The close-quarters fight, with nudges and clashes galore, kicked off on lap one and Giancarlo Fisichella, in one of the two Maserati Quattroporte Evos from the private Swiss Team, came off worst.
Fisichella lined up in top spot but crossed the finish line only eighth. He was also slapped with a 25” penalty, which relegated him to eleventh, for running into Camilo Zurcher’s Romeo Ferraris Mercedes C63 AMG just after the start. The incident came not long after the Mercedes driver had done everything to provoke a reaction from Swiss Team’s ex-F1 man.
Just behind Fisichella came the Swiss squad’s other driver, the relatively inexperienced Mauro Cesari. Cesari closed out in twelfth spot after a couple of early mistakes and then a fighting comeback from fifteenth.
With the grid order decided for Race 1, but with the first eight places reversed, Fisichella started Race 2 on pole. Giovanni Berton, in a much lighter BMW E92, fielded by Dinamic, and Vitantonio Liuzzi, in a Caal Racing C63 AMG boasting more power and a bigger engine, soon overtook him. Zurcher, in another C63 AMG, soon pulled alongside and started hounding Liuzzi; this is when the trouble started. Zurcher swerved towards Liuzzi and clipped the Caal Racing driver. This caused Liuzzi to slide sideways and cut up Fisichella, brushing his Quattroporte Evo.
With Berton and Liuzzi holding spots one and two, respectively, Fisichella and Zurcher set about each other in a tussle that was not short of clashes. Going into the Semaforo curve, the Columbian, on the inside, slipped past the Italian. Fisichella tried to hit back by leaving his braking as late as possible at the next turn but ended up ramming his rival, sending him into a spin. Fisichella’s skid opened the door for Max Mugellu, in another Dinamic M3 E92, and Johan Kristoffersson’s Audi Rs5 from Kms to edge through.
From here on, Fisichella’s race got more difficult. With Kristoffersson again proving the Rs5’s superiority (the car benefits from favourable balance of performance regulations) by going on to take the lead, Fisichella’s tyres began wearing down. On lap four he had to make way for Thomas Shoffler’s Mtm Rs5 and Thomas Biagi, Dinamic’s No.1 driver. Gianni Morbidelli, in an Audi Sport Italia Rs5, also found a way through on lap eight. This saw the Maserati driver finish in eighth before being given the 25 second penalty that moved him down to eleventh.
Cesari, who lined up in tenth, first strayed off the track and then skidded. The mishaps saw him fall to fifteenth but he then mounted a great comeback to finish in twelfth.
Thanks to his win, Kristoffersson now leads the standings having overhauled Liuzzi. Liuzzi could only finish seventh, after starting second, as the suspension damaged in the lap one collision with Zurcher caused his tyres to wear out.
Fisichella’s one-off appearance in Superstars did not bring any points as he was a Swiss Team guest, as were Mika Salo, Johnny Herbert, Christian Fittipaldi and Christian Klein earlier this season; Swiss Team’s policy this year is to increase the popularity of its squad and the series. Cesari is now eighteenth overall and the Swiss outfit, thanks to its drivers’ solid displays, now sits fourth in the Team classification.
The ex-F1 driver earned the spot after his eighth place finish in Race 1. In this championship, the grid order for Race 2 is determined by reversing the top eight finishers in Race 1. The Swiss Team’s other driver, Mauro Cesari, also put in a fine display as he started from thirteenth and came home tenth.
Race 1 at the Rome circuit was especially hard for the Swiss Team drivers as they started in the middle of the pack following the problems they had in qualifying. There was also the disadvantage they faced compared to the other cars after the recent regulation changes regarding the technical spec.
After a lightning fast start by Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Caal Racing Mercedes C63 AMG, the superiority of the Audi RS5 came through as Johan Kristoffersson (Kms), Thomas Schoffler (Mtm) and Gianni Morbidelli (Audi Sport Italia) soon moved up to occupy the top three slots. On lap two Kristoffersson posted the fastest lap of 1'40"565 to bring his lead to 5"2 by lap 4. He was in great form as none of his rivals had managed to dip below 1'42"1.
Even though he was slowed down by a crash ahead of him, Fisichella still managed to move into eighth place by making the most of mistakes made by other drivers. He was especially helped by the shunt involving Morbidelli and Liuzzi while they were chasing third, a clash that cost the Audi driver a drive-through. As it turned out, the incident could have been even costlier to Fisichella as a section of Liuzzi’s damaged rear bumper got caught under the nose of his Quattroporte Evo. Luckily the Maserati’s drive wasn’t hampered and the ex-F1 driver managed to close in on the leading group thanks to his careful management of the tyres. Finishing eighth gave Fisichella first spot in Race 2.
Mauro Cesari made a great comeback from thirteenth to tenth. Like Fisichella, he benefited from other drivers’ errors and technical problems but, despite having only limited racing pedigree, his overtaking moves on Caldarola and Pigoli stood out. He was also consistently quick, posting a best lap only .034 slower than his team mate’s.