Only 500mts in front of the field needed current champion Gabriel Ponce de León (Ford Focus Nº 1) to win the tenth round of the Argentinian Touring Car Championship (TC 2000) disputed yesterday at San Rafael, leaving Fabián Yannantuoni (Honda Civic Nº 24) in second, who led 48 and a half of the 49 laps of race. The former Formula One driver Esteban Tuero (Volkswagen Polo Nº 30) completed the podium.
Ponce de León grabbed his seventh career victory in an unexpected way, but not because of that he didn`t deserve it. The quality of the two times champion at San Rafael was that he never gave up, despite it seemed impossible to beat the Honda yesterday. Ponce de León pushed hard since the green light to the chequered flag and took advantage of the small mistakes made by his rivals to pass in a very tight track. "This is the first time I win a race in the last lap. I truly didn`t expect it", expressed the 24 years old driver after taking his second victory of the season.
A difficult fight had the winner until reach second place. It took 18 laps to pass Norberto Fontana (Toyota Corrola Nº 3). "He was late in a break and I passed him". Later another 17 laps to leave behind Tuero.
The only "easy" part was the moment of jump to the leadership. The gear box of the leader Honda didn`t respond in the last lap, and the Ford men, who was in the heels of Yannantuoni, pass him in front of the view of thousands of fans.
This victory put Ponce de León second in the standings, but 45 behind the leader, Christian Ledesma. About his chances to take his third TC 2000 championship, he said: "It`s hard, but we are going to try it, although it`s not up to us, it depends of Chrisitan as well".
Despite nobody want`s to loose a race in the way Yannantuoni did yesterday, the second place is another very good result for the Honda factory driver.
Yannantuoni won three weeks ago at Río Cuarto Raceway and he almost repeats. Something not easy in the series this days. "I lost the fourth gear in the last lap. I completed the race with fifth gear", was his explanation.
Yannantuoni suffered problem of his teammate Juan M. Silva last year in this same circuit. The 1999 champion was leading and six laps before the chequered flag, the gearbox put the victory in hands of Yannantuoni, who was in a privateer Civic that time. It was the first in the highest of the podium for him.
The Honda Racing Argentina finished for the second time at the gates of the victory at San Rafael, where they did won in 2002 with Guillermo Ortelli.
However, Yannantuoni expressed his support to the team in the press conference, before he left to leave behind the media and the fans.
Yannanuoni joined Honda as the third driver, however his past results put him very close to Silva in the standings, besides in he gave the team their only victory this season.
Once again, Tuero drove an smooth and clean race with his old, but reliable Volkswagen Polo. The former Minardi driver started this year with his own private team and he keeps sopurpising the factory cars, despite the tight budget he has. "I`m really happy with this result. I want a thank to the few people that work in the team", he commented, as always, without to much words.
Tuero started on third and advance one place because Oscar Fineschi, second in the starting gird, iniciated the race from the pits with problems in his Honda.
Tuero didn`t had the chance to follow the leader and stay with his strategy. He defend his position from Ponce de León`s attack, until the Focus left behind the Polo. From that point, all the Tuero did was to stay cool and added his third podium this season.
Ledesma arrived sixth in the track, but he was penalysed (like at Río Cuarto) with 30 seconds because of a bump to Nicolás Vuyovich (Toyota Corolla Nº 4) when he passed him on lap 42. He ended 17th.
"I`m tired of this. Despite the advantage in the championship still good, I`m not cool. They took me eleven points in the past two races", mentioned Ledemsa, not much happy with the stewards.
After all, Ledesma leads the standings with 123 points, followed by Ponce de León and Marcelo Bugliotti, who share the second place in 78 points. Gabriel Furlán (Mitsubishi Lancer Nº 8), Silva and Tuero compelte top six positions.
On October 10th. will continue the TC 2000 shedule at Bahía Blanca Raceway.