Valencia - ESP

Sundberg, a lone triumph

It didn’t rain at Valencia’s Ricardo Tormo circuit but grey skies loomed overhead. This was good news for some and less good for others.

It was a smooth start with the drivers packed close together just a few metres from the start line. When the red line went out, the cars roared off for the sixth round of the season. As the drivers pointed their cars into turn one, it was Francesco La Mazza who benefited most by springing from seventh into second. Sundberg also came out of the turn in good shape but Necchi dropped down to fourth; he was brushed by Ardagna Perez and the contact was enough to nudge him off the racing line.
When things had settled down, it was Sundberg leading from La Mazza, with Zumerle, Ardagna Perez, Necchi, Rota and Maggi tracking them. Ardagna Perez was in decisive mood and, at times, a little too aggressive like when he almost sent Zumerle into a spin at the curve leading into the home straight. The driver from Verona did well to keep control of his GranTurismo MC Trofeo and maintain his spot. Necchi tried to profit from the incident with an attack on the Venezuelan but was himself surprised on the outside when Rota sneaked past. After being buzzed by Ardagna Perez, Zumerle decided to step on the gas and was soon in La Mazza’s slipstream; on lap two he edged past into second. One lap later the Catania driver was also overtaken by Ardagna Perez and Rota, glued to the Venezuelan’s rear end.
Sundberg was alone up front and had started his solitary trek towards the chequered flag. Meanwhile Paolo Necchi was trying to jump onto the Ardagna Perez-Rota caravan and also tried to get the better of La Mazza. The attempt failed and did not end well for the MotorMedia director who clipped La Mazza and sent him into a spin, attracting the attention of the race officials. Two laps later, on lap seven, a message popped up on the monitors confirming Necchi’s drive-through. When he came back onto the track, who did Necchi find ahead of him? None other than La Mazza!
From here on in the race was about a series of personal battles - especially between Sergio Rota and Gaetano Ardagna Perez - and about Necchi’s comeback effort.
The tussle between Rota, in fourth, and Ardagna Perez, third, was an exciting one. At each turn the two went head-to-head. Rota tried everything he could to overtake and the Venezuelan slammed the door on him every time. Rota had no option but to leave the braking as late as possible and this was having a negative effect on his tyres. These episodes went on until Rota collided with Ardagna Perez, earning a black and white flag for his trouble.
Necchi, having served his drive-through penalty, made it back onto the track in tenth, tucked in behind La Mazza. It seemed like a re-run of earlier but this time Necchi found the space on lap 15 to overtake.
Maggi and Gai did their best to try to enliven what was a quieter than usual race. Maggi had made a difficult start after La Mazza spun and accidentally ran into him but he recovered to climb into sixth after overtaking Smurra.
Gai, meanwhile, was drawing attention with his continual battles with the Trofeos. He was now in fifth spot despite his GT4 having less horsepower. The young Rossocorso driver, after taking the decision not to interfere with the title chasers, still showed that he had the pace to mix it and was first in his category.
By now, Sundberg was seeing out the race up front. In second was Zumerle and third placed Ardagna Perez was still having to fight off a determined Sergio Rota. Necchi had got past Hernandez on lap 17 and repeated the trick on Smurra three laps later to move into seventh spot.
The last twist came on final lap: Rota went for broke with an unexpected move on Ardagna Perez, who was busy lining up the turn ahead of him. With smoke pouring off both drivers’ tyres as they headed side-by-side into one of the last curves, it was Rota who came out top to take third behind Sundberg and Zumerle.
In GT4, Stefano Gai collected the win. In second came Jonathan Sicart with Dario Bertanza taking third.
Sundberg has now extended his championship lead over Zumerle to 9 points but Race 2 could change everything.

Zumerle wins and leads the championship

There was no sign of rain as the sun blessed the start of Race 2. As in the morning race, the whole bunch was in a hurry to get through turn one. Again there were a number of clashes, one of which resulted in Ardagna Perez being forced out of the race. The Venezuelan had started a touch ahead of the rest and was clipped by Rota.

He lost control of his Trofeo and careered off the track. The incident opened the door for Paolo Necchi to take second spot behind Zumerle.

Smurra also benefited from the confusion to tuck in behind third-placed Rota. Gai steered his GT4 in amongst the pack and was in fifth, just up on Goldstein.

Rota’s move did not impress the race director who slapped the driver from Bergamo with a drive through. While the penalty was being handed out, Rota had pitted to replace his front left tyre that had been damaged in the collision with Ardagna Perez.

Steven Goldstein appeared to be the driver who benefited most as he climbed through the field but the Panamanian misjudged the racing line in the final curve and was overtaken by La Mazza and then Maggi. Maggi, who had started from last on the grid, was making a magnificent comeback and making the most of the fresh tyres on his car.

There were intense battles going on all over the track but few overtaking moves. Part of the reason for this is the layout of the track which makes overtaking tough. So, the race continued without any major incident until lap 15 when Zumerle crossed the line with a two second lead over Necchi. The two were lapping at the same tempo and leading a superb Gai, in third overall in his GT4. Behind him was Maggi, Smurra and an aggressive Francesco La Mazza.

The driver from Catania managed to get past the first ever Trofeo champion but, one lap later, overshot a turn and left the track. Luckily for him, he was able to get going again. He was the first in a series of drivers who veered off the track and Maggi and Hernandez would later join him.

The torrid heat and slow wear to the tyres upped the rhythm in the closing stages but the race order did not change. So, Zumerle took the chequered flag from Paolo Necchi and Stefano Gai. Fourth went to Francesco Maggi, after an amazing recovery, fifth was taken by Emanuele Smurra with Steven Goldstein in sixth.

Over in GT4, the surprise of the day was Stefano Gai who, as well as taking third overall, now challenges Jonathan Sicart for the category lead. The Frenchman, second in his class and tenth in all, sees his lead cut to just three over the Rossocorso driver.

  • Pirelli
  • Sparco