porsche) +16.072s;
3. G. Lancieri/S. Comandini (Ferrari) +23.387s;
5. C. Sbirrazzuoli/T. Ramindra (Ferrari) +35.140s;

Drivers' points standings :
1. Biagi/Colombo 143 points;
3. SONVICO 142 pts.;
6. Balzan/Barri 131 pts.;
8. CAPELLO 107 pts.;
9. Passuti 105 pts.;
10. Cerruti/Liberati 99 pts.