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Italian GT, Misano – Race Report
Audi Domination
 
In Free Practice Lorenzo Bontempelli, at the wheel of the Black Team 430 GT2, lost control of the car and crashed hard into the concrete wall, leaving it too badly damaged car for the race and the GT2 class down to just the Coggiola brothers’ Porsche.

Another accident, this time thankfully with less damage, involved the Audi of Alex Frassineti and the Porsche GT3 of Alessandro Balzan. Balzan was on a hot lap in qualifying and in a blind right side corner found Frassineti in the Audi struggling with electrical gremlins which had cut the power to the engine. The result was a heavy contact, but both would start the race.

The qualifying session saw Audi domination with Andrea Sonvico on pole, Davide Di Benedetto second, Stefano Colombo third for BMW but almost a second down, then the two Ferrari 458s of Valentino Fornaroli and Gabriele Lancieri.

There was then a gap of half a second to the two Porsches of Massimo Monti and Giacomo Barri. Eighth was Michela Cerruti in the second BMW. The GT Cup class saw yet again a clean sweep by the Antonelli Sport Porsches, partially because the returning Gallardo of Giorgio Sanna and Davide Stancheris was again struck by bad luck - this time it was the gearbox preventing any good laps in either qualifying session.
 
Race 1
 
Almost on the beach, the newly named Marco Simoncelli track was a very hot place in the late Saturday afternoon, with the temperature well above 30°C and with high humidity for the first race. The rather thin grid of 13 cars took the green flag, with Sonvico finding himself down to fourth into the first corner!

Di Benedetto in the second Audi was the new leader from Fornaroli, Barri, Sonvico, Lancieri, Monti, Colombo and Cerruti…but it would be a very “provisional” standing because Barri was clearly already looking at his tyres and left the door wide open to Lancieri, losing a spot. Meanwhile Sonvico was recovering places left right and center and by the end of the first lap was already third. The Porsches were already in trouble, Barri first losing a spot to the sister car of Monti, then later on the same lap also to the BMW of Colombo.

In the Cup class Sanna had quickly recovered from last on the grid and was now leading the class.

Upfront Sonvico overtook Fornaroli and began hunting Di Benedetto, some three seconds ahead. Monti had to give away his spot to Colombo without a fight, and it was sad to see the two Porsches in such trouble - okay we haven’t the Autorlando Team this year, but EbiMotors and Antonelli Sport are two other top teams in Italy; come on Avon, bring some new products!

The race, only 10 minutes in, had already settled down everywhere, because upfront the two Audis wouldn’t engage in battle and were more than happy to gain one second per lap from the two Ferraris of Mancini and Fornaroli. Colombo in the first of the BMWs was fifth but unable to make any attempt to pass the two Maranello’s machine; Monti was sixth, almost alone; then, at least, Barri in the second Porsche was able to keep behind Cerruti in the second BMW.
 
The driver changes would affect the standings slightly because both the BMWs had to stop for longer - 30seconds extra for Colombo and 15 for Cerruti. That ended any challenge for the top place by the Munich marque.
 
After the mid-part of the race the new order saw Frassineti-(Di Benedetto) leading Dindo Capello-(Sonvico) for an Audi 1-2, more than 20 seconds in front of Christian Passuti-(Monti) and followed very closely by the two Ferraris of Fabio Mancini-(Lancieri) and Stefano Comandini-(Fornaroli).

Next came Balzan-(Barri) and the two heavily penalized BMWs of Thomas Biagi-(Colombo) and Edoardo Liberati-(Cerruti).

Comandini soon attacked and passed Mancini, and some laps later did the same to Passuti for the lower spot of the podium. Upfront nothing would change before the chequered flag, with Capello unable to attack Frassineti but still doing a very good job since he hadn’t driven the R8 since last October at the last round of 2011 at Monza.

In the end it was an easy Audi one-two, with a very good third place for the Ferrari of Comandini-Fornaroli and also a good fourth for the Antonelli Sport Porsche of Monti-Passuti. Fifth was the other Porsche of Balzan-Barri, which was able to contain the attack from Biagi. Seventh finished Liberati in the second BMW and only eighth was Mancini-Lancieri in the other 458 after being stricken by some trouble during the pitstop and also some driver errors.

The Cup class was a victory for yet another part of the Audi family, the Lamborghini of Sanna-Stancheris; back with a vengeance after its absence at Mugello. The Coggiola brothers’ GT2 Porsche finished the race and so won the class.


