Sunday, September 29, 2013

Superstars: A good, nasty quattro® day at Imola boosts Gianni Morbidelli

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

A good, nasty quattro® day at Imola boosts Gianni Morbidelli to 6th Superstars win and substantial lead in standings


Throughout his long and successful career, Gianni Morbidelli had never posted a tin-top win at Imola: today, he made up for this blank spot in his brilliant resume as on a drenched track he claimed a runner-up finish after a comeback from row four in race one and a clean win in race two. The Pesaro-based driver sixth 2013 Superstars victory also puts him into a comfortable series' lead, as previous co-leader Thomas Biagi is now 33 points adrift with two rounds remaining.

Interestingly, the Audi Sport Italia camp--alongside Morbidelli, Davide Di Benedetto and Giuseppe Cipriani were both making their Superstars debut at Imola--was struggling on Saturday. The quick layout unfolding around the Santerno river took back the clock to the early season rounds, when RS 5s were on the back foot at Monza and Slovakia Ring. At Imola Morbidelli and Co. had to cope with the same kind of framework, only made worse by Balance Of Performance measures that had made the RS 5 car heavier, taller and more feeble in horsepower. At the end of Saturday's qualifying four AMG Mercedes had sweeped the two front rows, whilst Morbidelli nipped team mate Di Benedetto for P8 as Cipriani--a driver with spells in single seaters but learning the ropes of tin-tops at Imola--cantered to P12. However, darks clouds were gathering over Emilia Romagna, and on Sunday morning the venue was drenched: an environment well suited for the RS5s. The 15-car field took the start behind the safety-car, that held the cars in formation for three awfully long laps. Therefore, when the first green flag lap was in place, one third of track time had been chopped from the Noon race. The Audis, shrouded in a mid-field cloud of water, somehow managed to make up ground with Morbidelli in P6, Di Benedetto in P8 and Cipriani in P10. However it wasn't until lap five that Gianni could open the hunt to the AMG Mercedes Top3-bunch, with Vitantonio Liuzzi edging polesitter Gigi Ferrara and series co-leader Thomas Biagi. The former F.1 driver was enjoying a 9-second edge over the Camozzi Audi, which was up to a very tricky comeback race. As Morbidelli was charging, so were Di Benedetto--on his way to have the upper hand on the best BMWs and Andrea Bacci's AMG Mercedes--and Cipriani. The latter broke into the Top10 on lap five and soon moved past Francesco Sini's Camaro, zeroing in on the M3 pair. However, on lap eight he spun seconds after having moved past Max Mugelli's M3. His race one wound up in P9. As Di Benedetto was relishing the quiet of a freshly-won P5, Morbidelli closed the gap from the C63s. Ferrara's Coupe slowed down, though, leaving the  Camozzi Audi alone in pursuit of team Romeo Ferraris' sedans. If Liuzzi's cushion was too much for Morbidelli to overcome Biagi's one wasn't, and on the final lap the RS 5 pressure forced the AMG Mercedes driver to take one risk too much, slip slindig away in the Piratella beach trap. Biagi's blank box score handed Morbidelli sole possession of the points lead, 16 ahead of former co-leader and 47 stones in front of race one winner Liuzzi, with Ferrara and BMW's Giovanni Berton dropping out of contention.

At the start of race two team mates Morbidelli and Di Benedetto shared the spots available on row three, as Cipriani was one row behind alongside Liuzzi. After one lap behind the safety car, Francesco Sini's Camaro skyrocketed into the lead as the green flag was waved. Morbidelli quickly grabbed P3, as team mate Di Benedetto sneaked into P5 and Cipriani wasn't set on being happy for his initial P7, snatching P6 from Andrea Bacci's AMG Mercedes. On lap three Morbidelli was ahead of Berton's BMW, and it took him a couple of laps more to clinch P1 from Sini, after the Tosa corner. He never looked back--only hindered by a spotty radio--whilst the runner-up spot was soon claimed by race one winner Liuzzi, who moved past the Camaro. Di Benedetto challenged  successfully Berton for P4, whilst Sini proved more resilient than the BMW lead driver, as the rivals swapped P3 back and forth until the checker, with the Sicilian in fourth. Cipriani, quietly improving behind the duelling duo, was the man of the closing stages, as at the finish had caugth up with the sister Audi and the Camaro, also posting an outstanding second fastest lap in his first ever touring car meeting. Cipriani was obviously delighted, nearly so as beaming team mate Morbidelli...

Sunday, September 29 2013.
Round 15 - Imola, I:
1. Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) 12 laps, 27:58.153s average speed 126.4 kph;
3. Gigi Ferrara (AMG Mercedes) +7.695s;
5. Giovanni Berton (BMW) +30.132s
9. GIUSEPPE CIPRIANI (AUDI RS 5) +1:07.822s.

Sunday, September 29, 2013
Round 16 - Imola, I:
1. GIANNI MORBIDELLI (AUDI RS 5) 13 laps, 28:21.603s average speed 135.0 kph;
2. Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) +15.518s;
3. Francesco Sini (Chevrolet) +21.793s;

1. MORBIDELLI 212 points;
2. Biagi 179 pts.;
3. Liuzzi 169 pts.;
4. Berton 152 pts.;
5. Ferrara 127 pts.

Photo credit: Audi Sport Italia