Sunday, May 19, 2013

Czech weekend of mixed fortunes for Audi Sport Italia

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

Czech weekend of mixed fortunes for Audi Sport Italia: Gianni Morbidelli is Race 2 runner-up after DNF in Race 1; Ferdinando Geri posts his best Superstars finish as yet, also claiming Star Driver top spot in Race 1


Four races into the 2013 Superstars season and former champ Thomas Biagi and fellow AMG Mercedes drivers are definitely the men to beat claiming three successive wins. As yet only  Brno Race 2 (courtesy of BMW's Giovanni Berton) escaped the C63s' stranglehold. Audi Sport Italia' s Gianni Morbidelli came home second in this round, a silver linining to an eventful weekend for the Audi tent. In theory, the Czech venue looked a good place to make up ground on the AMG Mercedeses that had sweeped Monza, but unfortunately this comeback strategy was quicklyundone as Morbidelli retired from P3 in Race 1 with 1-minute to go. Ferdinando Geri posted his best Superstars weekend as yet, also claiming Star Driver top spot in morning race, but he retired from Race 2 after an early-race tussle shattered a rear suspension.

Lingering understeer woes had the Audi Sport Italia camp forced to a lot of head-scratching on Saturday, and Sunday was not able to prove the treatment 100% effective. Therefore Race 1 proved a piece of cake for polesitter Thomas Biagi, who had taken his maiden 2013 pole position in spite of being levied 50 kilos for the successful Monza day--a fate shared by his team mate and pre-Brno points leader Liuzzi--. Nearly half of race 1 was consumed by a safety car period triggered by a first-corner melee that cleared most of the backmarkers from contention. When the green flag was waved the AMG Mercedes-trio of Biagi, Liuzzi and Gigi Ferrara staged a fast getaway from Berton's M3 but thenMorbidelli found a way by the BMW on lap 6 to claim P4. The 5-car leading pack ran on an almost even pace, however the Pesaro-born driver was toiling with the same massive understeer that had blighted his Saturday, which allowed Berton to make inroads into his 4th spot on lap 9. Morbidelli successfully fended off the challenge and even inherited P3 from fellow former F.1 driver Liuzzi, who was experiencing electrical troubles and relinquished three spots. Morbidelli did not have time to laid down further plans, as with 1 minute (and 1 lap) to go on the clock Morbidelli pulled over on a run off area, felled by a broken input shaft.

Race 2 saw Berton leapfrog nearly the whole field, then picking the lead on lap 2 to secure his maiden victory. Emilio Radaelli's squad--a dark horse pick for race 2 with Geri on Row 5 and Morbidelli on Row 6--had still some mark to make, though. Morbidelli sealed his best start in months climbing to P5 by the end of the openening lap. He then fought tooth-and-nail throughout the early stages to keep up with Gigi Ferrara's AMG Mercedes. A mid-race full caution bunched up the field, and Lap 7 proved full of excitment as the C63 dropped down the order with electronic woes and both Tonio Liuzzi and Francesco Sini's Chevrolet went off while dicing for the runner-up spot. Morbidelli may have tried to make a run on the leading BMW, but it soon turned out that he'd better squeeze his RS 5 Camozzi to fend off veteran Biagi blazing comeback. The latter moved on the inside of the Audi with three laps to go, but at the end of the day Biagi seemed to enjoy more the safe box score--especially with fellow AMG Mercedes drivers Liuzzi and Ferrara sidelined-- than the risky excitment of overtaking a former F.1 driver, who wound up second 2.3s adrift of the winning M3.
Audi Sport Italia's man of the morning Geri, in Race 1 had emerged unscathed from the opening lap trouble, then safely drove home for the first time throughout his Audi spell. The #46 Audi outings at Monza yielded only DNFs in his box score. The understeer-happy Czech layout may not have won over the Rome-based driver as his favorite circuit, but he managed to sneak into the Top 10 in Race 1, clinching the silverware aimed at the best Star Driver, i.e. the top gentleman in the Superstars entry field. Geri, who didn't get the running he hoped for on Saturday due to a misfire problem in free practice, could not enjoy as much the afternoon round: he was punted off in a beach trap by a rival Jaguar, which put an end in advance to his Sunday.

Round 3 - Brno (CZ) :
1. Thomas Biagi (AMG Mercedes) 12 giri in 28'49"817, media 134.9 kph
2. Gigi Ferrara (AMG Mercedes) + 2.652s;
3. Giovanni Berton (BMW) + 4.336s;
4. Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) +5.518s;
5. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Porsche) +7.945;
10 FERDINANDO GERI (AUDI RS 5) +36.351s.

Round 4- Brno (CZ) :
1. Giovanni Berton (BMW) 12 giri in 27'55"360, media 149.1 kph
3. Thomas Biagi (AMG Mercedes) +3.089s;
4. Andrea Bacci (BMW) +16.864;
5. Edoardo Piscopo (BMW) +17.202s;

Drivers points standings after 4 rounds:
1. Biagi 73 points;
2. Liuzzi 52 pts;
3. Berton 45 pts;
4. Ferrara 44 pts.;

Photo credit: Audi Sport Italia