Kuppens the ice-breakerThe third race at Portimao was run over the new 50-minute format with a compulsory pit stop and driver change for crewed cars.
The pit stop window is from minutes 20 to 30 and all the drivers have to turn off their engines for 45 seconds. Obviously, the longer race format means more points being award.
The pack rolled off to an event-free start with the only contact coming at turn 6 between El Marnissi and Cappelletti, who misjudged his braking.
At this point, Ragazzi was leading from Ghanem, Kuppens and Sernagiotto but all four were battling along the entire length of the circuit trying to put each other under pressure. The provisional race leader soon made a mistake braking and ended up off the track. He slipped three places and opened the door for Ghanem to sneak through and stretch into a lead.
On lap three, the top eight places were filled by: Ghanem, Kuppens, Sernagiotto, Ragazzi, Gardelli, Romagnoli, Chionna and Mildenhall.
Sernagiotto seemed pacier than Kuppens and, on lap four and having posted the race’s fastest lap time, he attacked and overtook the Belgian. Kuppens was having none of it, though, and hit back right away to regain his position. While all this was going on, Cappelletti was calling time on his weekend’s action.
As in Race 2, Romagnoli was pulling out all the stops. He was putting a series of quick laps that saw him cruise past Ragazzi on lap five, a lap that also saw Denny get past Tadlaoui into tenth. The Australian, racing on an English licence, held his position until lap twelve when a mistimed braking point saw him concede his spot to the Moroccan.
The round of pit stops began on lap eleven with Sbirrazzuoli substituting Chionna. Two laps later it was Ghanem’s turn to pull in after he had been overtaken by Romagnoli. With the lap counter on 14, Kuppens and Sernagiotto turned into the pit lane at the same time but, when the Belgian pulled out again, Ghanem’s Trofeo was no longer ahead of him. Kuppens was now in the lead.
Only Romagnoli had yet to pit and he did so on lap fifteen to hand over the reins to Varini. With the pit stops done with, the standings saw Kuppens leading from Ghanem (+ 2”4), Simoni (+ 13”4), Venier (+ 14”5), Varini (+ 16”4), Fascicolo (+ 17”0) and Sbirrazzuoli (+ 36”1).
At this point the first sanctions started filtering though from the race officials: a drive through for Herpell for exceeding the speed limit and Carbo Fernandez and Rasmussen for not pitting in time. On the track, Simoni and Venier were tussling for third. The Ferrara-based driver had been unlucky in the morning after clashing with Ghanem and here defended third so well that Venier was taking big risks trying to snatch it.
Sbirrazzuoli’s attempted comeback ended two laps from the finish with a puncture, leaving the way clear for Denny, Dromedari and El Marnissi. Things calmed down a few minutes before the chequered flag was shown with Kuppens leading a fairly stress-free existence up front.
The Konvex Racing driver duly went to record his first win of the season ahead of Ghanem, 2”0 down, and the Ragazzi/Simoni crew, 15”7 off the pace. Behind the top three came Gardelli/Venier, Romagnoli/Varini and Sernagiotto/Fascicolo, with Denny, Dromedari (Swiss Team), El Marnissi and Mildenhall taking the remaining top ten places.
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