Avelon Wolf and Pegasus Ligier score wins in Spa
Wolf driver Ivan Bellarosa dominated round 3 of the SPEED EuroSeries event at Spa Francorchamps on Friday afternoon, winning from the Pegasus Racing Ligier JS53 of Julien Schell and Fred “Mako” Makowiecki and the TFT Norma of Jean Lou Rihon and Nick Padmore. It was the third succesive race win for the Italian.
On Saturday, a wet race saw the Pegasus car handle the treacherous conditions better than the field to score the team’s first SPEED victory ahead of series debutants Federicho Vecchi and Ronnie Valori in the Line Race Wolf in second and the promising young French racer, Anthony Gandon in the other TFT Norma third
The SPEED EuroSeries arrived at Spa Francorchamps for the FIA World Endurance Championship event with increasing numbers of challengers for points including Fred Makowiecki and Julien Schell in a works’ Ligier JS53 prepared by Pegasus Racing and the 2011 race winning TFT Norma of Nick Padmore and Jean Lou Rihon looking to upset the dominance of Ivan Bellarosa in his Wolf GB08, winner of the opening two races at Le Castellet.
Qualifying saw other new faces on the grid. The Springbox team, with four Ligiers in their equipe for the event, featured returning SPEED racers Christophe Burrick and Lars Viljoen. Without any time in the car prior to the event their learning curve was as steep as the legendary Eau Rouge hill at the circuit but both acquitted themselves well. Also in the paddock for the first time was Italian F3 specialists, Line Race. The team, with two Wolf GB08 chassis to their name, arrived with one car for this event and two young Italian drivers in Federico Vecchi and Ronnie Valori who immediately impressed with a third place in qualifying just behind the Pegasus Racing Ligier in second. Neither could get close to Bellarosa however. The Italian was 1.9 seconds quicker around the legendary track than his nearest rivals and picked up another valuable Pole Position. Runner-up at Le Castellet, the Darren Burke/Duncan Williams Team Excool Juno was suffering some significant handling issues which Burke skilfully drove around to put the car fourth.
In the one incident of note during the session, Jean Pierre Mothe, driving an Ibanez Racing Wolf GB08, was unfortunate to be involved in an incident which put his car out of the event and saw him join Sarah Reader (TFL Racing Juno) on the sidelines, her car having suffered technical problems in the week prior to the meeting. Mothe’s driving partner, Stefane Raffin, jumped into the D.B.Auto Wolf for the second half of qualifying and would race with Daniel Bassora for the weekend.
The FIA World Endurance Championship event preparation was thorough and the venue looked magnificent, but the one variable – as is so often the case at Spa – that even the FIA/ACO collaboration could not control, was the weather. With rain forecast throughout the weekend, SPEED drivers and teams were fortunate then to get a dry, if cloudy, qualifying session – and they were even more fortunate when the clouds cleared and the sun shone for the start of the Round 3 of the 2012 SPEED EuroSeries.
At the rolling start, Bellarosa was picked off by Burke who lead the pack from La Source down the hill and into the imposing Eau Rouge but by the time the field came past next, the Italian had re-established the lead from a hard charging “Mako’ with Valori in third and Burke fourth. Philippe Alliot, who had qualified 6th, dropped back at the start but clawed his way up the field to have an net increase of one position by the end of lap two, great stuff from the veteran star who would run as high up as fourth during the race.
For the opening 10 laps, Bellarosa tried to get away, building a lead over Mako and Valori and posting the races’ fastest lap on lap 5 with an average speed of 181.6kph. The challenge from Valori suffered a set-back on lap 10 when the car pulled into the pits and remained there for two laps whilst the team worked to cure a problem. Once it was back on course, the early promise did not return as the car carried the issue and a 7th placed finish was a good result in trying circumstances.
French youngster, Anthony Gandon, was making steady progress all this time. Driving the #96 TFT Racing Norma he has started 8th and quietly got on with the job of making up places. When the pit stop window opened for single drivers and Bellarosa pitted on lap 17, Gandon had moved up to 5th. With his own 45 second stop done, Gandon rejoined in 9th place and fought hard to post an excellent 4th place finish.
After the pitstops, Schell briefly headed Bellarosa but it was short-lived. On lap 45, the Wolf was back in front and heading comfortably for the ninth straight SPEED victory for Bellarosa, extending the championship lead. He was joined on the podium by the Pegasus drivers and Rihon & Padmore who showed strongly.
After the race, the stewards applied the race win success ballast regulation which saw the Wolf receive an extra 20kg of weight for race 2.
Having evaded the promised monsoon conditions to get dry practices and race 1 it was only to be expected that Saturday would be dull, cold and wet and getting wetter. With no time available in the WEC schedule for even two familiarisation laps or a chance for the second driver to feel the wet surface, the 18 car Speed EuroSeries grid followed the new Honda Civic pace car away from the green flag and into the murk and spray. Safely round the lap and the Civic pulls in as the red lights go out and we have the 60 minute race underway.
Ivan Bellarosa got the inside line at the first corner but Julian Schell and the Ligier were already showing a menacing stance and the blue machine was in front at the end of lap one. Duncan Williams had the Juno in third with Nick Padmore in the TFT Norma next ahead of the young Italian Federico Vecchi in the Line Race Wolf and the similar car of Greg Caton next up.
Sadly, the Williams Juno went off, was damaged and stopped on lap 3 and the Mastroberadino Wolf only completed 6 laps in the event before the engine gave way.
By lap 5 Schell had a 2.7 seconds advantage over Padmore and Vecchi with Bellarosa struggling with the water down in fourth. However at the halfway mark the advantage was less than a second and with pitstops to be had it was going to be tight. Bellarosa carried out his mandatory 45 second stop with 27 minutes left and the others followed suit over the next 10 minutes. With five laps to run Ronnie Valori had the lead in the Line Race car ahead of the two TFT Norma’s of Jean Lou Rihon and young French ace Anthony Gandon with the Ligier, now with Fred Makowiecki at the helm next and Bellarosa.
Makowiecki was lapping nearly 5 seconds quicker than the field and actually set the fastest lap of the race on lap 20 just before the chequered flag. He passed Valori for the lead on lap 17 and proceeded to draw away as the 60 minutes ran down to the flag. A delighted Gilles Allegoet from Ligier praised the team for speed and accuracy to take the first ever race victory for the new carbon chassis JS53. Second position for Line Race’s young Italians was another first time entry and Anthony Gandon took his first car racing podium in third place making is also a three different chassis makers podium as well.
With four rounds completed, Bellarosa leads the championship from Gandon with Belotti in third place. The next round of the championship is at Imola on June 22-24 as part of the European Touring Car Championship event.