FATA, FARANO, FERRARI CHALLENGE WINNERS AT MONT-TREMBLANT (MONT-TREMBLANT, PQ, CANADA, June 18) The 2007 Ferrari F430 Challenge has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable seasons in years, and the Challenge event at the stunning Le...
FATA, FARANO, FERRARI CHALLENGE WINNERS AT MONT-TREMBLANT
(MONT-TREMBLANT, PQ, CANADA, June 18) The 2007 Ferrari F430 Challenge has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable seasons in years, and the Challenge event at the stunning Le Circuit at Mont-Tremblant this weekend continued the trend. Two drivers -- Roberto Fata and John Farano -- each scored his first win in the competitive series, becoming the sixth and seventh different winners in the first nine races of the season.
The trend to new faces began in qualifying. Jeff Soffer took his first pole position by almost a half-second over Allie Ash. Soffer, racing for The Collection, is in his first year in the Challenge; Ash, from Ferrari of Washington, who won the most recent Challenge race in Montreal (run with the Canadian Grand Prix), competed in the very first Challenge event in 1993.
Scott Tucker (Boardwalk Ferrari), a winner earlier in the season, Roberto Fata (Ferrari of Long Island), Jay Lee (Ferrari of Beverly Hills), and Mike Zoi, (Shelton Ferrari) winner of three races in 2007, completed the first three rows of the grid. Farano, racing for Ferrari of Ontario, started seventh.
Twenty-eight cars were on the grid for the first race on Saturday afternoon. Soffer took an immediate lead at the green, and easily pulled away from the field. Behind the leader Ash and Lee were fighting for second, with Zoi moving up. Tucker was initially in that pack, but then an engine problem slowed him. He dropped back through the field, then retired. Zoi and Ash eventually made contact, leaving Ash's car damaged in the rear but still racing, and Zoi against the wall, out of the race.
Shortly after that incident Soffer, who was still leading, ran wide on a corner. It was a small error, but Fata was "right there," and passed for the lead. Soffer tried hard in the remaining six laps but Fata had run a strategic race and conserved his tires. His lead over Soffer was almost four seconds at one point, but Fata was encountering lapped traffic and by the final lap Soffer had caught up.
The pair crossed the finish line almost side-by side; Soffer had momentum, but not quite enough to pass. Fata's official margin of victory was .01 second. The win was Fata's first, appropriate on Father's Day weekend -- his F430 is decorated with his children's handprints. Even with a damaged car Ash took the final podium spot. Farano finished fourth, and Lee fifth.
Results of the first race set the grid for the second, giving Fata the pole with Soffer alongside, ready to resume their battle. Fata had the inside line into the first turn and easily took the lead. Soffer held second briefly but spun off on the second lap.
Fata continued to extend his lead, but behind him seven cars, including Ash, Forano, and Lee were running in a pack, literally nose to tail. There was more excitement further back, as Mike Zoi (Shelton Ferrari), Lawrence Stroll (Ferrari of Quebec), and Tucker, all of whom started far back on the grid, were trying to get through slower cars to catch the leaders.
Fata was still leading at the half-way mark, by almost five seconds over Farano, who had passed Ash. Fata's lead ended just five laps later, when a minor error and a spin allowed several cars to pass. Fata restarted with no damage to his car, but with fatal damage to his hopes for a win.
Farano took the lead but behind him Ash and Lee had contact, dropping the Washington driver from the lead pack. Skip Bennett, Ash's Ferrari of Washington teammate and another rookie in the Challenge, then moved up to third.
The top three held position to the checkered flag. Farano's margin of victory was less than a half second over Lee, with Bennett only another half second back. Behind the podium finishers Martin Burrowes (Ferrari of Quebec) finished fourth, and Fata recovered for fifth.
Stroll and Zoi were tied for the Championship points lead coming into the event. Stroll missed the first race due to a family emergency, so started at the back of the field for the second race. In 45 minutes he passed 22 cars to finish seventh in what was almost certainly the outstanding drive of the race. Zoi started only one position in front of Stroll, and finished eighth in another stunning drive.
At the podium ceremonies Motorola awards, created to recognize drivers in the series for their performance, sportsmanship, or for demonstrating the spirit of the Ferrari Challenge, were presented to Mario Gleijeses, Al Hegyi, Jay Lee, and Scott Tucker.
The Ferrari Challenge is organized by Ferrari North America, and sanctioned by the Grand American Road Racing Association. Drivers compete in specially built racing versions of the Ferrari F430, with preparation and race support handled by teams formed by authorized Ferrari dealers in North America. Preparation rules are very specific, and the series is intended to emphasize driving skill among lady and gentleman drivers. Sponsorship and support for the series comes from Motorola, Pirelli, Sabelt, and Shell.
The final event in North America of the 2007 F430 Challenge season will be at the California Speedway in Fontana, California, on August 11-12, followed by the World Finals in Italy in October. For more information on the Ferrari Challenge please visit www.ferrarichallenge.com.