The Ford Focus duo of Gabriel Ponce de León, current champion, and Patricio Di Palma achieved the victory at the "200km of Buenos Aires", twelfth round of the Argentinian Touring Car Championship (TC 2000) disputed yesterday, where both Chevrolet Astra cars of Christian Ledesma / Alain Menu and Marcelo Bubliotti / David Muffato completed the podium in front of a crowd.
It was a challenge. Everyone knew that this competition would be different, and it surely was. "The 200km of Buenos Aires" were a real party with almost 70000 people present around the circuit to see over 30 cars and 60 drivers in a fantastic battle during almost one and a half hour.
The factory Ford Focus of the Berta Motorsport team driven by Ponce de León and Di Palma showed a fantastic level since the green light appeared.
In the first half of the race, the two times champion stayed cool in second place knowing it was a long race, different to the others of the TC 2000 shedule.
The key moment of the competition came on lap 30, when the Peugeot 307 of guest driver Henry Martin spun in front of Norberto Fontana, leader at that time with Toyota Corolla. The result was Fontana out of the race after he tried to avoid the Peugeot. Inmdiately, Ponce received the order to go to pits and make the change with Di Palma, in the same moment the Pace Car was coming out.
"Really this victory is of the team. I told there was oil in the track and two cars spun, so they gave me the order to make the needed pit stop. That was the key to take the race", explained later Ponce de León.
Patricio Di Palma, in his first competition in the series, received the car on third place and quickly showed his talent by leaving behind both factory Honda Civic driven guests drivers, Brazilian Carlos Bueno and Rickard Rydell, future factory driver of Seat in the WTCC.
"The car came before to pits, and Gabriel told me it was oversteerring, so I inciated carefuly until I took some confindence with the Focus", commented Di Palma about the critical moment.
The record of Di Palma in the Oscar A. Gálvez Racetrack is more than interesting. The most important victoreis of his career were here: yesterday in TC 2000 and three times in Turismo Carretera: In 1996, with Chevrolet in the "Two hours" along Emilio Satriano, and later on `03 and this year, both times with Torino. In the other hand, this was the first time that Ponce de León wins in the most important circuit of Argentina.
The second place had the Chevrolet duo of Ledesma / Menu. Ledesma arrived as comfortably leader in the standings, and the Swiss as the star between the guest drivers for this "200km of Buenos Aires".
Ledesma drove a clean and smooth race in the first part and left the Astra on sixth place to the former BTCC champion.
Menu showed why he was the star of the race. Despite the overwhelming gap with the head of the race, the European raced over a second faster the rest of the guest drivers. Besides, he took advantage with the retirement of both Honda of Silva / Rydell and Yannantuoni / Bueno.
"I`m very close, but is not over", was the comment of Ledesma about the chances in the championship of the category, where he leads with 146 points, followed by Ponce with 105, when it rest two races to the end.
Who also commented about the championship, was Ponce de León. "I thought Ledesma would take the title here. Is almost impossible , I must win the two rounds left, although the races should be race still", he said.
The man that left unhappy the circuit was Fontana. The former F1 driver gave a great show to the fans in the first part of the race. Since his start on seventh place, Fontana passed several cars until take the leadership on lap 27, two before his retirement. The 20 poins he added for the standings (the category took the classification on lap 28 for the current drivers of the series, before the pits stop) wasn`t enough for the 2002 champion, who wanted the victory in a complicated year in the series. So unhappy as he, was Kelvin Burt. The British was about to take the wheel when Fontana spun and retired. Uselles trip from Europe to Argentina for him.
The presence of a Formula One car after six years in Argentina , was something that the crowd enjoyed. The BMW-Williams, driven by test driver, Marc Gene, received the support of the fans, which sopurprised the Spaniard. The show was completed with a challenge between the F1 and Silva's Honda Civic. The winner is obvius.
Final top ten classification: P. de León-Di Palma; Ledesma-Menu; Bugliotti-Muffato; Belloso-J. Di Palma; Beitía-Bessone; Basso-Reid; Moriatis-Rex; Spataro-Moro; Infante-Salazar and Carducci-Mor.
What left the "200km of Buenos Aries" is surely positive of the category, that will try to become the race in a classic of the international shedule of touring cars drivers in the next years.
However, there`s still another big challenge for the TC 2000 people: The following race at the oval circuit of Rafaela, province of Santa Fé on November 14th, for the first time.