Sunday, June 9, 2013

Superstars: Morbidelli's comeback in Race 2 saves the day for Audi Sport Italia

Audi Sport Italia Press Release

Gianni Morbidelli's comeback in Race 2 saves the day for Audi Sport Italia at Slovakia Ring after scoreless Race 1 


Audi Sport Italia's first ever visit to Slovakia had started with confidence, as Gianni Morbidelli had reached the Central European venue buoyed by his best 2013 finish at Brno's round 4. As it turned out, on Saturday he was soon on the back foot as the fast track layout, the current Balance of Performance, and moreover the 20-kilo ballast levied for his Czech Republic runner-up spot proved a bitter pill to swallow for him and team mate Nando Geri. This weekend's time sheets and results seem to make pretty obvious that the Series promoter still have a long way to go to make it fair the competition between the currently dominant AMG Mercedeses and the rest of the field.

Despite a disappointing race 1, the Camozzi-liveried No45 car fought back hard to secure a third place in race 2, the second podium finish as yet for the Audi Sport Italia camp. Geri in the team No 46 retired in both rounds, and this dealt a blow to his hopes of clinching a consistent points haul to keep his chase to Star Driver glory --a weekend warrior-only standings-- intact.

Race 1 soon turned out to be the shortest 2013 outing for Audi drivers, as by Lap 3 both had already being forced to wave goodbye to the 16-car field. As polesitter Vitantonio Liuzzi was on his way to a dominant lights-to-flag win, the Audi pitwall was relieved to watch Morbidelli keep the same P7 he had claimed on Saturday, whilst team mate Geri was in P15 at the end of the opening lap. Giovanni Berton and Max Mugelli were not far ahead of Morbidelli, who overtook the latter on Lap 2 and the former on Lap 3. Unfortunately the Pesaro-based driver could enjoy P5 only a few more corners before the prop-shaft let go. Geri had already pitted on the same lap: a sllly problem to his pedal box forced the Rome-based driver to surrender.

Starting Race 2 from the lowly row 6 and 7, Morbidelli and Geri were pretty sure to have soon their hands full at the start, but actually the safety car cooled the roaring bunch for five laps, as Race 1 winner Liuzzi had to pull his AMG Mercedes over at the controversial chicane on the opening lap in a plume of smoke. When the oil had been removed from the tarmac and the green flags were waved, Morbidelli had propelled his Camozzi RS 5 to P6, moving past Roberto Benedetti's Cadillac, on pole position due to the reversed grid. Sadly his team mate could not move up as fast, as after a brief spell on P12 Geri had to retire again.

Things looked definitely brighter for the No 45 Audi after a quick scare --he drove wide in the grass of Sector 2-- on Lap 8 Mugelli's BMW and Andrea Bacci's AMG Mercedes were close at hand. By the end of Lap 9 the ebullient Italian was occupying P4, and an unexpected opportunity to break into the top 3 looked far from being over the top. As a matter of fact on Lap 10 Gianni moved past series leader Thomas Biagi to grab P3, and then was able to move up to P2 when then runner-up had to slow down his pace. As Berton's lead was beyond reach Morbidelli had to relinquish the second place to Biagi, as the Audi brakes were feeling the strain of overheating after having picked up grass and dirt during the brief off at mid-race. None the less the second 2013 podium finish was a welcomed outcome for Morbidelli, a score that helped the Audi driver his 5th position in the points.

Slovakia Ring, Round 5 :
1. Vitantonio Liuzzi (AMG Mercedes) 13 laps, 29:05.990s
2. Thomas Biagi (AMG Mercedes) + 1.609s;
3. Giovanni Berton (BMW) + 4.374s;
4. Max Mugelli (BMW) + 9.230s;
5. Fabrizio Giovanardi (Porsche) + 12.000s; 
DNF GIANNI MORBIDELLI (Audi RS 5) - 10 laps;
DNF NANDO GERI (Audi RS 5) -11 laps.

Slovakia Ring, Round 6 :
1. Giovanni Berton (BMW) 12 laps, 29:05.990s
2. Thomas Biagi (AMG Mercedes) + 10.076s;
3. GIANNI MORBIDELLI (Audi RS 5) + 14.198s;
4. Gigi Ferrara (AMG Mercedes) + 18.595s;
5. Max Mugelli (BMW) + 18.669s; 
DNF NANDO GERI (Audi RS 5) -3 laps.

Top5 drivers points standings after 6 rounds:
1. Biagi 105 points;
2. Berton 80 pts;
3. Liuzzi 76 pts;
4. Ferrara 56 pts.;
5. MORBIDELLI 53 pts.

Photo credit: Audi Sport Italia