Monday, October 29, 2012

Johan Kristoffersson is triple king in wild International Superstars Series decider at Pergusa

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

Wild, wild, wild International Superstars Series decider at Pergusa: Sweden's Johan Kristoffersson is triple king in spite of scary shunt to his KMS RS5

Audi drivers soldier on at ultra-quick and tough Sicilian venue in their less rewarding day but Kristoffersson, Gianni Morbidelli and Thomas Schoeffler have the last laugh  

In his debut International Superstars year the new RS5 built over the winter by Audi Sport Italia outfit, with support from Ingolstadt customer department, won 8 rounds out of 16 and sweeped the three championships up for grabs. In an unpredictable and weird finish to a long and entertaining season Johan Kristoffersson was unflappable in showing his mettle in the worst possible environment for his RS5 as well for the sister Audis of Gianni Morbidelli and Thomas Schoeffler. The 23-year old from Arvika started from a terrible 14th spot on the grid, as his closest rival Vitantonio Liuzzi (in the CAAL AMG Mercedes entry) was set to start from Row 4. The Swede after the grim outcome of Saturday was far from wandering through the paddock head hanging, but was definitely aware that at the ultra-quick Sicilian venue he and fellow Audi drivers would have been sitting ducks. Ducks none the less, hoping to be encircled by hunters on their way to shoot each other. Which ultimately proved the winning plan: Kristoffersson posted 10 points, way under his average haul of points, but this was enough today.

Pole sitter Raffaele Giammaria took a lights-to-flag debut victory in the International Superstars Series' morning race leading quietly and smoothly the entire 25-minute race, but behind his Romeo Ferraris AMG Mercedes havoc unfolded and things went Kristoffersson's way. Despite posting five or more seconds per lap slower than the leaders throughout the race in the overweight KMS RS5, the Swede found himself fifth at the finish, one place behind Liuzzi's team-mate Andrea Bacci and one ahead of Gianni Morbidelli. The Camozzi Audi Sport Italia driver after Saturday's practice had had a hard look at calling it a day because of how the Audis were off the pace--moreover just a couple of weeks after having sweeped the Vallelunga meeting. As a matter of fact Audi drivers had been bemoaning all Saturday the demoralizing timesheets that saw German 4WDs penalized by the edge in power of AMG Mercedeses and Chevys, as well as by the layout of the four chicanes, whose kerbs were tilted in favor of the swifter Audi rivals and magnifying the hindrances of their hefty weight--the highest in the Series' scales. RS5 drivers even tried to follow the lines of lighter cars' drivers through the kerbs, but immediately they paid dearly with broken schocks, and Morbidelli paid such a toll twice. But Audi tactics--if it may have been the only available--proved right as a host of cars pitted early due to either mechanical trouble or tussles. Besides Kristoffersson's fifth place, Morbidelli wound up sixth and Schoeffler--in the MTM Motorsport operated car--was able to break into the Top10 and claim a ninth place in spite of starting from the pit lane, as the German had underwent a deep rebuild after a shunt in free practice 1.

Kristoffersson was therefore taking his 183 points to the afternoon decider--to Liuzzi's 178. The former Formula 1 driver after a fairly disappointing race 1 (taking into account that Pergusa proved an AMG Mercedes-friendly track, as Giammaria's pole and sweep of wins proves) was kind of down, but far from out. And from their position on Row 2 Kristoffersson and Morbidelli braced themselves for the green light and a possible stampede at the first corner. Surprisingly no mishap occurred at Turn 1, although the power of a couple of AMG Mercedeses had the upper's hand on the RS5s in the opening lap, but the lightining was ready to struck. On Lap 2 Kristoffersson was torpedoed at Pineta chicane by Nico Caldarola's AMG Mercedes, that seemed to miss completely the braking point. The Swede looked shaken but safe out of the car, which immediately looked like a chassis on the brink of being written off. If the morning race had barely dented Kristoffersson's lead, the shunt seemed to put out of the hands of Audi drivers the series' outcome, especially at the only 2012 venue where the RS5 drivers were toiling with an inferior car.

Audi Sport Italia's team principal Emilio Radaelli, who's also owner of Superstars RS5s radioed to survivors Morbidelli and Schoeffler to park their cars in the pit lane.
Kristoffersson's being rammed and sidelined for good looked like the icing of the cake of a meeting build-up that had seemed to have everything in place to give Audis, and especially the Swede rookie rival of Liuzzi, a raw deal. Audi Sport Italia's boss didn't not refrain from getting his point across with the press and also remarked the shortcomings of a circuit that in his mind was not well suited for a series which is said to aspire to upscale status. After the surprise cancellation of the Sentul round the white-hot finale was hosted at a venue which is not on par with either most domestic series or Superstars legs and in some areas had dangerous shortcomings. To borrow a line from former US President Dick Cheney, all the "unknown unknowns" that sprouted in the past few weeks looked unfavorable to the Audi camp. But as things turned ugly for Audi and Kristoffersson--who was sure of claiming at least the Italian and Rookie Superstars crown in any case--this time actually victory was snatched from the grip of defeat. And this was due to a family feud, as Andrea Larini's Romeo Ferraris AMG Mercedes punted off Liuzzi's CAAL AMG Mercedes entry while the former Toro Rosso driver was occupying a third place that would grant him the coveted International Superstars title. But Larini had Liuzzi's number since the latter had roughed the Tuscan in the Spa Francorchamps meeting. Liuzzi's battered car made it to the ninth place, but this left him still four points adrift of the Swede, who this year has claimed a record five titles, including a couple in his home country... Morbidelli, level in wins at four with the KMS driver, wound up fourth in the points standings. Schoeffler, the youngest Superstars regular driver, claimed a nice eight place, breaking into the Top10 with a good streak of results in the second half of the season.

International Superstars Series 2012
Pergusa (EN), October 28
Race 1

1. R. Giammaria (Mercedes AMG) 14 laps/giri
2. F. Sini (Chevrolet) +5.988
3. V. Liuzzi (Mercedes AMG) +46.581
4. A. Bacci (Mercedes AMG) +48.814
5. J. KRISTOFFERSSON (AUDI RS 5) +1'18.093
6. G. MORBIDELLI (AUDI RS 5) +1'18.762
9. T. SCHOEFFLER (AUDI RS 5) +1'28.840 

International Superstars Series 2012
Pergusa (EN), October 28
Race 2

1. R. Giammaria (Mercedes AMG) 10 laps
2. L. Ferrara (Mercedes AMG) +11.213s
3. S. Iacone (Chevrolet) +12.079s
4. T. Biagi (Mercedes AMG) +14.430s
5. C. Fittipaldi (Maserati) +35.806

Drivers' points standings after 14 rounds:
1. KRISTOFFERSSON 185 points;
2. Liuzzi 181 pts.;
3. Biagi 159 pts.; 
4. MORBIDELLI 128 pts.;
5. Sini 92 pts;
6. Larini 90 pts.;
7. Gabellini 75 pts.;
8. SCHOEFFLER 71 pts.;
9. Pigoli 60 pts.;
10. Giammaria 45 pts.