Sbirrazzuoli in styleThanks to a majestic drive from first to last, Cedric Sbirrazzuoli claimed Race 1 at Portimao.
The AF Corse driver laid the foundations for his win with a turn 1 attack, making the most of Ghanem's sluggish start and overtook the poleman and Ragazzi on the outside.
Looking back over the race, one held in 24°C sunshine and with a headwind in the main straight, the start turned out to be decisive. Sbirrazzuoli, from Monaco, edged past Ghanem, whose slow pace kept the bunched packed tightly. He made the most of the wide surface after deciding not to risk diving between Ghanem and Ragazzi.
The Lebanese driver was caught by the young AF Corse man and then lost second to an aggressive Ragazzi. Behind them Venier, who got off to a fine start, was clipped and missed the chance to gain a few places. Still, he dug in behind Kuppens, waiting for an error. The mistake came when Kuppens missed his braking point and allowed his rival through.
Next up came a six-strong bunch battling for eighth, highlighting just how close things are in this series.
At the end of lap 5, Sbirrazzuoli was holding a lead of 4"4 over Ragazzi and one of 5"4 over Ghanem. In behind, Kuppens was trying to find a way past Garelli but was taking a few risks in doing so. Mildenhall was waiting to pounce, playing the patient game and hoping to gain two places by doing nothing. However, Kuppens, from Belgium, used all his experience in finding a way past and he set off after Venier.
In the middle of the pack there was an engaging tussle taking place between Hanna and Tadlaoui for fourteenth with the Lebanese driver hounding the Moroccan. During one attempted attack, Hanna failed to control his Trofeo's power slide coming out of a curve and took it wide, losing a few positions on the way. There was no time for Tadlaoui to relax with Segler filling his rear view mirrors. Feeling the heat, the Moroccan spun, ended up in the middle of the track, and was hit by a blameless Rasmussen. He had no option but to pull out. Denny ran a similar risk but luck was on his side when he lost control of his car leaving a curve and brushed Fascicolo as he was overtaking the Australian to move into tenth.
On the final lap, in a race dominated by Sbirrazzuoli, came the last of the action with Varini edging past the journalist Mildenhall to claim seventh.
So, at the chequered flag, Sbirrazzuoli scored his and AF Corse's first win of the season. Ragazzi took an excellent second, 8"2 down, with Ghanem next, 9"9 seconds off winning pace. Just off the podium came Venier, Kuppens and Garelli, with Varini, Mildenhall, Sbai and Fascicolo completing the top ten.
» Official website