Sunday, July 15, 2012

Audi Sport Italia RS5 and Morbidelli dominate wet Spa

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

Spa meeting confirms Audi RS5 as 2012 Superstars most winning car, as Gianni Morbidelli sweeps wins

At rain-soaked Belgian venue Johan Kristoffersson's runnerup finish in Race 1 helps Swede to move from third to second in the points standings -- but misfortune in Race 2 widens his gap from leader Vitantonio Liuzzi. Thomas Schoeffler shows promise but fails to deliver as mechanical trouble strucks MTM car in closing lap of  Race 2
Audi teams unpacked their haulers at Spa on Friday hoping for a change of fortune after a dismal outing in previous Superstars race meeting at Hungaroring. The rain front hovering above Francorchamps throughout the weekend meant that this time out unlike the previous meetings the Audi camp didn't had to toil too much with weight ballast and air restrictor-choked engines as rain offset these hindrances and drivers were keenly able to squeeze the most from their quattro drivetrains, whilst rear-wheel driven opposition was left to struggle with the slippery tarmac.
As it turned out teams were allowed to temporarily shelf their grooved-tyre inventory just once, on Saturday: after two wet free practices easily led by Johan Kristoffersson and Gianni Morbidelli, the latter grabbed his second 2012 pole position. The former F1 driver edged Kristoffersson to make it an all-silver front row as racing lines were drying up in the sun.
But on Sunday morning rain was back in full swing and the Audi Sport Italia star just had to wait a bit more than usual -- as this morning two formation laps were put in -- to make the most of his starting position and open up a gap over the field in the treacherous conditions. Behind Morbidelli the 23-year old Swede,  despite inexperience of the famed circuit, confirmed his speed keeping up with the leading Camozzi-sponsored Audi, overcoming glitches to his gearbox and even posting the race fastest lap to reach fellow RS5 driver on the podium and taking four points out of Vitantonio Liuzzi's points lead as well as leapfrogging previous runnerup Thomas Biagi.
Race 2 reversed grid lodged in the front row Mugello winner Andrea Larini alongside Schoeffer, whilst Morbidelli and Kristoffersson were moving from row 4. They met opposite fates as Morbidelli took a blindly fast start, one that propelled him in P3 by Turn 3, whilst the KMS Audi was faultlessly caught in a melee at La Source corner alongside a couple of AMG Mercedeses. Although Kristoffersson crossed the finish line eigth on lap 1 he had to retire minutes later with a broken front shock damaged beyond repair by the fray at Turn 1. As the KMS RS5 had reached its pit Morbidelli had already grabbed P1, as he had aggressively moved past Liuzzi and Larini. Fearing rain could wind down soon triggering tyre wear, Morbidelli was poised to get a comfortable cushion over the opposition. He was able to do so and as rain gained again strength in the second half of the race his fourth 2012 win wasn't even threatened by tyre issues. Morbidelli's second perfect weekend after Donington Park helped him to rally in the points standings to fourth, although 39 points behind leader Liuzzi. The Italian is still a long shot to claim his fifth Superstars crown, but as Spa put him back into contention Kristoffersson's misfortune put him 19 points adrift of Liuzzi. The Swede managed to keep the runner-up spot, 22 points ahead of BMW's Thomas Biagi, who's trailed by Morbidelli.
As Morbidelli starred, another Audi driver looked set to make the best of the dreadful conditions of race. On Sunday morning, with his proverbial jinx apparently holding off, Schoeffler put in the lone share of thrill to a rather dull --if watched from the grandstands-- Race 1. The MTM Motorsport driver rallied from his row 5 qualifying spot overtaking in the order Andrea Larini's AMG Mercedes and Stefano Gabellini's BMW and reaching the 7th place by lap 5. He then set the race fastest lap trying to catch up Camilo Zurcher's AMG Mercedes, but then received advice from his pit wall staff to stay put to make sure to enjoy a front row on the reversed grid for Sunday afternoon race. The 18-year old from Singen wisely complied. Unfortunately Schoeffler wasn't able to keep behind his RS5 the experienced drivers who were lurking around him, and he found himself fighting for P4 with Mika Salo's Maserati on Lap 1. Poised to keep this spot and even grab his maiden Top3 finish, which would have easily been his best performance of the year so far, the MTM Audi rolled the dice throughout the race, fending off Larini's charge and being overtaken again by the tough Italian. Biagi and Ferrara soon joined the fray and the foursome pur on a good show until the next-to-last lap, when the 18-year old German felt something going wrong in the transmission and cruised in the final lap to P7, in order to make sure to seal at least a win in the rookie standings.
Round 11 - Spa, Belgium
Sunday, July 15
1 GIANNI MORBIDELLI (AUDI RS5) 9 lap 28'12.795 avg speed 134.056kph
3 Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) +13.938s
4 Luigi Ferrara (AMG Mercedes) + 15.725s
5 Mika Salo (Maserati) + 17.248s
Round 12 - Spa, Belgium
Sunday, July 15

3. Mika Salo (Maserati) + 13.537s
4. Thomas Biagi (BMW) + 25.917s
5. Stefano Gabellini (BMW) + 29.255s;
Drivers points standings after 12 rounds:
1. Liuzzi 149 total points;
2. Kristoffersson 130 pts 
3. Biagi 127 pts
4. Morbidelli 110 pts
5. Larini 83 pts
6. Sini 73 pts
7. Gabellini 73 pts
8. Pigoli 57 pts
9. Schoeffler 38 pts
10 Herbert 36 pts