Baldi extends into a race and championship lead
Even if the day’s second race was not as exciting as the first, there were some highlights. These were mostly delivered by Gaetano Ardagna who first took on Casé and then Gai.
As in Race 1, the rolling start was an even one. The order coming out of Tamburello was Baldi leading, then came Casé, Ardagna, Villa, Gai, Piancastelli, Bakker and Chionna. Right from the start, Ardagna attacked Casé who could not make the most of the quick gear changes.
Up ahead, Baldi gave the pack an early taste of his strategy as he put in a series of fast laps to build up a healthy buffer for the second half of the race. His advantage climbed to a second and a half.
In this part of the race, Casé struggled to contain an Ardagna keen to make up for what happened in Race 1. Trying to keep up with the Venezuelan, Manuel Villa, who was tucked in behind, maybe pushed too hard and skidded off on lap two. His slip at Villeneuve saw him fall from fourth to sixth, just up on Bakker.
Ardagna Perez and Casé were putting on an exciting battle and Casé, having settled into a better rhythm, was doing better at keeping Perez at arm’s length. Perez was still fighting hard and putting the Swiss Team driver under all sorts of trouble, perhaps spurred on by Stefano Gai’s headlights looming in his rear view mirror.
Anita Toth’s spin exiting Piratella created a few problems for Manuel Villa: as he swerved to avoid Toth’s car he lost his place to Piancastelli.
On lap nine, Gai slipped past an Ardagna who had lost touch with Casé as the two began lapping back markers.
At the start of lap ten, David Baldi was leading by 7”7 over Casé, 11”1 over Gai, 11”7 over Ardagna, 14”4 over Piancastelli, 16”7 over Villa and 30”3 over Bakker. Behind the Dutchman were a duelling Doeblin and Chionna, with Wansky, Bentivoglio and De Leener a little off the pace.
Another difference between this race and the first was that there were no groups of drivers overlapping and involved in private tussles from start to finish. The only factor able to throw a spanner in the works was when the leaders began lapping drivers at the back of the field. This phase allowed Ardagna to turn up the heat on Gai and Villa to pressure Piancastelli. While Perez could find no way past Gai, Piancastelli was successful in getting the better of the second placed driver from Race 1.
Nothing much changed from this point to the chequered flag. The only real shift was Giorgio Manuzzi moving into tenth place after a fine comeback.
So, David Baldi was the deserved winner of Race 2. He leaves Santerno will a pocket full of points. The Tuscan crossed the line ahead of Lorenzo Casé (9”9 down), Stefano Gai (13”5 down), Gaetano Ardagna (14”1 down), Nicolò Piancastelli (20”3 down) and Manuel Villa (21”1 down). Filling the other top ten slots were Mathijs Bakker, Olivier Doeblin, Alessandro Chionna and Alexander Wensky.
In the Team standings, Casé won out from Doeblin and Chionna, with Daniel Waszczinski in fourth.
The next date in the Trofeo Maserati GranTurismo MC is in two weeks at Monza.
Baldi, a thrilling win
The much feared rain held off the Santerno circuit and glorious sunshine dried the track made wet by a heavy night-time downpour.
The rolling start was a regular one with the group bunching up to file through Tamburello. Casé was holding first with Sbirrazzuoli in second. However, Sbirrazzuoli soon suffered a temporary locked gearbox that saw him slip to fourth; his place taken by Gai. The Lombardy driver was very aggressive and forced Casé to leave his braking later and later. This couldn't last and the Swiss Team leader mis-timed his braking for Rivazza and ended up in the sand. He managed to dig his way out but the episode opened the door for Gai, tracked hard by Baldi.
Two drivers were especially exciting over the early stages: Gaetano Ardagna and Mathijs Bakker. Ardagna was literally unstoppable and was up to sixth spot by the end of lap six while Bakker was in fifteenth.
The race was a close one: up front Baldi and Gai were contending first place with Gai taking up to a second a lap out of Manuel Villa behind him. The Albenga driver was, in turn, building a lead over the small group of Smurra, Casé and Ardagna, all within a few tenths of each other.
The situation on lap five saw Gai leading by six tenths from Baldi. Next came Villa (+8.8), Smurra (+12.8), Ardagna (+13.1) and Piancastelli (+13.5). Casé, who was having problems with his brakes, tried to stay in touch with the group of drivers going for third. He was taking a lot of risks along the way like the one at Tamburello when he only just managed to keep control of his car.
Most eyes were now on the race for first: Baldi was really pushing Gai and was on his tail curve after curve but the lead man stayed cool and never once gave the impression of being too concerned. The gap between the two was tiny and never above a second.
The fight for fourth took an interesting turn on lap six when Ardagna overshot Villeneuve, leaving the door open for Piancastelli to breeze through. The Venezuelan was also overtaken by Sbirrazzuoli who had moved into the Team championship lead ahead of Casé (ninth) and Doeblin (tenth).
Not long after came the first duel between Piancastelli and Smurra. Once the Romagna driver had edged past him, Smurra and Piancastelli would cross swords again later on.
The race's first turning point came on lap eleven when Gai spun at the Villeneuve chicane and his engine cut out. The young Italian managed to get going again but had only a slight lead over Villa and, crucially, was fifteen seconds down on Baldi.
The race was a gripping one, above all in the group chasing the front three of Baldi, Gai and Villa. Piancastelli in fourth, with Sbirrazzuoli, Ardagna, Smurra, Casé and Bakker up next, spun on lap 12 at Villeneuve and dropped to ninth.
There was no let-up in the tussle for second with Villa pushing Gai all the way. The two were both leaving the braking as late as possible but, as when defending his position from Baldi, Gai seemed able to cope with the rally driver's attacks.
Further down the pack, Ardagna overtook Sbirrazzuoli who headed Bakker, Casé and Piancastelli. This trio was really going at it with the positions changing hands repeatedly.
When Baldi crossed the start-finish line for the fifteenth time, he had a lead of more than thirteen seconds over Gai. A missed gear saw Gai lose second spot when he was overtaken by Villa. The group chasing the leaders was providing more excitement even though two main players, Lorenzo Casé and Gaetano Ardagna, crashed out on lap 17. The incident came when Ardagna was caught and overtaken by Casé who then tried to attack Sbirrazzuoli at Rivazza. The Swiss Team driver locked his front left wheel trying to stop and ended up wide, on the synthetic grass. When he stepped on the accelerator, the Trofeo spun and careered into the innocent Venezuelan. There was nothing for it but for both to pull out.
In the meantime came another episode in the Smurra-Piancastelli battle with the ex-Trofeo champion nicking past the Romagna driver into fifth. The two soon swapped places again, and this time definitively.
Now the attention was on David Baldi. The Tuscan seemed to have victory sewn up and so slowed his pace, allowing Villa to make up over ten seconds in four laps. Two laps from the end, Villa had closed to within two seconds of the leader with Gai 4"2 seconds down.
Villa was now in Baldi's slipstream but twice on the final lap, at Villeneuve and Rivazza, the yellow flag came out after cars ran off the track, limiting the overtaking opportunities.
So, David Baldi held on to win from Manuel Villa (0”9 down) and Stefano Gai (4”9 down). Fourth place, and first in the Team championship, went to Cedric Sbirrazzuoli. Next came Nicolò Piancastelli, Emanuele Smurra, Mathijs Bakker, Olivier Doeblin (second in the Team standings), Andreas Segler, Alexander Wensky, Pierre Marie de Leener, Guenther Forster, Eugenio Mosca and Carlo Romani.
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