Sunday, June 23, 2013

Superstars: Gianni Morbidelli and Laurens Vanthoor star for Audi Sport Italia at Zolder

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

Gianni Morbidelli and Laurens Vanthoor star at Zolder as twin 1-2 wins end Audi Sport Italia Superstars drought


Apparently it's been a worldwide quattro-Sunday, as Superstars round 7&8 added their humble bricks to the Big House that R18 e-tron Audis have built on La Sarthe earlier today. In Belgium, good old RS 5s driven by Gianni Morbidelli and Laurens Vanthoor--a well-respected Audi GT3 driver on a one-off V8 appearence --finished in this order twice at 50-year old Zolder. The double win was the first of the season for the Audi Sport Italia outfit, which had been winless in the V8 series since the Spa-Francorchamps rounds in mid-July 2012, both signed off by Morbidelli.

Starting race 1 from pole position, four-time Superstars champion Gianni Morbidelli went on to secure his first win of the 2013 campaign, leading home Vanthoor by 7.422s. After a stunning comeback race, in the closing stages of the race the Belgian was anticipating a prop-shaft problem that then forced the crew to take action, replacing it before racing resumed in the afternoon for Superstars round 8. Morbidelli then made it two wins from two, albeit he had to wait the pits' straight line to claim P1, courtesy of Vanthoor who left him the door open.

Minutes before Noon and the green light drizzle sprayed water on the 4-kilometer track but all the field stuck to slick tyres. At the start poleman Morbidelli's RS 5 held off at Turn 1 another fast getaway from Tonio Liuzzi's AMG Mercedes before pulling clear. At long last, it was meant to be a quiet round for the former F.1 driver, who could safely control the closest pursuers for most of the race. Life wasn't as easy for homeboy Vanthoor. In spite of starting from row 8 after skipping qualifying as a consequence of a transmission failure, the young gun was already flirting with Top10 on the opening lap, chasing the Porsche duo of touring car legends Fabrizio Giovanardi and Nicola Larini. Dicing with the former, Vanthoor scythed through the field and by Lap 4 he also managed to claim P5 from the ex-Alfa Romeo star. Then the No.46 went on a fastest lap binge, which propelled it past AMG Mercedes' stars Liuzzi and Gigi Ferrara. Possibly Vanthoor faced then the stingiest opposition from fellow countryman Renaud Kuppens. As soon as Vanthoor claimed a well-deserved P2, an all-Audi fight for P1 seemed likely to develop, but the Belgian driver run took a toll on the prop-shaft, and the checker came timely to seal the first 2013 Audi 1-2, before Vanthoor pulled over his RS 5 without reaching the parc ferme.

Audis didn't lead race 2... that is, they did not for 3 laps and half. That's how long it took to Vanthoor--starting on row 4 on the reserved grid mandatory for race 2--to come back on top. 
After a blazing opening lap that saw him climb from P7 to P4, the homeboy did not disappoint his politely rabid fan base, grabbing the leading spot from Raffaele Giammaria's AMG Mercedes. Team mate Morbidelli had had a less comfortable beginning, as an understeering car forced him to wait lap 5 to break into the Top 5, which he did overtaking Kuppen's BMW. Another manoeuvre on a Bimmer, Berton's one, granted him P4. Then, whilst Ferrara's AMG Mercedes was felled by mechanical trouble, on lap 11 Morbidelli found a way by another AMG Mercedes, Giammaria's one. At this stage Vanthoor was far away in a lonely leading spot, but in the final lap the Hasselt-born driver backed off and Morbidelli further boosted his title chase moving un final step up the ladder. It's worth noting that without Vanthoor's help the Pesaro-based driver would still be now runner-up in the table, but five further points adrift of Thomas Biagi and also level on points with BMW's Giovanni Berton.

Zolder, Round 7 :
1. GIANNI MORBIDELLI (Audi RS 5) 17 laps, 27:50.559s avg speed 146.9
2. LAURENS VANTHOOR (Audi RS 5) + 7.422s;
3. Gigi Ferrara (AMG Mercede) + 4.374s;
4. Renaud Kuppens (BMW) + 18.690s;
5. Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) + 19.150s. 

Zolder, Round 8 :
1. GIANNI MORBIDELLI (Audi RS 5) 17 laps, 28:02.948 avg. speed 147.3
2. LAURENS VANTHOOR (Audi RS 5) + 0466s;
3. Raffaele Giammaria (AMG Mercedes) + 6.495s;
4. Thomas Biagi (AMG Mercedes) +26.394s;
5. Renaud Kuppens (BMW) + 28.995s.

Drivers points standings after 8 rounds:
1. Biagi 119 points
2. MORBIDELLI 96 pts.
3. Berton 91 pts,
4. Liuzzi 90 pts;
5. Ferrara 71 pts.;

Photo credit: Audi Sport Italia