Friday, November 8, 2013

Superstars: All goods things go by three - Audi Sport Italia Superstars season yields three crowns

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

All goods things go by three

Audi Sport Italia Superstars season yields three crowns


Fresh off a 2012 Superstars season that bolstered Johan Kristoffersson's three-title chase, the search for a name as favourite to succeed the incumbent was easy. Apparently it takes an RS 5 to win in the series for V8 tin-tops: Audis won half of the available races last year and things remained the same in 2013 as RS 5s picked nine of the 18 rounds. The outcome was that Italy’s Gianni Morbidelli achieved his own second International-Italian double to add to the four other honours he had already racked up in the series run by Rome-based promoter Maurizio Flammini. From 2007 on the former F.1 driver had claimed three Italians crowns and one International one, therefore the successes he celebrated in October make him the sole driver able to repeat in the International-Italian points standings.

17 Top3 finishes for Audi drivers --nine of those translating into wins-- may well mislead into thinking that the Audi camp enjoyed a smooth ride. On contrary 2013 started on the back foot for Audi Sport Italia, as Morbidelli struggled early on with quick circuits and a string of retirements. After six rounds Audis had picked no wins whatsoever and Morbidelli was lying fifth in the tables, and Emilio Radaelli's staff undertook a thorough review of the car weaknesses, especially focusing on tweaks to drivetrain details. By mid-summer the Audi squad was beginning to see the light. AMG Mercedes’ joyride, which had propelled Thomas Biagi, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Gigi Ferrara to the top with only BMW’s Giovanni Berton hindering their charge came to a end at Zolder. In Belgium Morbidelli and sensation guest star Laurens Vanthoor were handed the quickest RS 5s seen throughout the season, as the promoter took off a chunk of ballast and let Audis run their 2012 ride height. Relying on sheer car speed and swiftness Morbidelli and Vanthoor dominated the opposition and the former title bid was re-launched for good.

The promoter in a U-turn rolled back the measures that had given wings to Audis, but the Italian team was looking forward to a host of venues friendly to four-wheel-driven cars: the schedule helped Morbidelli to barrel ahead of any Balance Of Performance provision that was thrown at him. Although the car did not appear to handle the challenge with ease on Saturdays, as performance-wise the measures upheld took a toll on speed, the Audi camp had learned to bid its time and overcome the lack of performance with better endurance, getting the upper hand by way of superior braking and handling and less tyre wear. Stats provide a telling guide to the split between Audi results on Saturday and on Sundays: whilst RS 5s claimed two pole positions, eleven fastest laps were posted. An approach that yielded four successive wins for Morbidelli, who after the fifth victory at Donington Park was sitting on top of the standings level on points with Thomas Biagi.

Wresting the lead from AMG Mercedes’ driver for good was another story, though, as the Imola meeting loomed and a further BOP measure forced Audi Sport Italia to go to the quick and historic venue with an engine massively choked by a skimpy air restrictor. AMG Mercedes C63s looked set to keep the field at arm's length there and even more so the RS 5s. But events were to swing in Audi's favour: on Sunday Morbidelli put the Camozzi-liveried RS 5 back in its accustomed position in rain-soaked races,  even forcing Biagi to go scoreless after a late-race mistake and piling up a 33-point lead that enabled him to comfortably grab the International crown at Vallelunga, as Andrea Larini made a winning debut in the RS 5. Morbidelli was back to winning ways in a fortnight at Franciacorta, adding the domestic title to the International one at the expenses of Liuzzi, who had led the tables before the decider. Ermanno Dionisio came back to the series posting two podium finishes. The Italian series -- which predated the International -- was made up of races staged at domestic venues, plus Algarve.

Audi Sport Italia, besides boosting Morbidelli to two drivers’ titles, also picked the Teams’ trophy, as the aftermath of a protest lodged at Donington Park against Mercedes AMG Romeo Ferraris is ultimately winding down in favor of the Novara-based outfit, confirming the Superstars’ rule of three, as far as Audi titles are concerned.

2. Giovanni Berton (BMW) 192 pts.;
3. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Mercedes AMG) 159 pts.;
4. Thomas Biagi (Mercedes AMG) 138 pts.;
5.  Gigi Ferrara (Mercedes AMG) 127 pts.

2. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Mercedes AMG) 158 pts.;
3. Giovanni Berton (BMW) 83 pts.;
4. Thomas Biagi (Mercedes AMG) 76 pts.;
5.  Gigi Ferrara (Mercedes AMG) 59 pts.

1. AUDI SPORT ITALIA 330 points;
2. BMW Team Dinamic 306 pts.;
3. Mercedes-AMG Romeo Ferraris 297 pts.;
4. Roma Racing Team 127 pts.;
5.  CAAL Racing 104 pts.

Photo credit: Audi Sport Italia