Monday, September 1, 2014

Italian GT: Italian Gran Turismo battle hots up at Paul Ricard, but Audi's Marco Mapelli and Thomas Schoeffler keep their lead

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

  • Runner-up finish helps Mapelli, Schoeffler to keep 8-point edge
  • Even in sunny France dark clouds gather over unlucky Capello, Zonzini
Le Castellet, France – Audi Sport Italia's No. 6 crew claimed a hard-fought runner-up spot today in the Italian Gran Turismo championship, and by finishing two positions ahead of the Ferrari Scuderia Baldini pair in the sole series meeting staged abroad, at scenic Circuit Paul Ricard, they clear the half-season mark with a 8-point lead. Donativi-Gagliardini are still in third place, but their gap widens to 25 points after the Le Castellet rounds. Unfortunately Marco Mapelli and Thomas Schoeffler are the only Audi standard bearers with title hopes, as today jinx again struck Dindo Capello and Emanuele Zonzini: the latter was tapped into a spin as he had just claimed P4, possibly heading for a Top3 spot which has deserted them since their win in the series opener.

Yesterday, as the seventh 2014 race got underway, Thomas Schoeffler and Dindo Capello were both moving from row three. The Audi pair was soon hold up by Monza race two winner Andrea Gagliardini, who used every inch of the track -- and several times the powder-blue patches outside of it, too -- to fend off their effort to snatch P6 from his Porsche until the mandatory pit-stop. When their respective team mates Marco Mapelli and Emanuele Zonzini resumed the race, frustration of another kind was lurking: the safety car had to be sent out when a GT Cup class car heavily crashed into the armco barrier. Therefore Mapelli and Zonzini were forced to sit in P6 and P7 until 4 minutes -- and one lap -- to go, when a mad dash to the chequered flag unraveled. Former single-seater driver Mirko Bortolotti barreled through the pack to claim Lamborghini's maiden 2014 win, whilst series leader Mapelli somehow managed to sneak to the front and in the final lap he even challenged Casè-Giammaria for the runner-up spot, but a rough feedback from the red Ferrari opened up room for fellow Ferrari duo Pier Guidi-Lucchini to slip by him -- with Zonzini's R8 LMS ultra in tow. The Audi Sport Italia duo therefore took the seventh flag as fourth and fifth.

Today, a fair getaway from pole was not enough to keep Mapelli leading, as Alessandro Pier Guidi's Ferrari sneaked by running on theblue tarmac on the front straight. However Mapelli did not have the chance to fight back: he rather had to spend his stint repealing the pressure that Bortolotti's Gallardo put on his Audi. He did so successfully, in spite of way under-par braking effectiveness, handing the car over to Schoeffler still in second place. The young Singen, Germany-born driver nursed the R8 LMS ultra managing to keep the runner-up spot for the whole race but on lap 21 and 22--when Alessandro Balzan was steamrollering past him on his way to a convincing win. Unlike Schoeffler, Capello could not manage to break a sweat on Sunday: his team mate Zonzini, who had started from row two, after trailing Lorenzo Casè early on finally overtook the red Ferrari on lap seven, but the rival tapped the Audi into a spin sending the San Marino-based driver amid the backmarkers, just a harbinger of even worse news: quite likely as an outcome of the hit, Zonzini had to pull over one lap later due to transmission problems.

Photo credit: Audi Sport Italia