The twelfth round of the Argentinian Touring Car Championship (TC 2000) held last weekend at San Luis, left one men as the great winner. Omar Martínez driving his factory Toyota Corolla took his first victory in a very complicates season for him in the category. Gabriel Furlán with a Mitsubishi Lancer scored second and Daniel Cingolani in his return race arrived third in a privateer Chevrolet Astra.
Since the activity in the track started the dirt in the track became an important portagonist of the TC 2000 show in San Luis. On saturday this situation caused lots of strange moves all around the 4612 mts. of length.
Omar Martínez knew very well he was a candidate for this competition for different reasons. Seven where he didn`t even scored any point, almost no ballast in his Corolla and winner in this circuit when Turismo Carretera disputed it round this year put the 1999 champion as a serious contender.
On sunday Martínez confirmed his superiority over the rest of the field by taking the first short morning race, while Furlán won the second.
The starting grid shown some sourprises with many important drivers in the back of the field such as both HRA drivers, Guillermo Ortelli and J.M. Silva, both factory Ford drivers, the championship leader, Ponce de León and Walter Hernández. This was due to the situations lived in the track during both morning races.
In the moment of the green light, Martínez quickly took the leadership despite the try of Furlán to jump of position. However the emotion of the start was cut in the moment the Pace Car enter because of an accident in the first lap of race. Hernández was the only of the top drivers involved and retired. The sadness for him was more than obvius. He had a great car, but a puncture in the morning short race put him in the back for the main event and couldn`t avoid Gastón Casserta`s Mitsubishi Lancer, also involved in the first lap accident. WIth this DNF, Hernández is out the championship fight.
For the third lap the full speed returned. In a couple of laps Martínez and Furlán made a gap between them and the third of the moment, Basso. However for the Honda Civic driver it was a short race. He retired in lap nine with the gearbox broken.
Five laps later, while Martínez was in his own business, from the Ford box came the call to Ponce de León who couldn`t advance much. The only Ford Focus alive in San Luis made a pitstop to tire change. From no on, Ponce became in the fastest of the track.
In the same moment, Fabricio Pezzini, the native driver, was in a making a great perfonmance with a privateer Honca Civic until the problems appeared in his car. He was fourth in his return race and in front his people.
A fantastic argued between both former F-1 drivers, Norberto Fontana and Esteban Tuero and the Alfa Romeo driver, J.M. López trying to reach good points ended with Tuero out in a risky move when tried to overtake both competitors in the same turn. Anotehr situation that bring the Pace Car again to neutralize the actions.
While the Pace Car was in track, Fontana`s Toyota Corolla finished the aspirations of the champion to cut the gap in the standings against Ponce de León. Norberto retiered and saw the last part of the race sit in the front of his machine in silence, with a face that says it everything.
The Pace Car retired and the final dispute of the competitions started.
Martínez and Furlán built again a gap with the rest of the field.
The fight for the last step in the podium became fascinating with many drivers wanting the podium.
The DNF continued with López, Ortelli and García, all of them with marks of the battle in the cars.
In lap 23, Cingolani passed Satorra`s Ford Escort for third place.
A couple of laps later Fabián Yannantuoni tried the same but with different luck. In a very polemical friction both cars crossed the track and were hit by Chiristian Ledesma`s Chevrolet Astra and the Chilean, Julio Infante who couldn`t save him from the melee.
Because of this situation the red flag appeared to finish the race three laps before complete the 100% lenght.
Only six cars arrived to the end. Both championship contenders, Silva and Ponce de León, who fought all the race in the back took fourth and sixth places respectively.
For Omar Martínez was a great weekend. His Toyota Corolla was for the first time of the season in the best level and Martínez knew very well who to use it.
¨It was a fantastic and smooth race for mi. But very complicated for everyone since the start due to the track and the dirt on it. Since the green light I knew the car I had I knew that if I did no mistake I couldn't loose this race¨, commented the Toyota driver.
This 22th. victory arrived for Martínez in a very imortant moment thinking in the 2004 season. On saturday Martínez confirmed he will not continue next year in the Toyota Team Argentina, and now is ready to start negociation the third driver with more victories in TC 2000 history.
With only two rounds to the end of the season, Ponce de León leads with 107 points. Silva is the new second with 87, while Fontana is now third with 85 units. Is the first time since Norberto jumped to the leadership in 2002 season that he is not in the first two places of the championship.
TC 2000 shedule will continue on November 3rd. at the Oscar Cabalén Circuit, located at Cordoba city. The 2003 TC 2000 Champion may have a different owner after next round.