Monday, October 21, 2013

Italian GT: Kristoffersson and Frassineti save the best for last winning Monza finale

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

Johan Kristoffersson and Alex Frassineti save the best for last winning Monza finale

Young Italian-Scandinavian pair adds to strong season finish in hardest-fought Gran Turismo meeting, as unlucky Dindo Capello and Andrea Sonvico duo toils to Top3 spot

It didn't hurt that--at long last--Italy's sporting body agreed in final 2013 Balance Of Performance to let Audi's V10s run with 47mm air-restrictor. But it took a lot more than that to let Audi Sport Italia finally chalk up another win, after Capello/Sonvico mid-July victory at Imola. As it is, at the ultra-quick, historic Lombardy venue Italian Gran Turismo staged a decider with Ferrari, BMW and Porsche crews still bidding for 2013 crown and all tightly-packed within eight points of each other. Moreover Monza boasted the healthiest season grid: 18 cars with some last-minute, quality addition such as Martin Ragginger/Robert Renauer in a top-flight Porsche and Adrian Zaugg/Andrea Amici in a ambitious Gallardo. Unfortunately the most experienced Audi duo, Dindo Capello and Andrea Sonvico, kicked off losing precious track time on Friday as the latter hit the barriers at Turn 1 early on. However, Kristoffersson and Frassineti took the relay from the team mates--whose car still limped in Qualifying in the aftermath of the shunt--putting the No. 5 car in second row for both rounds, whilst No. 4 claimed mid-pack slots.

Race one belonged to title bidders Vito Postiglione and Mirko Venturi, who rolled the dice for P1 until the latter's team mate Tommaso Maino was hit by a puncture clearing the way for a Porsche win both in Saturday round and the points standings, as their Sunday P6 was enough to seal Postiglione and Luigi Lucchini championship season. Frassineti bravely fought for a Top3 spot until he had to give way to Ragginger's Porsche, then handing over to Kristoffersson, who managed to clinch a fifth place in spite of a 15-second time penalty due to their successful and wet weekend at Vallelunga a fortnight ago. Their team mates looked set for something better as Sonvico had sneaked out of a first-corner melee, therefore recovering an unexpected P4 before his track time expired. On a less brighter note, though, he was suffering downshifting troubles, something that poor Capello soon found out was only getting worse as time went by. Three-time Le Mans winner's early third place spot looked a difficult task from the word go and--adding insult to injury--briefly after Renauer's Porsche overtook him to make it a 1-2-3 Porsche win, Capello's front left tyre burst, forcing him to an unscheduled pit stop. The Piedmont-based driver wound up in a grim tenth place.

Sunday proved that Audi Sport Italia's staff had managed to put an end to No. 4 car woes, but this time out Capello could not repeat his team mate comeback start, getting stuck in P7 behind Maino's Ferrari in the early minutes of the season final round. When he was then able to move past the Black Bull Swisse Ferrari, shunts and carnage had scattered debris and rubble all over the circuit. Among those who could not get away with it the pole sitting Lamborghini, which dropped from P1 to the bottom as Giacomo Barri suffered two punctures. Capello moved up the standings to fourth just minutes before driving back into the pits, but 15-second adrift of the leading cars, that is Frassineti's Audi sandwiched between Ragginger and Marco Mapelli Porsches. However, they both had to add to their scheduled pit stop further handicap time, triggered by their Top3 finishes on Saturday. The Rome-based driver fieverish effort to stay close to the opposition proved a boon to Kristoffersson, as he resumed the race--happily free of success time handicap. The Swede put in consistent laps preventing the Porsches from zeroing in on his No. 5 car and posting his maiden win in a GT3 R8 LMS ultra with a 11.6s edge, then celebrating with Frassineti a well deserved and popular victory. Team mate Sonvico's third Top3 finish looked possible until the final lap but at the end of the day it was missed by nine tenths of a second.

Hours after the finish, the Stewards heard from Mapelli about an incident that sent newly-crowned champion Lucchini spinning on lap two: the Porsche driver was handed a penalty for roughing the rival, therefore promoting Capello and Sonvico to a 11-hour third place...
Frassineti and Kristoffersson finished ninth and eleventh in the final points standings, but their late season box score is impressive, as they've posted three Top3 finishes in the last four rounds. Which could make them the envy of Capello and Sonvico, doomed by a bevy of bad breaks all-season long, but possibly after today Top3 finish a bit less so...

Round 13 - Monza, October 19, 2103

1. Vito Postiglione/Luigi Lucchini (Porsche) 27 laps 51:16.421s, avg. speed 183.030 kph;
2. Cristian Passuti/Marco Mapelli (Porsche)+25.766s;
3. Robert Renauer/Martin Ragginger (Porsche) +26.282s;
4. Michela Cerruti (BMW) +33.118s;

Round 14 - Monza, October 20, 2013

49:54.780s avg. speed 181.056 kph;
2. Robert Renauer/Martin Ragginger (Porsche) +11.600s;
4. Andrea Amici/Adrian Zaugg (Lamborghini) +19.521s.
5. Vito Postiglione/Luigi Lucchini (Porsche) +48558s.

Photo credit: Audi Sport Italia