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Italian GT, Magione - GT2/GT3 Race Reports
A Fantastic First Race

The third round of the Italian GT Championship took place at the twisty but challenging track of Magione (in the centre of Italy), in bloody hot conditions. The event saw the lowest entry of the season so far and the entry list itself provided some surprises, especially in GT2 where the Autorlando 997 GT2 has been withdrawn from this event; so the fight in GT2 will be only a Ferrari 430 affair, for a total in the GT2/GT3 race of only 15 cars.

Qualifying for race 1 saw pole go to the ever present Marco Cioci, then Alessandro Garofano (with a very good performance by the gentlemen partner of Rui Aguas) and Giuseppe Cirò. There was a surprise pole in GT3 for the fast improving Autorlando 911 GT3 R of Gianluca Roda (still with the “unfair penalty” of 100 kg), 6th overall; then Filipe Albuquerque in the Audi R8, and the other new toy by Weissach of the other gentleman Stefano Borghi.

Qualifying 2 saw Max Mugelli, Aguas and Michele Rugolo take the first three spots in GT2. Gianluca De Lorenzi grabbed another pole for the Porsche in GT3 followed by the new teammate of Roda (Pilet of course is at Le Mans) the solid Raffaele Giammaria. Third was the Audi of Marco Bonanomi.

Race One

The hot conditions were even hotter when the “big boys” took to the track for race 1 in the GT2/GT3 class. We can confirm the Autorlando 997 GT2 has been withdrawn from the Championship, a big shame and a big loss for the GT2 class; now down to 6 cars…all Ferrari.

The dramas began even before the start - qualifying 2 was not the best for the Ferrari; Caccia-Bontempelli had a huge shunt (driver ok, car not so much) and wouldn’t take part in the weekend.

The Italian GT world welcomed back the Kessel legacy, as the son of Loris, Ronnie, took the wheel of his dad’s 430 GT3 from this race.

There was a change also in the GT2 Ferrari ranks, with #22 Cirò’s new partner from this race being Michele Rugolo, instead of Cerrai who will have some months off the tracks after his huge shunt at Vallelunga last time out.

Handicap times: Garofano-Aguas 25 seconds, Palma-Mugelli 20 and Montermini-Moncini 30.

At the green flag Cioci put pedal to the metal and flew away, but behind him mayhem was happening. Roda tried the same move as Caffi in the previous race but couldn’t get places; instead, with some bump-to-bump contact, Borghi in the other GT3 Porsche spun, just in front of Roda who had no escape and had to stop in order to avoid a heavy shunt. Michael Dalle Stelle in the black GT2 Ferrari also parked his Ferrari alongside the track. After all these problems Cioci was still leading, from Andrea Palma, Cirò (with a smoking right front tyre) then Montermini. Garofano was the loser in the top spots, languishing down in 12th place overall. Borghi, meanwhile, parked his GT3 Porsche and retired the Weissach new toy in the pits (thanks for the first corner mayhem). In GT3 it was Audi-Audi - Albuquerque from Richard Antinucci - then Bryan Lavio in the 430 Ferrari; then a very nervous Roda, making up ground but also making some mistakes.

Adding insult to injury Garofano spun his 430 GT2 and lost even more ground; also having another grass cutting moment at the chicane. Upfront Cioci, Palma and Cirò were nose to tail, with, a little further back, Montermini in fourth. The two R8s were not far behind Montermini, fifth and sixth overall. Roda picked up a drive-through penalty (reason unknown). Third in class was Lavio, then Giovanni Bertoni in the “old” Gallardo.

Not much luck for Ronnie Kessel, who parked his GT3 Ferrari just after the pit-stop.

Nothing in the standings changed until the mandatory pit-stop, and just after the “window” the new order was Piergiuseppe Perazzini-(Cioci) from Rugolo-(Cirò), Mugelli-(Palma) and Emanuele Moncini-(Montermini).

The safety car was sent on track with 15 minutes to go, because the 430 GT3 of Ronnie Kessel had stopped right on track and couldn’t be moved (transmission failure). Just as the safety car went out, however, Aguas almost hit the new Giulietta…but clearly confusion is the word, because the safety car at first waved by the leader Perazzini, then spent a lap trying to pick him up once again. So after this moment the new correct standing was Perazzini, from Rugolo, and Mugelli. Fourth overall was Gianluca Giraudi-(Antinucci) followed by Bonanomi-(Albuquerque), in all Audi affair, then Stefano Gattuso-(Lavio) and Giammaria-(Roda).

