Luigi Ferrara enjoyed a winning weekend in the V-Action Racing Alfa Romeo Giulietta when TCR Italy headed to the Misano Adriatico circuit last weekend for its third round of the season, having previously visited Imola and Paul Ricard.
Ferrara arrived at Misano leading the Drivers' championship standings thanks to his double victory at the season opener in Imola and despite the fact that he didn’t score in France last month.
However that unrewarding weekend at Paul Ricard meant his advantage at the top had shrunk to just 3.5 points from the SEAT Motorsport Italia pairing of Salvatore Tavano and Matteo Greco who share a SEAT León.
At Paul Ricard the victories had gone to Pit Lane Competizioni's Andrea Larini (Cupra) and Nicola Baldan (Hyundai) who were ranking third and fourth in the classification, 9 and 9.5 points from the leader respectively as the series headed for Misano.
When the championship had visited Misano last year, Baldan had claimed his first win on his way to eventually clinch the Italian crown while Eric Scalvini had won the second race.
This year’s visit featured a record field of 32 cars. Daniele Cappellari (Volkswagen Golf GTI), Nello Nataloni (Opel Astra) and Giuseppe Montalbano (SEAT León DSG) all made their first appearance in the current season while Felix Wimmer (Wimmer Motorsport Cupra DSG) and Edoardo Cappello (Otto Motorsport Alfa Romeo Giulietta) both made their debut in the championship.
When the cars took to the track at Misano Ferrara bounced straight back to his Imola form as he claimed pole position for Race 1. The V-Action Racing driver posted the fastest lap of 1:42.499 with only three minutes of the qualifying session remaining.
Immediately afterwards Tavano drove his SEAT León to complete a lap in 1:42.799 that gave him the second place on the grid while Lorenzo Nicoli qualified third in his MM Motorsport Honda Civic FK2 with a lap of 1:42.898.
None of the other competitors was able to break the 1:43 wall including BRC Racing’s Scalvini who had topped the timesheet for much of the session in his Hyundai i30 N; Scalvini was not able to answer the improvements of his rivals in the final moments and had to settle in fourth position with the time of 1:43.054.
The third row of the grid for Race 1 was filled out by Massimiliano Mugelli’s MM Motorsport Honda Civic FK7 (1:43.191) and Plamen Kralev’s Kraf Racing Audi RS3 LMS (1:43.198).
Jürgen Schmarl (Target Competition Honda FK2), Enrico Bettera (Pit Lane Competizioni Audi), José Rodrigues (Target Competition Honda FK2) and Davide Nardilli (MM Motorsport Honda FK2) rounded off the top ten.
Defending champion Baldan (Pit Lane Competizioni Hyundai) qualified in 11th position, while TCR Italy newcomer Wimmer set the 14th fastest lap and topped the DSG Trophy field.
When the lights turned green Ferrara made good use of pole position in his Alfa Romeo Giulietta and led all the way to the chequered flag, followed by Tavano and Kralev.
For most of the race Tavano was chased by Nicoli and with ten minutes left on the clock Nicoli succeeded in overtaking Tavano but soon afterwards spun off and rejoined to finish ninth.
With Kralev comfortably in third, Scalvini and Schmarl made contact with two laps to go while fighting for fourth. This allowed Mugelli to climb to fifth ahead of Schmarl.
In the DSG Trophy Giuseppe Montalbano led a BF Motorsport 1-2-3 ahead of fellow Cupra drivers Matteo Bergonzini and Alessandro Thellung.
The victory helped Ferrara to stretch a bit his leading margin in the championship standings; however, as Tavano posted the race’s fastest lap the gap between overnight had only widened to 8.5 points.
Come Race 2 and it was Schmarl who claimed his maiden TCR Italy win. The Austrian and his Honda Civic FK2 crossed the finishing line in second position, close behind Larini; however, the latter was given a 25-second time penalty for an infringement during the restart after the safety car that dropped him to 15th.
Photos: Alfa Romeo Giulietta TCR - TCR Italy 2018
Ferrara in the Giulietta and MM Motorsport teammates Mugelli and Nicoli were classified second, third and fourth immediately behind Schmarl.
At the start of Race 2, Larini had sprinted from the pole and led from Marco Pellegrini, Schmarl, Scalvini, Kralev, Greco and Ferrara, but two different pile ups resulted in the race being red flagged.
When the race restarted behind the Safety Car, eight cars were missing: Argenti’s Opel, Bernazzani’s Peugeot, the Audis of Bettera and Dionisio, the Cupras of Thellung and Gagliano, the Hondas of Rodrigues and Nardilli.
Larini led for the whole race, while the drivers behind delivered a number of thrilling fights for the positions and there were several contacts. Kralev’s Audi RS3 LMS and Pellegrini’s Civic FK2 collided and retired while fighting for third; in another incident, Scalvini’s Hyundai i30 N was sent into a spin by Greco’s Cupra while fighting for fifth. Greco was then given a drive through.
During the closing laps Ferrara managed to overtake Schmarl, but the Austrian retook the position and was handed the victory, courtesy of Larini’s penalty.
Championship newcomers Cappello in the Otto Motorsport Giulietta and Giuseppe Montalbano in the BF Motorsport SEAT León finished fifth and sixth respectively, with the latter encoring his victory in the DSG Trophy race.
With the pairing of Greco-Tavano not scoring, Ferrara further increased his leading margin in the standings to 23.5 points; Schmarl moved up to fourth in the classification, 37 points behind.
The championship will resume at Mugello on 14-15 July.