SPEED EuroSeries – Imola:
At a baking hot Imola, the SPEED EuroSeries cooked-up a treat as a tasty part of the Eurosport-supported FIA European Touring Car Championship meeting.
With six manufacturers in the grid and 9 new drivers entered, the race saw the first foray of the brand new Tatuus PY-012 chassis in the SPEED EuroSeries arena and the excellently presented team dutifully rolled out two cars for the race, the factory machine driven by GP2 ace, Davide Rigon, and a customer car run by the Bi & Bi Racing team with Mariano Bellin and Rinaldo Vito taking the helm.
Also new to the series was the AD Team Tiga outfit, with LMP2 stalwart Mike Newton and former SPEED frontrunner, Dean Stirling, earning the Tiga’s stripes in the cauldron of the Bolognese circuit. The car, built on a steel frame chassis rather than the caron-fibre tubs of the majority of the field, is in development with the team aiming to prove technology and talent to be transferred to a new chassis for 2013.
On Saturday morning, the teams took to the track for free practice. The session times are never an accurate indicator of form with competitors running cars in any configuration they chose but it clearly pointed to the dominant figure of Ivan Bellarosa looking hard to beat in his Wolf GB08.
Come qualifying though and the early pace was set by the cars from the British manufacturer Juno which were setting the pace, with former pole-position man Darren Burke topping the times after 20 minutes in the factory Juno he shares with owner Duncan Williams, until he was unseated by the Sarah Reader and Garry Findlay car prepared by TFL Racing. Findlay, making his first appearance in the series, had just one test prior to the event in the car and was showing promise early on.
Just four minutes later though and the Tatuus showed its class. A time of 1.47.954 by Rigon put the new chassis atop the time screens and he continued to improve on it as Bellarosa joined the fray. It took some ten minutes before the Wolf driver made his move. A 1.46.00 lap meant the winner of all but one of the SPEED 2012 was back where he has so often been at the top of the times.
Latecomers to the session were the two Line Race Wolf GB08s, the second car, driven by French new comer, Yann Zimmer, was quick to impress. After 2 laps he was in fifth, 3: third. After 5 laps, with a 1 minute 46.5 lap time, he was second – and there was still 15 minutes to go.
With the Junos unable to make further inroads until Burke moved up to 4th with 2 minutes to go, it looked like the battle for the top three places was between Rigon, Zimmer and Bellarosa. The lap times kept coming down and with 6 minutes left they were within a second of each other with Bellarosa leading. With one minute left on the clock, he exrtended the gap to Zimmer to 8 tenths of a second and that looked to be it until at the death he popped in a further 1.45.00. Rigon followed that up with 1.45.6 moving ahead of Zimmer into second whilst the Frenchman, baulked on track by slower cars, claimed third.
The race is to follow…