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SPEED EuroSeries, Donington Park - Rounds 7 & 8

Wolf GB08 driver Ivan Bellarosa continued his winning ways in the Donington Park rounds of the SPEED EuroSeries. However, a full 40 kilos success ballast enabled his rivals to close up. The margins of victory were a mere 3.881 and 2.034 seconds respectively at the end of the 90 and 60-minute races; the Italian may now have won seven of the eight rounds but there were now those who must have fancied their chances against him.

Foremost amongst these must have been young Brit Darren Burke who shares the Team Excool Juno CN2012 with Duncan Williams. Bellarosa’s Avelon Wolf was on its usual pole position for the 90-minute Saturday evening race, with Burke in second place. Rain had been forecast but there was just a dusting of precipitation as Bellarosa got the drop on Burke only for the latter to take the lead round the outside at Starkeys. Nigel Greensall (HGRT/RLR Ligier) and Gugliemli Belotti (Avelon Wolf) gave chase.

What little rain there had been in the air was soon over and as the track became grippier, the gap between the two leaders remained close. On lap seven they were almost side-by-side. One lap later, the safety car was deployed with Ton Mastroberardino’s Wolf stationary in a dangerous position.

By lap 11 it was back to racing with the first three pulling out on the rest of the field. In these days of spec racing, it should perhaps be noted that there were, at this point, three different chassis in the first three and four in the top five. Burke put in the fastest lap so far (he was eventually to record fastest lap of the race on the 30th circuit) but it was still nose to tail at the front.

As sole driver of his Wolf, Bellarosa was first to pits, not long after the 30-minute mark. Burke remained out with a lead increasing over the new second place man, Greensall. Back in the race, Bellarosa climbed through the field although not lapping any faster than the leader. By half distance, Burke was still pulling away up front with a lead of 18.030 seconds with his Italian rival now up to fourth place. Within 10 laps he was second.

The pattern of the race was likely to change once the leading Juno made its pit stop. On lap 37 Burke peeled off, handing over to Duncan Williams who joined with a 14.720 second lead. It could not last and Bellarosa inexorably reeled him in. Over eight laps the gap fell steadily before the Wolf moved into the lead. So it remained for the final 10 laps but Williams hung on to keep Bellarosa honest. Three more cars finished on the same lap all with solo drivers, Belotti heading Sarah Reader (TFL Racing Juno) who was suffering from a chest infection all weekend, and Anthony Gandon (Team TFT Norma). The latter pair fought hard to the end, finishing about a quarter of a second apart. “He hit me and knocked me sideways,” said Sarah of one incident toward the finish.

With the Burke/Williams Juno on pole for Sunday’s 60-minute race, it looked likely that there would be more of the same. “We’ve got a bit of a plan to get to the top of the podium,” said Darren just before the beginning. This time it was Duncan at the wheel for the start and he got away well to lead with Jono Coleman in the HGRT/RLR Ligier trying to make it three abreast at the front. Bellarosa was under Williams braking for the Melbourne hairpin with Coleman also challenging the erstwhile leader. Williams then spun and from then on it went downhill from then on for Team Excool.

Meanwhile Anthony Gandon was showing intent with the fastest lap so far. With Coleman’s Ligier now suffering from electric maladies, Gandon moved up into second place and the race at the front settled down.

Bellarosa pulled inexorably away, while Williams pulled into the pits with water loss. The car did eventually set off again but later, with Burke at the wheel, retired with alternator failure.

With 12 laps down Gandon had moved up to about 2 seconds adrift of the leader, a gap that remained relatively constant for some time. By this stage the top four positions were all held by solo drivers, none of whom were able to make their obligatory pit stops before half distance. Following the round of stops, Bellarosa pulled out a lead of over seven seconds. For a while the Italian reckoned he was being held up by a backmarker but he appeared to have the race in hand and, although Gandon closed in the final laps it was victory number seven for Ivan.

Gugliemli Belotti ensured that there were two Wolf drivers on the podium while the suffering Sarah Reader determinedly took fourth. Towards the end, the lady was chasing a possibly troubled Belotti hard. “You could smell his brakes a mile off,” she reported.