Spa - BEL

Race 2: Salo shines in the Quattroporte Evo to take third

Maserati scored yet another podium finish in the International Superstars Series. In Race 2 at Spa, the sixth round of the season, Mika Salo steered the Swiss Team car to third behind Gianni Morbidelli’s Audi RS5 (Audi Sport Italia) and the Mercedes C63 AMG driven by Vitantonio Liuzzi (Caal Racing). The Finn’s fine display comes on the back of Christian Klien’s recent win at the Hungaroring. Salo had come fifth in qualifying and again in a tough first race, one where the downpour ruled out any thought of overtaking. Race 2 was also run on a wet track but the rain that fell towards the end was less intense; Salo sparkled from the off.

With the starting grid based on the finishing order from Race 1, but with the top eight slots reversed, the Swiss Team driver sprinted off from fourth. He took the outside line going into La Source to move into second behind Nicola Larini’s C63 AMG from Romeo Ferraris. Leading drivers Zurcher, in the Romeo Ferraris C63 AMG, Luigi Ferrara, in a Caal Racing Mercedes, and Kristoffersson’s Kms RS5 were involved in a clash that saw Zurcher KO’d, Kristoffersson have to pull out a little later with a broken suspension. Only Ferrara managed to push on with a damaged front left end.

Morbidelli’s four-wheel drive soon saw him edge clear of his two-wheeled drive rivals. With the Audi driver extending his advantage, Liuzzi was lapping two seconds quicker than the rest thanks to his bigger, more powerful engine. He eventually managed to overhaul Salo, who was struggling with tyres that were not inflated enough. The Caal Racing driver was now in third and battling with Larini but, halfway through the race, it was clear that Larini was struggling: first he strayed off the track, slipping to fourth, and then he was forced out with mechanical problems.

Now it was Liuzzi and Salo’s turn to put on a show. The Finn was making the most of the Quattroporte Evo’s agility and handling in the mixed sections and fast curves to set the second best time of 2'51"769; Salo’s lap was bettered only by Morbidelli’s 4x4 Audi. Salo was thrilling and only the heavier rain saw him hold off from attacking Liuzzi late on.

Salo’s performance brought Maserati another fine placing and showed again how competitive the Quattroporte Evo is, even in the wet. Thanks to this result, Swiss Team is third in the Team series behind Dinamic, fielding BMWs, Caal Racing’s Mercedes. Swiss Team’s other entrant, Mauro Cesari, didn’t have such a happy weekend. Cesari lined up sporting slicks in the hope that the rain held off and the track dried out. It wasn’t to be and Cesari’s difficult Spa meet was brought to an early end when his front left tyre lost pressure.

Race 1: Driving rain spoils the spectacle

Nothing much happened in Race 1 at Spa. Round six in the International Superstars Series is taking place in driving rain and, after two laps of the first event, none of the drivers wanted to take any risks.

With the conditions evening things out, the top six drivers finished in the same order they lined up in. This meant that victory went to Gianni Morbidelli's Audi RS5 (Audi Sport Italia) with Johan Kristoffersson, in another Audi (Kms Motorsport), second. Vitantonio Liuzzi and Luigi Ferrara, in Caal Racing Mercedes C63 AMGs, came next with Mika Salo’s Maserati Quattroporte Evo (Swiss Team) in fifth. Camillo Zurcher’s Romeo Ferraris Mercedes C63 AMG came home sixth.

The only other significant event was Thomas Biagi’s BMW M3 E92 (Dinamic) careering off the track when in seventh and Thomas Schoffler’s Mtm Motorsport RS5 coming back from tenth to seventh spot.

The lead positions would probably have been set from the start with the cars’ spray making it impossible for them to move into each others’ slipstream. It was also impossible to close in on the Audis whose four-wheel drive system made the conditions easier to handle.

In these conditions the RS5’s superiority was almost embarrassing. Morbidelli and Kristoffersson built a lead and then seemed to toy with the rest of the field. From the halfway point on, the top six drivers began to pull away with Morbidelli setting a top lap time of 2'54"229, with Zurcher’s 2'55"095 the fastest of the drivers without four-wheel drive. Just one lap from the end, Kristoffersson posted the race’s quickest lap of 2'50"884!

Maserati’s competitive edge again came through with Mika Salo’s 2'55"325 the second fastest time set by a two-wheel drive. After the first three, waterlogged, laps, Salo was fastest of the drivers without four-wheel drive. Around the halfway mark, the ex-F1 star tried to reel in Ferrara but then held back because of the spray up ahead of him.

Mauro Cesari’s inexperience told as he finished in 17th. Still, the other Swiss Team driver knew nothing about Spa before this weekend nor had he driven the Quattroporte Evo in the rain. So, Cesari’s aim was to finish and continue learning while steering clear of trouble.