Kuppens, Mr EnduranceRenaud Kuppens showed that he is the man to beat in endurance races in the Trofeo Maserati World Series.
The Belgian drove majestically in the weekend's third and final race at Imola: he overtook Simoni at the start and then controlled things to claim the win from Pigoli/Dromedari and Simoni/Ragazzi.
Things were exciting from the first curve: contact would be inevitable with all the Trofeos filing through Tamburello at the same time. The biggest clash involved Pigoli and Simoni with Simoni ending up in the gravel. He was not the only driver to end up there as he was soon joined by Gardelli. Richard Denny's Trofeo also came out of the curve roughed up even though he lined up in a decent grid spot. There was nothing for it and he had to pit with his bodywork damaged. On lap 3 the race officials slapped Pigoli with a stop-and-go for jumping the gun at the start. The Swiss Team came in on lap 4 and slipped from third to ninth. Race 2 may have been short on thrills but the endurance event more than made up for it. One driver catching the eye was Simoni as he climbed through the field from last spot.
Kuppens was leading the group from Sbirrazzuoli and Romagnoli, who posted the race’s fastest lap at 1'52"956. Behind them, Lorenzini, in the Bowers & Wilkins VIP car, edged past Garelli into fourth.
Simoni’s storming comeback continued and the Ferrara-based driver outdid Fascicolo at Tamburello to take seventh on lap eight. Up ahead Romagnoli harassed Sbirrazzuoli and then overtook him, at Tamburello, while Kuppens was crossing the start-finish line for the tenth time and the twenty-minute compulsory pit stop window was opening.
Sernagiotto replaced Fascicolo on lap 11 but Kuppens waited a couple more laps before steering his No.99 Trofeo into the pit lane. The race lost one of its main players soon after when Luca Lorenzini’s suspension gave out and he limped to the pit lane in his Bowers & Wilkins VIP car.
A controversial episode took place on lap 15 when Ragazzi and Sernagiotto clashed at Tamburello resulting in Ragazzi ending up off the track and Sernagiotto controlling the car on the limit. Ragazzi’s part in the incident was viewed as voluntary by race officials, rather than a purely racing incident, and this meant he had a stop & go to perform.
Ragazzi wasn’t the only driver the officials had their eyes on as AF Corse’s Sbirrazzuoli/Chionna and Konvex Racing’s Daniel Waszczinski were hauled in for a drive-through for not making their compulsory stop in the set window.
Ragazzi made his stop & go on lap 18 after taking away Varini’s third spot. Romagnoli’s team-mate could do nothing about Ragazzi’s attack as he had punctured and retired soon after. Also dropping out early was Stefano Garelli: he parked his Trofeo at trackside, just after Tamburello, to miss out on a deserved second spot.
The high temperatures were troubling the cars and the drivers. Sernagiotto was having an especially difficult time with his transmission only letting him select third or fourth. This, of course, had an impact on his lap times and, on lap 22, he was overtaken by Dromedari. One lap later Serafino also got past him to complete the comeback begun by his team-mate, Bakker.
Kuppens was leading by a healthy margin and targeting the chequered flag, steering well clear of back markers as he went. He achieved what he set out to do and pocketed his second overall Maserati Trofeo win.
The Konvex Racing driver was joined on the podium by the Swiss Team pairing of Pigoli/Dromedari and the Ragazzi/Simoni duo; the first of the Trofeo drivers. Behind the top three came Bakker/Serafino, Fascicolo/Sernagiotto and Daniel Waszczinski, from Konvex Racing.
In seventh and eighth came two drivers who were cagier than the other drivers early on: Andreas Segler and Guenther Forster. Thomas Herpell and the De Leener duo closed out the top ten.
Even though they finished a lap down, Sbai, Sorti/Durante, the Danes Nielsen and Rasmussen and the Gardelli/Venier crew all drove well.
Renaud Kuppens’ win makes him the Overall leader and he will be aiming to extend his 20 point lead over Fascicolo/Sernagiotto. In third are Simoni/Ragazzi, 21 points off the leader.
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