Giammaria soon overtook Lavio and Bonanomi and completed an incredible recovery race by also passing Gianluca Giraudi for a very surprising GT3 lead in the Autorlando GT3 R. Giraudi was in deep trouble and losing places also from the second R8 of Bonanomi and the 430 of Gattuso. Giammaria was simply flying now; fifth overall and the top four Ferraris in GT2 were in danger of losing places to the Autorlando man.

With six minutes to go, Perazzini was leading from Rugolo, Mugelli, Moncini and Giammaria, then second in GT3 Bonanomi, Gattuso and Giraudi. Moncini had a deep braking and got Mugelli, who lost momentum; while Giammaria was adding another “victim” by passing the GT2 Ferrari. Rugolo and Moncini were scraping paint from their Ferraris by pushing each other and touching several times, and a big “casino” happened; Rugolo losing the spot to Mugelli and Giammaria, who was now second overall.

 Rugolo flat spotted twice and lost a place also to Aguas (where did he come from?), while Mugelli pushed Moncini and got his place in full BTCC style. Rugolo finally had a puncture and finish the race down the order. Aguas got also the spot from Mugelli, in an amazing finale to the race.

As all this was happening, the chequered flag was almost unnoticed as Perazzini crossed the line first with Giammaria second (first in GT3). However, Perazzini picked up a two-second penalty from the pit stop, so,  after a crazy race, Giammaria ended up first overall. Moncini finished third overall, then Palma and Aguas. Second in GT3 was Gattuso and then the two R8 Audis.

What a race!

Race Two

The sun was again blazing for the main race in the Italian GT at Magione. The main pre-race news was that the bad-luck season of the GT3 R from the DeLorenzi Racing continued, with the car definitely a non-starter due too much damage from the first race, so only 13 cars would race.

At the start Aguas got Mugelli in a very robust move - perhaps too robust - for the lead; Moncini kept the third place, then Rugolo, Perazzini, Bonanomi. First in GT3 was Gattuso, then Giraudi and Giammaria, all in the lower class.

Rugolo overtook Moncini, thanks to a little error by the newcomer for the third spot, but the real hard fight was in the GT3 class with Bonanomi, Gattuso and Giammaria nose to tail scraping paint from each other. Valentini in the black 430 GT2 found the wall at the exit in the last turn damaging his car too much to continue.

The lead trio in GT3 was a real highlight to see with Gattuso trying every possible trick to pass the R8 of Bonanomi, while Giammaria in the Autorlando 997 was playing a waiting game behind them. After several tries Gattuso finally got Bonanomi, who now had his hands full trying to fend off Giammaria, but the GT3 R blew past the Audi R8 on the main straight.

Upfront Aguas was still leading from Mugelli, Rugolo, and Moncini with all the four Ferraris a little distant each other. Rugolo had big problems, touching too hard a kerb; breaking the front splitter and having a huge lock-up. Moncini got him easily and Perazzini did the same too.

The situation wouldn’t change until the mandatory pit stop window, and after it the new standing (thanks to the various time penalty) was still with Garofano-(Aguas) in the lead from Palma-(Mugelli), Roda-(Giammaria), Montermini-(Moncini), Lavio-(Gattuso), Cioci-(Perazzini), Albuquerque-(Bonanomi) and Giraudi-(Antinucci).

Cioci picked up a right front puncture and had to make an extra stop, thanks to some debris left on track by the other 430 GT2 of Cirò.

Palma was gradually gaining time from Garofano, but it was not enough, so Garofano-Aguas won a very quiet race. Third overall, and first in GT3, was the Autorlando 997 of Roda and Giammaria, and we have to don a “chapeau” (Le Mans is so near…) to Gianluca Roda, who likes very much this track and drove two very good and solid races; and welcome back to the top step of the podium for the “overweight” 997 R. Fourth overall and second in GT3 were Gattuso-Lavio then Antinucci-Giraudi, followed by the sister car of Albuquerque-Bonanomi. Cioci-Perazzini finally finished seventh overall, third in GT2. But the very last drama was for Montermini, who picked up another right rear puncture and finished only tenth.

It was not the best race of the year, but at least in GT3 the battle is still very much on, with Porsche, Ferrari and Audi at the same level for the big trophy. In GT2, now with only 430 GT2 Ferraris, the title probably will go to the pair who has the least-troubled races.

Gabriele Tosi