Andrea in Wonderland! Right from the start of the Eurocup season one man had led the pack, but the trip north to Britain for round six shook up the standings. And after two wet races (with a downpour at the start of the Super Sprint), Ryan...
Andrea in Wonderland!
Right from the start of the Eurocup season one man had led the pack, but the trip north to Britain for round six shook up the standings. And after two wet races (with a downpour at the start of the Super Sprint), Ryan Sharp (Jenzer Motorsport) had his championship lead taken from him at Donington, only to be handed to none other than Andrea Belicchi. The Italian will take to the legendary Spa track in the overall top spot, and with a few good memories to spur him on.
The AFC Motorsport driver showed great control and drew on his experience to snatch two superb victories from under the noses of his rivals in the championship top five: Sharp, Mondini, Jani and Bell. Having already won the first race of the year at Monza, Belicchi took advantage of the other drivers' errors, as well as the ferocious battles between Jani (Dams) and Danielsson (SRTS), and between Bell and Sharp.
In both outings Belicchi's tactic was to follow the leaders, lying in wait for the slightest fault before moving into the lead. Each time he was solid at the front, leaving no chance for the chasing pack. His three race wins and two third place finishes put the Italian in the number one position overall, ahead of Mondini (EuroInternational), who despite not being entirely happy on the British track stays in sight of the leader. Sharp will take mixed feelings with him from his home round, as he was downgraded from third across the line in the Grand Race for a coming-together and for overtaking under a yellow flag. In race two he could only manage 11th, having spent much of the race up in third.
The weekend started well for Robert Bell, who took second in race one and pole position for Sunday's Super Sprint. But he soon found himself in trouble, running off the track on turn one as he duelled with Sharp for the lead. But the David Price team driver moves up to fourth in the general standings.
Just behind him comes Neel Jani, who dominated at Brno with two poles and two race wins. Donington saw him take a fourth pole position on the run, but this was not enough to ensure him a big-points weekend.
A communications problem with his pit team on Saturday lost him the chance of a podium finish, though he pulled things back in the Super Sprint, taking fifth place.
This makes it five drivers all slightly spaced out in the championship who lead the way in this year's Eurocup. Spa remains a special circuit. And in the forthcoming round, two men will have a psychological advantage over the others. Jani finished on the podium finish in all of last year's three races here, and will be a formidable adversary looking to make his mark. Belicchi took one podium finish, one race win... and one absence for a very special reason: his wedding, which he celebrated the day after his very first victory in FR V6.
He'll therefore be heading to Spa with very special memories, and this time as championship leader. "But it's too early to be talking about the title," says Andréa. "We still have eight races left and there are a number of drivers vying for the trophy. I'm not making special plans, I'm taking things one race at a time. Spa is obviously unforgettable for me because it was here that I won my first race in V6 last year, before heading off to get married in Italy the next day."
But we mustn't forget Bell, Sharp and Mondini, who still have the title in their sights, as well as Barth (Interwetten.com) and Campaniço (Cram Compétition) a little further back. Another one to watch is Montanari, the new Victory Eng. SpA driver, who made a spectacular debut at Donington, taking two podium finishes (3rd and 2nd) showing control and talent. Elsewhere, we should note that Maldonado (Venezuela) replaces Martinez Leon (Cram Competition).
A wide open battle, now more than ever. And at Spa, nothing is ever certain, as the weather can change at any moment, and always has the last word.
<pre> Classification after 6 rounds* 1) A.Belicchi (AFC Motorsport) 164 points 2) G.Mondini (EuroInternational) 145 pts 3) R.Sharp (Jenzer Motorsport) 143 pts 4) N.Jani (Dams) 101 pts 5) R.Bell (David Price Racing) 94 pts 6) S.Barth (Interwetten.com) 82 pts 7) C.Campaniço (Cram Competition) 74 pts 8) R.Kerr (Victory Eng. SpA) 70 pts 9) S.Proetto (EuroInternational) 58 pts 10) J.Van Lagen (Interwetten.com) 57 pts
Pending to national appeal made by entrant n°4 (Ryan Sharp, Jenzer Motorsport), after race 1, in Donington.