ETCC: Imola: Race notes

WEATHER: Sunny and hot, with a dry track. TARQUINI WINS BOTH RACES AND CLOSES IN DIRK MÃœLLER STILL IN THE LEAD WITH A 7-POINT MARGIN Alfa Romeo returned to their dominating ways on home ground, before a large and cheering crowd. The AutoDelta...

WEATHER: Sunny and hot, with a dry track.


Alfa Romeo returned to their dominating ways on home ground, before a large and cheering crowd. The AutoDelta red cars finished 1-2-3 in both races, like in Valencia earlier this year, though Augusto Farfus was later penalized in the second race. Gabriele Tarquini came home twice in first, and significantly closed the gap from the championship lead. The Italian driver, who was fourth in the Drivers' classification, 20 points behind, before Imola, moved up to second and reduced the gap to only 7 points. Dirk Müller retained the lead, while Jörg Müller and Andy Priaulx are now equal in third place, only one point behind Tarquini. The Championship is still wide open, with four drivers in 8 points, with four rounds to go.

The first race was quite uneventful, nearly anaesthetized by the Alfa Romeo supremacy. Tarquini and Giovanardi led from the lights to the flag, and only Farfus's third place was endangered by Gené, Priaulx and Tavano.

Race 2 was a totally different story, with the BMWs on top of the reverse grid, and the Alfas obliged to fight their way through the field. A number of overtaking manoeuvres thrilling the crowd, until the race turned to drama. After two collisions eliminated J. Müller and Priaulx, a spectacular pile-up in front of the main grandstand involved Zanardi, Tavano and D'Aste, resulting in a safety-car period. Though the race was neutralized for three laps, this phase turned to be crucial for the final result, and it might even influence the title fight because of the additional point earned by D. Müller. Farfus did not comply with the safety-car procedure, as he let the distance between the Tarquini-Giovanardi duo and his own car exceed the 5-car length. The Stewards imposed a drive-through penalty on him, which cannot be appealed; because the penalty was given at the end of the race, it was turned into a 30-second time penalty.

In the Independents Trophy, Oregon Team's Salvatore Tavano won the first race, but the hero of the day was Alessandro Balzan, who won the second race in the JAS Motorsport Honda Civic, and also finished sixth overall, scoring his and Honda's first points of the season. Balzan has now moved to second in the Trophy, 29 points behind Tom Coronel. Tavano's team-mate, Michele Bartyan, came home seventh in Race 2, also scoring his first championship points.


The three Alfa Romeo drivers make the pace

Three drivers - D'Aste, Grunert and Harrison, 16th, 17th and 20th after qualifying - were demoted to the back of the grid because of engine changes. At the start the three Alfas managed to maintain the top positions, while the BMWs were elbowing their way in the middle of the field. Tarquini was leading, chased by Giovanardi; Farfus and Gené were fighting for third. During the first lap Rangoni went wide at the Villeneuve, ran over the gravel and rejoined after dropping from 7th to 19th, but then retired.

García defends his eighth place from a pack of wolves

Farfus managed to reject Gené's assault, while Priaulx was closely chasing Tavano. On lap 2, J. Müller overtook García moving up to second; Rydell stole ninth from Balzan. A group of six drivers - García, Rydell, Balzan, Diefenbacher, Coronel and D. Müller - was involved in a breathtaking fight for the eighth position, which was worth the pole for the second race. On lap 3, D. Müller overtook Coronel. On lap 4, Diefenbacher overtook Balzan, but the Italian regained the 10th position, with D. Müller and Coronel trying to benefit from the situation. The Tarquini-Giovanardi duo increased its leading margin, while Rydell was biting García's rear bumper.

Tavano wins the Independents Trophy

On lap 7, Rydell hit the tyres at the Villeneuve chicane and immediately lost two positions to D. Müller and Balzan, dropping from ninth to 11th. Zanardi won two places overtaking Bartyan and Diefenbacher, moving up to 13th. Farfus was sweating to defend his third position from the assaults of Gené, Tavano and Priaulx. On lap 10, Priaulx was able to dive inside Tavano at the exit of the Tosa, and finally got past him at the Piratella. D. Müller overtook García, winning a crucial eighth position and the right to start from the pole in Race 2.

Tarquini, Giovanardi and Farfus signed an important 1-2-3 for Alfa, while Gené, Priaulx, Tavano (first of the Independents), J. and D. Müller scored the remaining points.


Jörg Müller and García clash and retire

The Müllers and Priaulx took the lead at the start, chased by Tavano, Gené and Giovanardi. On the first lap, the latter overtook Gené: J. Müller was leading, but he lost his car at the Variante Alta and wento onto the grass. He rejoined but collided with García a few hundred metres further on; both remained stranded in the gravel trap. D. Müller inherited the lead, from Priaulx and Giovanardi, who had overtaken Gené and Tavano.

Priaulx retires after a collision with Tavano

On lap 2, Giovanardi took the lead, passing Priaulx at the Villeneuve and than D. Müller at the Variante Alta. Tarquini moved up to fourth, overtaking Gené and Tavano. The latter slipped down from fourth to seventh, behind Farfus. Coronel was closely chasing him in eighth position, followed by a train of five cars: Rydell, Balzan, Zanardi, D'Aste and Bartyan. On lap 3, Farfus overtook Gené at the Tosa. Tarquini jumped Priaulx at the Piratella and moved on to third. The Englishman lost two other positions to Farfus and Gené, then collided with Tavano at the Variante Bassa and retired.

A pile-up involves Zanardi, Tavano and D'Aste

On lap 4, Zanardi spun off at the Variante Bass, brushed Coronel and hit Tavano, who was T-boned by D'Aste. The safety-car intervened, while Tavano was rescued, and escaped with aching back and ribs. The other two were unscathed: "I don't know what happened, it seemed I have lost my brakes," Zanardi said. The safety car circulated for three laps and the race restarted with four to go.

Alessandro Balzan gives Honda its first points

On lap 8, Tarquini took the lead from Giovanardi at the Tosa. In the final three laps, the SEATs of Gené and Rydell were chasing closely D. Müller, who managed to resist. Tarquini, Giovanardi and Farfus encored their 1-2-3, however the Brazilian youngster was penalized by 30 seconds, and demoted to 11th, for creating a gap during the safety-car phase which enabled his two team-mates to pull away. Thus D. Müller was classified third, from Gené and Rydell. Balzan won the Independents Trophy scoring his and Honda's first points in the season. Bartyan and Diefenbacher claimed the last two positions in the points.


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Series General
Drivers Andy Priaulx , Tom Coronel , Jorg Muller , Augusto Farfus , Alessandro Balzan , Gabriele Tarquini , Salvatore Tavano