However, halfway through Race 2, the Englishman was caught up in an accident between two rival cars and forced out.
Making up for it was the Swiss squad’s other Quattroporte Evo, driven by Mauro Cesari. Cesari battled like a lion, climbing ten positions at the start. He held his own in two close fights and finished sixth.
The race lined up with the top eight drivers in a reversed Race 1 finishing order. This meant that Herbert started from eighth, chasing Ananda Mikola, Francesco Sini, Max Pigoli, Vitantonio Liuzzi, Andrea Larini and Stefano Gabellini. Meanwhile, Cesari started quickly and had already gained a spot.
Things were soon hotting up between Mikola and Sini for the lead and Pigoli and Larini for third. In behind the leading four were Liuzzi, Gabellini and Herbert. Cesari had climbed another position by overtaking Johan Kristoffersson to move into a slot just off his team mate.
On lap three, Larini perhaps let emotion get the better of him as he attacked Pigoli full on at a point where he was unlikely to get past. He ended up slamming into him and they both spun out of the race. Johnny was right behind the incident and could do nothing to avoid crashing right into them. With his left wheel ripped off, Herbert’s time was up.
This was when we saw the best of Cesari in the Quattroporte Evo. With Sini moving into the lead from Mikola, Liuzzi, Gabellini and Biagi, Cesari was upping the tempo to close in on Biagi first and then Liuzzi as the two dropped back a little.
So, Cesari found himself battling with the ex-F1 driver while trying to fend off Kristoffersson. It wasn’t easy and he did brilliantly keeping his cool to stick to the inside line and bring home a hard-earned sixth after all his problems in qualifying.
So, Swiss Team, under Giuseppe Angiulli, come away from Mugello having shown just how competitive the Quattroporte Evo is, even if they are out of the running for the title won in 2011 by Andrea Bertolini. This season the team has opted to focus on upping the excitement levels with top ex-F1 drivers sharing the drive in one of its cars. So far Mika Salo, Christian Fittipaldi and Johnny Herbert have turned out.
Driving for Swiss Team in the International Superstars Series, the ex-F1 star was up against Andrea Larini’s Romeo Ferraris Mercedes C63 AMG throughout. In the end, he took second, just 0"421 off the winning time which was an amazing feat against a bigger-engined, more powerful car.
Herbert was simply superb. He made the most of the Quattroporte Evo’s excellent handling to drive on the limit. He used the entire track in pulling off power slides and also rode the kerbs to pick up as much time as he could in the mixed sections where handling really counts. However, even though he pulled up to Larini on more than one occasion, Johnny couldn’t get past because of the Mercedes’ acceleration and higher top speed.
Herbert, who started on fourth, used all his experience from the off by keeping well clear of the trouble he had rightly expected at turn 1. The pile up was caused by Sandro Bettini’s BMW M3 E92 (Dinamic) getting its braking all wrong, nudging Andrea Larini and spinning into Thomas Biagi, Bettini’s team mate. Bettini also careered into Larini’s team mate, Camilo Zurcher. Also caught up in the crash were Gianni Morbidelli and Andrea Boffo (in an Audi Sport Italia Audi RS5 and a Jaguar XF/R5.0 S/C, from Ferito, respectively).
After three laps of slowed-down safety car time, the race restarted with Larini leading but with part of his bodywork hanging off and an exhaust dragging along the ground. Even though this was potentially dangerous, race officials opted to take no action.
Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Mercedes C63 AMG, from Caal Racing, exploited all of his car’s acceleration to storm past Herbert’s Quattroporte Evo that had restarted second. Johnny hit straight back with a great overtaking move and set off after Larini.
On lap eight, having negotiated a series of super-quick sections and posting the race’s fastest lap of 1'58"290, Herbert moved up into Larini’s slipstream and began hounding him at every turn, areas where the Quattroporte Evo is much nimbler.
It wasn’t to be: the Mercedes was could count on pure pace and managed to edge away every time. In the end, the gap at the finish was just 0"421.
Herbert deserves the congratulations of the entire paddock for the controlled drive that only experts like him can pull off. He put on a show and kept everyone guessing right until the end.
Swiss Team, led by Giuseppe Angiulli, also contributed to the result in putting together a perfectly balanced car that was set up just right.
Mauro Cesari, Swiss Team’s other driver, started from seventeenth after not getting the most out of his tyres in qualifying. He was caught up in the group during the race but still set about Francesco Sini’s Chevrolet Lumina, from Solaris, and Paolo Meloni’s BMW M3 E90, from W&D. In the end he crossed the line tenth.