Brazilian F1 ace, Enrique Bernoldi, took pole position for both races at the SPEED EuroSeries Barcelona rounds with the JD Motorsport Tatuus PY012 but it was 2012 Champion, Ivan Bellarosa in his Wolf GB08 who took the honours after a hard race 1. The second race saw Bellarosa dominant after Bernoldi retired with the Osella of Fabio Francia and David Uboldi second and a recovering Darren Burke third.
The SPEED EuroSeries 2012 season came to a close at the weekend with a Barcelona finale at which seven manufacturers competed in glorious sunshine for race honours. With the championship title already wrapped up by Italian Wolf driver, Ivan Bellarosa, the grid also included entries from series new boys, Tatuus & Osella joining the seasoned regulars of Ligier, Juno, Norma and Tiga with seven new drivers on the entry list.
With the qualifying session and both 90 minute races on the Saturday after 7 hours of testing in the preceding days, it was a hardcore event for the teams and cars.
Alessandro Latif’s Wolf was the first casualty of the day, a timing chain breaking on the engine early in the qualifying session to bring his weekend to an unfortunate end. The remainder of the field battled it out with Bellarosa posting quick early times but ultimately usurped at the top of the sheets by Bernoldi.
At the start of race 1 there was controversy. As Bellarosa pulled alongside the Tatuus, Bernoldi was adjudged by the stewards to have moved across forcing the Wolf to go 4-wheels on the grass. This put Bellarosa behind at the first corner with Darren Burke (Team Excool Juno) and the Osella of Fabio Francia getting up into the top three. Bernoldi earned himself a drive through penalty for the move which he duly took, but at a time when the field was grouping behind the safety car brought out to aid the recovery of erstwhile championship contender, Antony Gandon.
Gandon’s Norma had been running well in fifth when, heading into turn 6, it suddenly veered left and went backwards into the wall. The driver was fine but the car was damaged beyond repair at the circuit. Gandon, second in the points table, would have to sit out the evening race to wait to see whether Guglielmo Belotti, in another Wolf, would score enough points to overtake him for the second place overall. Belotti, winner of the sporting driver league for gentleman racers, claimed the latest in a series of podiums this season with third place at the end of the race and would require 6 points or more to get above Gandon in race 2.
Elsewhere, newcomers Xavier Cazabon and Angel Amilibia were making a good showing in their Norma M20FC. Having suffered electrical problems in testing the team had worked hard to fix the car and showing good pace until lap 25 when the car span out damaging the rear wing. The team showed great effort to get the repairs done in time for race 2 but by the 1 hour point of the race when all stop and driver changes had been completed, it was still Bellarosa out front with Duncan Williams now in the Team Excool Juno, the Osella and Bernoldi chasing hard. Williams was next out – a puncture forcing the car off and into retirement. Bernoldi was to suffer similar fate with a puncture followed by a broken accelerator. He would have a worse time of it in race 2 when going off at the end of the straight and burying the front end of the car in the tyre wall. It was a sad end to a fantastic first showing by the JD Motorsport team and Bernoldi who as well as pole position set the fastest lap in the race.
Veteran F1 racer Philippe Alliot, co-driving with Swiss driver Philip Plaisance, was the car catching the eye. Belotti was running in second late into the race but the Ligier JS53, recently the star of the SPEED section on the Honda stand at the Paris Motor Show, was making good progress and, with just a few laps remaining got ahead of the Italian to claim a stunning second place and pick up the Sporting Driver trophy for Plaisance.
In Race 2, the green flag lap saw Bernoldi and Bellarosa continue their battle with the cars jockeying for space. At the green light the Italian got the jump on the Brazilian and headed off into the lead before Bernoldi went off. That left Francia and the experienced Mike Newton in the AD Team Tiga challenging in third ahead of Cazabon in the Norma. The second G-Cat Racing Wolf of new boys Neil Primrose and James Swift was also making great waves, running 5th after 30 minutes. Having finished 6th in race 1 in the pairing’s first race together in the car it was a very promising debut; when on lap 19 when the car stopped with mechanical it was a disappointment for all concerned but the team worked to replace a failed alternator with the car returning to the track with 25 minutes remaining for some valuable track time for the drivers. Guglielmi Belotti was also left disappointed; his race for second in the title chase was thwarted when the car pitted and retired gifting Gandon the second place without the Frenchman having to race. Belotti can’t be too disappointed though following a great year’s racing from the Stilo Racewear man.
With 45 minutes to go of the 2012 SPEED EuroSeries season, which in just its second year of existence saw 63 drivers competing across Europe, the Osella of Fabio Francia pitted from the lead leaving Newton to take the lead of the race, the first time lap lead by a Tiga this season and a milestone event in the reborn marque’s tale. But behind him, car 45, the Champion – Bellarosa – was lying in wait for Newton to pit and hand over to Dean Stirling before taking the lead himself and heading on to secure his 24th victory of the season.
Cazabon handed over to Angel Amilibia after 27 laps from third behind Newton who waited longer – until 31 laps in – before putting Stirling into the race. Behind them Uboldi was already into his rhythm with Duncan Williams having already handed over to Burke. It was a charge to the line, disrupted by a yellow flag when the TFL Racing Juno of Fredi Briedl and Niki Leutwiler span at turn 5 and was retrieved as the shadows lengthened across the circuit. Some cars had headlights on whilst others, namely the Wolf cars, did not have headlights at all.
With 30 mins remaining, Burke was up to third behind Uboldi and Bellarosa with Stirling back out in fourth ahead of Alliot. Stirling was to suffer with some loose body work just 16 minutes from the end of the race and was forced to pit delaying his efforts further. Amilibia lead Lionel Comole who has partnered racy lady, Amandine Foulard in the other Springbox Ligier JS53 with Antonio Mastroberardino next. Foulard has been improving all season and with Lionel Comole, looked in good form. Over the closing stages the car moved up into 5th ahead of the Norma of Amilibia and behind team mate Alliot. They would finish in 4th and 5th respectively ahead of Amilibia, Stirling and Mastroberardino.
The closing stages were a formality. Bellarosa, carrying 20kg of success ballast as he has so many times this season, cruised to the win – an excellent performance by the Avelon prepared Wolf. Uboldi brought the Osella home to a podium spot in its first race with SPEED and Darren Burke closed out the top three with a solid run for the Juno.
The championship tables are available on www.speedeuroseries.com
Photos etc to follow…