Gobbo and Cola claim thrilling winAt the end of a topsy-turvy race, the Gobbo/Cola crew claimed success from Swiss Team’s Gardelli/Venier and Calamia/Romagnoli. For once this was a race in which Renaud Kuppens did not make the podium, even though the Belgian could have made it had it not been for a puncture.
The action came thick and fast from the off with Simoni leading into turn one from Kuppens, Venier, Mac, Cadei, Bakker and Cola, who began lethargically. Kuppens decided to launch an early attack on Simoni and overtook him at the final chicane to take the lead.
Simoni, in trying to fend off Venier, got his braking all wrong at the first hairpin to let his rival through. This was not the only head-to-head on the track as Cola was searching for a way past Mac on the outside of turn one but forgot his racing line and let Barde through. The Frenchman continued his climb through the field and was on Mac’s tail by lap three. The Dane was off the pace this time round and soon had to give way with Cola also benefiting.
After a sprightly start, Bakker was overtaken by Romagnoli and then an aggressive Cadei. In the meantime Barde was proving to be the quickest driver on the circuit and was soon in Simoni’s slipstream. Cadei was another driver on form and he put in some quick laps to set up an attack on Romagnoli. Behind him, Merjech and Bakker were contesting tenth place with Fascicolo looking on.
Soon after, Cadei made the most of Romagnoli straying off the track at the final chicane. He swept past on lap six even though the Swiss Team driver tried to hit back. This set up a series of overtaking moves with Cadei eventually coming out on top.
After a few laps waiting for his moment to strike, Cola got past Mac. While this was going on, Venier, Simoni and Barde were jostling for position. Simoni attempted to get the better of Venier but the gap he left while doing so was too good for Barde to refuse and he duly positioned his Trofeo ahead of his rival’s. Venier was the one to benefit and he stretched away while Kuppens also continued on his aggressive way.
The drivers began making pit stops from lap 11 on and Simoni was the first to pull in to hand over to Ragazzi. He was soon followed by Mac (who had to pit for 15 extra seconds) and Niki Cadei.
The top three after eleven laps - Kuppens, Venier, Barde – were within two seconds of each other and they all pulled into the pits a lap later. Barde stormed off and made the most of Gardelli, Venier’s replacement, sitting in the pit lane for longer than was necessary. Kuppens made it back out in seventh, held up by the extra 20 seconds he had to spend in the pit lane. With the pit stops out of the way, the standings had a very different look.
Barde was now holding a 3.6 second lead over Gobbo. Next came Gardelli, Ragazzi, Calamia, Cadei, Kuppens and Bakker. However, the leader was soon to pay for his energetic start from the pits as a broken axle shaft forced him out on lap fourteen. The path was now clear for Patrick Gobbo to take the lead.
Just as this was unfolding, race officials were slapping Ragazzi, Pierre Marie De Leener and Roberto Delli Guanti with a drive-through for not respecting the pit lane speed limit.
With Gobbo now leading from Gardelli the action was hotting up in the pack. The challenge for seventh between Bakker, Merjech and Cecchellero was a close one. On lap seventeen, when Kuppens blew a tyre and crawled back to the pits, Cecchellero got the better of first Merjech and then Bakker. This twin overtaking move, together with Ragazzi pitting, allowed him to climb to fifth. Seventh eventually went to Ragazzi as he snatched the spot from Mathjis Bakker at the very last curve.
So, the chequered flag was shown to Gobbo/Cola, ahead of Venier/Gardelli and Romagnoli/Calamia. It was an exciting finish with Patrick Gobbo puncturing his front right tyre on the last curve of the final lap. Niki Cadei closed out in fourth after failing to make his predicted podium place. Still, he fought hard with Calamia, who took the podium slot in the end. Cecchellero/Fascicolo claimed fifth after improving the longer the race went on; sixth was taken by the Colombian Merjech. Closing out the top ten were Ragazzi, Bakker, Adrien De Leener and Andreas Segler.
The endurance event was widely anticipated by Mikkel Mac and Renaud Kuppens so that they could pick up championship points but it wasn’t to be: both drivers were forced to retire with punctures. Mac ended up being placed seventeenth and Kuppens twenty-second.
» Official website