Mugello - ITA

Sundberg's win relaunches his title bid

The first Trofeo Maserati GranTurismo MC championship is heading for a thrilling climax after the outcome of Race 1.

Peter Sundberg's fifth win of the season sees him take over from Pietro Zumerle in number one spot; Zumerle now sits in second. In fact, the race was won by Andrea Bertolini, who was trying out some technical solutions that will be used on next year's car, but Bertolini does not pick up any championship points.

It was ideal weather for Race 1 with Bertolini sitting on pole. When the green light came on, the group bunched up and filed through turn one in orderly fashion. In the middle of the pack, Niek Hommerson spun at the Luco curve and ended up in the sand. The rest of the first lap passed by without incident with Bertolini first, followed by Sundberg, Zumerle, Danti, Necchi and Rota. In GT4, Sbirrazzuoli pushed hard and overtook a Gardel who did not get off to the best of starts.

As usual, things were quite even between the drivers in the middle of the pack. On lap three, Machiels edged past Maggi, who was also hassled by Sbirrazzuoli in his GT4, while Gardel was trying to reclaim the lead in his category. Up front, Bertolini was on his way to posting the race’s fastest lap time of 2’01”767.

Lap five saw Bertolini still leading from Sundberg, who was 6”651 down with Zumerle 6”9 off the pace; then came Baldi (7”7), Necchi (9”0) and Rota (9”4). The spotlight was on Rota after his stunning overtaking move on Necchi on the outside. Up ahead, Zumerle and Sundberg were going at it with the Italian tucked into the Swede’s slipstream. This only urged Sundberg on and he managed to slowly build a lead of seventh tenths.

Only a few tenths separated Maggi, Machiels and Sbirrazzuoli in midfield. Things were shaken up when Maggi spun, his mistake also putting off the Monaco-based driver. The only one to come through unharmed was Machiels. Gardel also made the most of the incident to move back into the GT4 lead.

Up in the lead group, Rota was superquick and caught Baldi without any problems even though Baldi was having a good day and was in touch with the leaders. Sbirrazzuoli and Maggi were in the thick of the action as Sbirrazzuoli clipped Maggi, sending them both into the sand coming out of Arrabbiate.

The racing progressed and the only incident of any sort was Zumerle mistiming his braking at turn one on lap 13. This allowed Baldi to pull in closer to him but the series leader held off the Tuscan and quickly built a five tenths advantage.

Machiels continued his comeback and it wasn’t long before he caught and overtook an out-of-form Ardagna Perez. Still, this was the Venezuelan’s first time at Mugello so his below-par performance was perhaps understandable.

With a little more experience under his belt but not much in the way of good luck, was Alberto Sabbatini, the director of Autosprint. He ran off the track more than once but, fortunately, didn’t cause any damage to the car.

From that point on, the race did not throw up any surprises and Andrea Bertolini went on to take the chequered flag from Sundberg, Zumerle, Baldi, Rota, Necchi, Ardagna Perez, Machiels, Gardel and Piancastelli. Over in GT4, Gardel got the better of Sbirrazzuoli and Marco Coldani. Jonathan Sicart, whose first outing at the Tuscan weekend was in Race 1, finished in the points and edges closer to the title. The destination of the overall crown will be decided after race 2: Goldstein will have to try not to drop more than two points to make sure he takes the championship along with his partner, Sundberg.

Bertolini cannot draw the spotlight away from Zumerle

After a spectacular and dramatic race, Pietro Zumerle was crowned champion of the first Trofeo Maserati GranTurismo MC championship.

The Italian, thanks to his third place at the end of the forty-minute race, ended the season just three points up on the Sundberg/Goldstein crew. The duo’s hopes lay with the Panama driver and he did not let anyone down as he drove an exciting and tenacious race; his best of the season.

The entire race hinged on this duel and things kicked off between Zumerle and Goldstein in the first few metres with Goldstein quicker off the mark than his rival. Bertolini, starting on pole, led the group and went into turn one without any problems. He was followed through by Baldi, Moccia, Rota, Necchi, Machiel and Hommerson. Behind this group came Goldstein and Zumerle, but it wasn’t long before the Italian pulled up alongside and then crept past the provisional series leader.

