Trofeo World Series 2012 - Portimao
ROUND 2, PORTIMAO: First victory for Kuppens
The second Maserati Trofeo World Series event was held at Portimao using the new endurance formula: three races, the first two sprints lasting 30 minutes plus one lap and the third an endurance race of 50 minutes plus 1 lap, with a compulsory pit stop for all between the 20th and the 30th minutes to allow the teams fielding pairs to change drivers.
The new formula meant more time on the circuit, ensuring more excitement and thrills, and allowed the two-driver teams to bring their race strategies into play. In all cases, short or long, all three races were drama-filled to the end, with the result uncertain to the last. Cedric Sbirrazzuoli won race 1 despite starting fourth on the grid; race 2 was fiercely contested before finally being won by Giorgio Sernagiotto; the winner of race 3 was Renaud Kuppens, coming through impressively after starting third.
Others to make their mark included Riccardo Romagnoli, in splendid form from practice onwards and a specialist in producing stirring fight backs, Joe Ghanem, who surprised onlookers by winning pole position for race 1 and making the podium for all three races, and Riccardo Ragazzi, who was always in the fight for the top positions and reached the podium twice, in race 3 together with his co-driver Alan Simoni.
However, Kuppens - driving alone - proved the most consistent competitor, with his first win of the season coming in the most demanding endurance race, and fifth and fourth place finishes in the two sprints. The Belgian thus made up for a rather tricky start to the season at Jarama where he came away empty-handed.
Amongst the two-driver teams, only Romagnoli and Edo Varini achieved good placings overall. Ragazzi had to watch Simoni go out of race 2 due to an accident which left him with a broken suspension, while Sbirrazzuoli and Sernagiotto’s co-drivers, Alessandro Chionna and Giuseppe Fascicolo, failed to finish amongst the leaders. Because of all this, just 13 points now separate no less than 10 drivers in the championship table, leaving the title race wide open.
In the two sprints you have to give 110% for the time you are out there and this makes it exciting.
RACE 1: Sbirrazzuoli tears away at the start for an impressive first victory
In race 1, Sbirrazzuoli came out very fast from fourth place and quickly took the lead, overtaking Ragazzi and Ghanem, who started in pole. The Swiss driver then increased his lead over Ragazzi and Ghanem, while Kuppens and Garelli were engaged in a fierce battle behind them. Sbirrazzuoli went on to record his first victory of the season in commanding style, ahead of Ragazzi, Ghanem, Venier, Kuppens and Garelli.
RACE 2: Sernagiotto makes error at start then fights off Romagnoli to win
Sernagiotto enjoyed a hard-won victory in race 2. At the start Simoni and Ghanem stole the lead from Sernagiotto, in pole. Then, however, the duel between the two leaders, which lasted several laps, ended in an accident that left the Italian out with a broken suspension. This left Ghanem in the lead, but not for long, because he was soon overtaken by Sernagiotto. Romagnoli then caught up with the leader and pressed him hard to the last, but Sernagiotto still took the race by 1.1 seconds.
RACE 3: Kuppens takes first endurance race after error at start by leader Ragazzi
In the third race, an endurance event, Ragazzi led at the start, followed by Ghanem, Kuppens and Sernagiotto, with fierce competition between the four. Then Ragazzi made a mistake and dropped back to fourth, where he was soon overtaken by Romagnoli, making up ground fast. After the pit stops, Kuppens was back in front ahead of Ghanem, Simoni, Venier, Varini and Fascicolo. The Belgian went on to win by 2 seconds, with the other positions unchanged.