Sunday, October 13, 2013

Superstars: Audi Sport Italia's Gianni Morbidelli wrapped up his record fifth Superstars title

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

A top three finish in round 15 at Vallelunga was more than enough for Audi's Gianni Morbidelli to wrap up his record fifth Superstars title. Andrea Larini highlights his Audi debut with nailbiting win 


Former Formula 1 driver Gianni Morbidelli clinched the 2013 International Superstars Series title with a restrained drive in the season finale at Rome's Piero Taruffi. Audi Sport Italia's star made sure that RS 5s remain unbeaten in the tin-top league reserved to big and loud V8 sedans: Sweden's Johan Kristoffersson claimed the 2012 crown in a sister car operated by KMS. Unflappable as ever, Morbidelli entered race one with a 33-point edge over arch-rival Thomas Biagi, and he treated his first match point with astonishing coolness--even if his stomach must have been filled with a ball of twisted nerves. As BMWs were on their way to their first 2013 1-2 success, Morbidelli spent most of the Noon race snapping at Biagi's rear bumper, putting the rival under a relentless pressure that--possibly--produced an unexpected twist on the next-to-last lap when the AMG Mercedes driver suddenly pulled over at Rome corner--even putting the title-bidding twosome at risk of a collision. Morbidelli's P3 finish put an end to the title chase that had had him and Biagi swap tables' lead after Vitantonio Liuzzi enjoyed a brief one-round lead as by-product of his win in Monza opener. Race two was not as lucky for Morbidelli, whose effort was hindered by brake problems, but Andrea Larini took the relay posting his second career Superstars win in only his second outing in a RS 5 Audi.

On Saturday, Morbidelli's opposition got bogged down in practice by a damp circuit, therefore BMWs and AMG Mercedes could not build an edge on his beefy (due to both BOP provisions and success ballast) RS 5 car. Morbidelli claimed an unexpected front row spot next to polesitter Giovanni Berton, as Biagi clinched P4. Under a bright sky, race one saw M3s skyrocket ahead as Berton and team mate Max Mugelli took the lead without being bothered until the checker. Biagi quickly claimed P3 as Liuzzi had his hands full with Four-ring drivers. Morbidelli challenged the former F.1 driver on lap two, but it wasn't until lap three that the Camozzi Audi had a firm grip on P4. However, Liuzzi was meant to have an Audi guy as travel companion, as Andrea Larini took over from Morbidelli, triggering an entertaining battle that lasted until lap six, when Larini made the most of his freshly-discovered four-wheel-drive manoeuvrability in the mixed section. Up front BMWs were unchallenged, but Morbidelli sitting in P4 had eyes only for the best placed AMG Mercedes until Biagi's car let go, handing him over his 10th 2013 Top3 finish place. Larini, who had made a brilliant Audi debut on Saturday on wet posting the fastest time in the first free practice, wound up fourth, ahead of Liuzzi.

The Tuscan driver and the freshly-crowned champ teamed up on row three for race two. Larini started well, whilst on the opening lap Morbidelli was boxed in behind the swift BMWs. As the Camozzi Audi battled it out with the M3s Larini was closing the gap from the leading pair of Chevys, passing by Mimmo Schiattarella on lap 2. The former single-seater driver was also leapfrogged by the No. 45 Audi a couple of laps later, as Larini was posting the fastest lap and catching up with Francesco Sini's Camaro. Obviously the Audis had Sini's number, and the Abruzzi-based driver was spending a fair amount of time looking in the mirrors. He was doing so at the hairpin when Larini rolled the dice going on the inside of him: he succeeded, but Morbidelli got the upper hand on both claiming the leading spot. Morbidelli looked set to clinch a record seventh success, but it was not meant to be so, as he developed braking trouble that forced him to slow down, in order to finish the race. Larini, who inherited the lead, was on his way to a surprise but deserved win in spite of a dearth of mileage in the German car, but he had to stay focused until the checker, as race one winner Berton was staging a comeback race closing in on the leading Audi, whose driver kept his cool to the finish line denying the BMW rival a sweep by a mere 0.4s. Larini--Nicola's junior brother--had posted his maiden Superstars win at home circuit Mugello, in mid-2012. Morbidelli limped home in seventh place, but his post-race time was already booked hoisting silverware and doing interviews, rather than mulling over the unfortunate outcome of race two...

Sunday, October 13, 2013.
Round 15 - Vallelunga, I:

1. Giovanni Berton (BMW) 16 laps, 27:39.604s average speed 141.8 kph;
2. Max Mugelli (BMW) + 3.268s;
4. ANDREA LARINI (AUDI RS 5) +11.908s;
5. Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) +22.776s.

Sunday, October 13, 2013
Round 16 - Vallelunga, I:

1. ANDREA LARINI (AUDI RS 5) 16 laps, 27:53.960s average speed 140.6 kph;
2. Giovanni Berton (BMW) +0.467s;
3. Francesco Sini (Chevrolet) +3.270s;
4. Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) +4.427s;
5. Max Mugelli (BMW) +5.259s;


2. Giovanni Berton (BMW) 190 pts.;
3. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Mercedes AMG) 189 pts.;
4. Thomas Biagi (Mercedes AMG) 188 pts.;
5.  Gigi Ferrara (Mercedes AMG)127 pts.

Photo credit: Audi Sport Italia