In the end the much-loved BOP struck again, this time in favour of Audi; but the problem was still the same - the tyres. Despite all the promises, the Avons seem to work only with Audi and BMW, and doing just enough on the Ferrari side; but the Porsches are clearly racing just to finish the race. Someone has to do something very quickly, or the Championship will soon be a two horse race.
 
Race 2
 
Could the second race provide us with something different upfront? The signs weren’t too promising, with qualifying seeing yet again a pole for the Audi squad; this time for the Italian GT/Touring/Sportscar/Rally driver…Dindo Capello.

But this time the field was a little bit closer - Liberati was second, seven tenths down; Balzan third, a second down; and Comandini fourth, making four different marques in the top four positions. Fifth was Biagi, then Passuti, Mancini and Coggiola. The second Audi of Frassineti was well down the grid, thanks to some technical problems during the session.
 
The time penalties could this time perhaps shake-up the standings a little bit since both the BMWs would have to stop 15 seconds extra, as would the Audi of Di Benedetto-Frassineti, and with 10 seconds extra for Capello-Sonvico. Might we see a Porsche win this time?
 
The air temperature was a scorching 36°C as start time approached, while the asphalt was perfect for cooking an egg.

This time the start was a good one and Capello made the most of his P1 and reached the first corner still in the lead. Balzan, with two wheels on the grass, got Liberati for P2, then came Comandini, Passuti and Frassineti.
 
The Cup class quickly became a Porsche affair after Stancheris had a right rear blow out. This damaged the undertray, but other technical troubles would force the car into retirement; this probably won’t be a Lamborghini year in the lower class.
 
At the front the race was very much alive and Comandini surprise Liberati in the fastest right hand of the track to go third; but the man on fire was Frassineti, who overtook Passuti before the end of the lap. But the fireworks were not over since Comandini and Liberati exchanged their positions in the space of two corners! Maybe everyone had saved the best set of tyres for this race?

Meanwhile, Capello was slowly but consistently gaining three to five tenths every lap and was now leading with a solid margin over Balzan, who was heroically keeping everyone else behind him despite the almost total left-front rebuilding of his car that had been required after its shunt in the first qualifying session.

But Balzan’s glory would be brief - in the last corner before the main straight he left the door a little bit open and Comandini needed no further invitation; establishing himself in second. Liberati also went past on the straight and Frassineti outbraked the EbiMotors Porsche into the first corner; but Balzan is a true warrior and soon began to catch back up to the cars ahead.
 
Capello was soon more than six seconds in front of everyone else, while all the other GT3 cars were covered by just a few seconds. Frassineti completed almost the perfect recovery, overtaking Liberati under braking just before the fastest part of the track, while Balzan behind needed no further invitation and passed Liberati too with a brave move. So the new order was Capello, Comandini, Frassineti, Balzan and Liberati. Behind, both Passuti and Biagi were losing time with every lap (tyres troubles?)


The window for the driver changes was now open, but it would be a long stop for the 458 of Comandini - just after his teammate Fornaroli took the wheel of the car, he re-entered the pits with the right front pointing right, and the left side pointing left . Just a lap before, the other 458 of Mancini was also out, reason unknown.

One thing was certain, it would be a German win anyway!
 
After everyone had changed drivers the new standing was Barri-(Balzan) from Sonvico-(Capello); but it was a short lead for the EbiMotors Porsche since Sonvico overtook Barri without any trouble. Third was Cerruti-(Liberati), then Monti-(Passuti), Di Benedetto-(Frassineti) and Colombo-(Biagi). No other GT3 cars were still running. The Coggiola brothers finished the race and won the GT2 class, increasing their lead in the points standing. The Cup class, after the retirement of the Gallardo, was an all-Antonelli Motorsport affair. In the end Cicognani-Granzotto won by a lap from Bellini-Donaviti and Giondi-Negra.

Back in the GT3 class, the final part of the race saw no major dramas and would be another Audi win, this time for Sonvico and Capello. Barri was able to contain Michela Cerruti for most of his stint and scored a very good second place for Stuttgart honour; the Porsche of Monti-Passuti also taking fourth place.

The Race 1 winners Frassineti-Di Benedetto finished only sixth, almost one minute down, while the points leaders Biagi-Colombo came home fifth.
 
The new points standing see Biagi-Colombo still leading with 79, but Sonvico (orphan of Montanari this time) is now very close on 73. Third is the second Audi of Frassineti-Di Benedetto with 69, then Cerruti-Liberati with 53, one point in front of Balzan-Barri in the first of the Porsches.
 
The next round takes place this weekend at the Red Bull Ring in the beautiful Austrian countryside, as the championship makes its first trip outside Italy since 2009.

Race 1 result – here
Race 2 result – here 
 
Gabriele Tosi