Pastorelli all pace, Hommerson the cool head
The starting grid, following Pastorelli and Moncada’s relegation to the back of the field, was headed by Hommerson.
The green flag saw Sperati edge in front with a ‘jump start’ that was right on the limit. Going into turn one, Sperati led from Hommerson, Ardagna Perez, Zumerle, Wauters, Sicart, Necchi and Piancastelli. Down at the back, after an attacking start, Nicki Pastorelli was up in eleventh, tucked in behind Enrico Moncada.
Just like at Monza, the opening phase was spectacular. Kutemann spun at turn one on tyres that were still cold and Hommerson turned up the heat so much on Sperati that he locked the front wheels at the Villeneuve chicane.
Jonathan Sicart’s GranTurismo MC GT4 left his braking as late as possible to defend his position from the more powerful Trofeo’s, especially the one with Paolo Necchi on board. The excitement continued with Sperati running the Lucien Bianchibocht curve too wide, losing control and careering into the blameless Gaetano Ardagna Perez. For the third placed Columbian it was a case of déjà vu as he had been the victim of a similar incident at Monza when Manuel Villa ran into him.
So, the lead passed to Niek Hommerson, with Wauters in second (6”5 down), Zumerle (9”0), Maggi (11”9) and Pastorelli (13”4). The Dutchman’s pace was electric and he fully exploited his new tyres to sneak past Maggi, Zumerle and then Wauters.
Twenty-seven minutes from the end of the race, spots of rain began to appear on the track. However, it wasn’t heavy and only came down on certain sections of the circuit.
Pastorelli was attracting all the attention but there was lots going on down the field too, like the battle between Maggi, Necchi and Piancastelli. The young Romagna driver had enough about him to nip past the other two into fifth when they were involved in a private squabble.
On lap seven, Pastorelli posted a time of 1:41.625, one he bettered a lap later to set the race’s fastest lap time (1:41.269). The Dutchman’s aggression saw him draw up close to Hommerson and then overtake him at turn eight on lap nine.
Behind the leading pair, Paolo Necchi and Nicolò Piancastelli were going head-to-head, as were Enrico Moncada and Francesco Maggi. Having started from the very back, Moncada was now the overall leader after a series of overtaking moves. The latest one, on Necchi, was both cheeky and clinical.
While all this was going on, the Trofeo’s youngest entrant was having gearbox trouble. Nicolò Piancastelli tried his best but had no choice but to pull out.
Behind Pastorelli and Hommerson, Wauters, Zumerle and Moncada were within a second of each other. Moncada seemed to be the quickest of the trio but he was being held off by great driving from the ex-rally driver, allowing Wauters to gradually edge away.
A few laps from the end, Moncada sparked an intense duel with Zumerle with the two constantly swapping positions. In the end it was the man from Catania who made fourth place his. Up front, Pastorelli lost the lead when with a gearbox command glitch and Hommerson wasted no time in taking top spot. Pastorelli then rest the system, upped the tempo and quickly cruised into first again.
With just four minutes left on the clock, Moncada was doing all he could to get past Belgian singer, Wauters. The two were fighting hard but clean with Wauters using all his local knowledge of the circuit to take the chequered flag behind Nicki Pastorelli and Niek Hommerson. The Belgian should be considered the true race winner as guest driver Pastorelli doesn’t collect any championship points.
Behind the front four placed Pietro Zumerle, Paolo Necchi and Steven Goldstein. Goldstein’s placing (a virtual sixth) sees him move into the series lead together with his partner, Peter Sundberg, and Sergio Rota (who is not appearing at Zolder).
With ninth place overall in his pocket, Jonathan Sicart finished ahead of Peter Kutemann and so takes the GT4 championship lead.
Pastorelli doubles up despite pressure from Sundberg
The start was a smooth one and saw Pastorelli end lap one in the lead with Perez and Sundberg behind him and Petrini fourth. Things were heating up between Sundberg and Ardagna Perez, just as they were between Necchi and Petrini. Necchi, the director of MotorMedia, was in good form and stole into fourth. For Petrini the fun was just beginning as he was also overtaken by Smurra and Hommerson.
La Mazza began his comeback from down the field and by lap four he was up to eighth, just in front of Wauters and Maggi. Things were tight: the top ten drivers were within 15 seconds of one another while only three seconds separated the top three.
Ardagna Perez, despite having Sundberg on his tail, was cutting a few tenths off Pastorelli's lead as the laps went by. The Venezuelan was 1"3 down on the Dutchman and held a three tenths advantage over the Swede. Close behind Sundberg was Paolo Necchi.
Battles were taking place all over the track and they were often on the limit: the race officials were forced to show the black and white flag to Petrini, Hommerson and Maggi for straying off the track.
The race was centred on the struggle for second place with Ardagna Perez, Sundberg, Necchi and Smurra all going for it. The break came on lap 12 when Sundberg nudged past Perez just as the officials hit Petrini and Hommerson with a drive through for ignoring the track limits at turn 9.
This episode allowed Maggi, who had swept past Wauters, to inherit sixth spot when he had been in ninth. Smurra was ahead of him but over 15 seconds away. All eyes were now on the fight for third between Ardagna Perez, Necchi and Smurra as well as the duel between Sundberg and Pastorelli. The Swede managed to reduce the gap to the leader and tried, without success, to get past him. The fight between Emanuele Smurra and Paolo Necchi was altogether different. The Trofeo Maserati's first ever champion displayed grit that he had not shown before and continuously attacked the MotorMedia director but Necchi did well to beat Smurra off with a range of defensive moves.
The order did not change from this point on and so, after forty minutes of racing, Nicky Pastorelli took the chequered flag from Sundberg (0”520 down), Ardagna Perez (21”203) and Paolo Necchi (26”796). Necchi completes the 'true' podium as Pastorelli, a Maserati guest, does not earn any points.
Emanuele Smurra was another driver to finish in the points and he also set the race's best lap time of 1’41”963. Next up came Francesco Maggi, Kris Wauters, Niek Hommerson and Marco Petrini. Jonathan Sicart, as expected, topped the GT4 standings ahead of Peter Kutemann.
Now that the curtain has come down on Zolder, the Goldstein/Sundberg pairing have taken the overall championship lead with Jonathan Sicart commanding in GT4.
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