Kuppens seals the win
There seems to be no stopping Renaud Kuppens. The reigning champion proved how at ease he is feeling at Sonoma by beating Cedric Sbirrazzuoli and Mikkel Mac to the finish line. The race was full of incident but nothing could prevent Kuppens from climbing onto the highest podium spot.
The race got off to a smooth start with Kuppens heading Sbirrazzuoli, Mac, Cola and Ragazzi. Sbirrazzuoli made the most the gearbox problems that flared up on Mac’s car during the formation lap to close in on Kuppens and crank up the pressure. At the back of the field, and following a difficult qualifying session, Venier moved into the spotlight with an eye-catching overtaking move on Ragazzi. His advantage didn’t last long though as the Swiss Team driver immediately moved back into seventh spot. In midfield, Cheung’s spin proved to be costly as he slipped from tenth to the very back of the pack. Up front Kuppens had managed to extend his lead over Sbirrazzuoli (+1.7) with Mac (+4.1), Cola (+4.5) e Westphal (+5.7) all trailing. Behind the top five came Barde Ragazzi, Venier, Adrien De Leener and Calamia.
Hedman’s race came to an end on lap five when the American spun on the main straight after clashing with another car. His left rear suspension was damaged beyond repair and race officials had no option but to radio the pick-up. A few unexplainable seconds ticked by before the officials called for the safety car but, when they did, the group bunched up again with Kuppens leading from Sbirrazzuoli, Mac, Cola, Westphal, Barde, Ragazzi, Venier, Calamia and Adrian De Leener.
At the restart, Mac and Cola set about each other with the Italian playing hard but fair with the young Dane - Westphal and Barde played the part of interested onlookers. Cheung had spun down the field early on and now strayed off the track and pulled out. While this was going on, Venier and Calamia were tussling for eighth.
On lap 13, Cola missed his braking point at the last curve when attempting to attack Mac. He was also almost outdone by Westphal but managed to hold off the American. Just behind the leaders the standings did change with Venier’s retirement; Calamia was the driver to benefit.
Not much else happened from then on. Four laps separated Kuppens from victory and the only action was provided by Cola trying, and failing, to overtake Mac.
So, Kuppens has taken the weekend’s opening race ahead of Sbirrazzuoli, Mac, Cola, Westphal and Ange Barde. Ragazzi, Calamia, Adrian De Leener and Cesari closed out the top ten.