Unlike the first race, this one was full of action. Topping the thrill list was the duel between Gardel and Sbirrazzuoli, in GT4, and between Rota and Moccia in the Trofeos. Rota was in an aggressive mood and passed Moccia at Luco but could not extend into a lead over the Autosprint drive. Moccia was appearing as a guest and so would not be picking up any championship points.

Steven Goldstein was feeling the heat with Pietro Zumerle ahead of him and Gabriele Gardel and Cedric Sbirrazzuoli making the most of their less powerful but agile GT4s to put the pressure on from behind him.

With five laps up, the race lost one of its main stars in Davide Baldi. The Tuscan had excelled in Race 1 and was right in Bertolini slipstream when he was forced to pull out with a tyre problem. With one exciting driver out of it, Niek Hommerson stepped onto the stage. Having seen Race 1 come to a premature end following an early doors collision, the Dutchman was one of the quickest and most spectacular drivers on the track in Race 2. His pace soon saw him pull right up to Moccia’s bumper.

Up front, Bertolini – still testing various technical components for next year’s car – had upped the tempo to set the race’s fastest lap of 2’02”935. The driver from Sassuolo now had a nine-second advantage over Rota who, in turn, was heading a bunch grouped within five seconds of each other.

As the cars are so well matched, it was tough for the drivers to build any sort of lead and this ensured that the action was non-stop. Moccia tried to overtake Rota by taking an unusual line. The strategy backfired as he left himself open to Hommerson who made the most of the space to sneak into third. The Dutchman was very, very quick and braking aggressively. He almost came unstuck when he locked the wheels trying to get past Rota. Locking the wheels meant taking a curve late and gave Moccia the chance to retake his position. Hommerson did well to fight Moccia off and, once he was back into a settled rhythm, got the better of Rota on the outside of turn one. Rota, with his tyres not holding up, was dished up with more of the same treatment from Moccia just two turns later.

Even with all this happening in the pack, all eyes were still on the battle for the title between Goldstein and Zumerle. Goldstein was still being asked questions by Gardel while also trying to avoid running into Zumerle in front of him.

Being pressured from behind, Goldstein was right in Zumerle’s slipstream, while Zumerle was having trouble getting past Piancastelli. At this stage, the title contenders were on the same points but the series would have gone to Goldstein and Sundberg because of the number of wins collected by the Swede.

With Bertolini alone up front, Hommerson broke ranks with the group being led by Rota. Only Moccia seemed to have the pace to keep up with him.

By lap eleven, Zumerle had finally found a way past Piancastelli just as Gardel upped his speed even more to edge past Goldstein. Now, the title was Zumerle’s to lose. Goldstein’s stress was not over as Sbirrazzuoli was now filling his rear view mirror. The overtaking move came on lap twelve but, incidentally, neither Gardel nor the Monaco-based driver would affect Goldstein’s championship placing.

Now in the virtual lead, Zumerle was feeling confident and building up some speed. He attacked Rota and got past him on lap fifteen, one on which Bertolini enjoyed a 3”1 lead over Hommerson and a 4”1 advantage over Moccia. But, two laps later, Niek Hommerson, one of the race’s stars, had asked too much of his tyres and had to retire while in a deserved second.

Even with the chequered flag about to be flown, the surprises were not over. Piancastelli was going for his first pole of the season and decided to attack Rota on lap eighteen. The move was right on the limit as the drivers clipped each other. The outcome was that Rota sent his rival into a spin that ended with Piancastelli’s car bang in the middle of the straight. The race officials took a look at the incident but opted not to discipline Rota.

So, Andrea Bertolini took the chequered flag from Luigi Moccia and Pietro Zumerle. In fourth came Sergio Rota, in fifth (and first of the GT4s) was Gabriele Gardel with Steven Goldstein finishing sixth (third in championship terms).

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