Race 3

Sonoma - USA

Ange Barde

Barde's first Trofeo win

Ange Barde scored his first win in the Maserati Trofeo. Victory came when he overtook Ragazzi just before the safety car came on to freeze the on-track positions and bring a virtual end to proceedings.

The Frenchman had produced a solid display throughout but recognised his Italian rival’s sportsmanship during the episode. The outcome of the race was decided by the compulsory pit stops during a weekend where Renaud Kuppens dominated.

The Belgian moved smoothly into an early lead with Mac, Barde, Simoni, Bakker and Cola chasing behind. Cola was especially lively, sweeping past Bakker and looking to pressurize Barde.

Just further back, Fascicolo was looking to fend off Damon Ockey with an aggressive Venier battling hard after getting a fine start.

Up ahead, Cola was continuing to hound Barde and clipped the Frenchman when trying an overtaking move at the last curve. He damaged his car in the incident and had to abandon it at the side of the track soon after. Simoni made the most of the Italian’s mistake to move into third spot in a race where Kuppens was still leading from Mac. The Belgian knew he would have to spend an extra 20 seconds in the pits and so was attempting to stretch his lead but Mac was sticking to the leader.

Calamia was in the middle of the pack hoping for a turn of fortune in what had been an unlucky weekend. He edged past Venier and tagged Fascicolo and Ockey. His advantage didn’t last long as Venier retook the Swiss driver to move ahead of the number 35 car. Venier was pretty quick in this part of the race and also reeled in Ockey before training his sights on Fascicolo. Calamia, on the other hand, was beginning to suffer engine problems and couldn’t match the lap times set by the drivers he had been sparring with. He was soon caught by Cesari and overtaken on lap ten.

Venier was still stepping on the gas and was now ahead of Fascicolo with one lap to go before the compulsory pit stop window opened. First into the pits were Adrien De Leener and Mauro Calamia, followed by Bakker and Fascicolo one lap later. Bakker handed over to Sbirrazzuoli and Fascicolo handed the baton over to his team-mate Cecchellero. On lap 13 it was the turn of Kuppens, Mac and Simoni (replaced by Ragazzi) to make their stop. Barde opted to stay out and make the most of the free track ahead of him.

When the cars emerged from the pit lane, the race order had a whole new look: Ragazzi was now leading from Sbirrazzuoli, Mac and Kuppens. Mac and Kuppens were within touching distance and the Belgian tried to make the most of being in the Dane’s slipstream to try to overtake. The move failed and the current championship leader spun. He made it back onto the track without too many problems but was now some ten seconds down on the front three.

Barde eventually pulled in on lap 15 and emerged in third place behind Sbirrazzuoli. A close fight between Ockey, Calamia and Gardelli was taking place a little further back but Gardelli’s race came to an end when he was first outdone by Cecchellero and then forced to park up with a puncture.

The fight for supremacy up front was a close one. Sbirrazzuoli was hounding Ragazzi but just failing to get through. Then, a few laps later, he pushed that bit too hard and left the door open for Barde to sneak into second. With the infighting slowing down the leaders, Mac was closing in and was now just two seconds off Sbirrazzuoli.

On lap 22 came the episodes that decided the outcome of the race. Mac’s pace saw him overtake Sbirrazzuoli but the youngster from Monaco managed to retake his position. Up front, Ange Barde moved into the lead when he profited from the only mistake made by Riccardo Ragazzi in an otherwise perfect drive. A few hundred metres further on, Damon Ockey’s car smashed violently into the barriers after suffering a puncture and the safety car was called on. As the restart took place with the chequered flag flying, the race positions were frozen and Barde was declared the winner. The other podium spots went to Simoni/Ragazzi and Bakker/Sbirrazzuoli. Mikkel Mac managed to finish ahead of Renaud Kuppens; fifth went to a superb Adrien De Leener with Fascicolo/Cecchellero, Calamia, McQuarrie/Byrne (the first of the US drivers) and Cesari/Bettini next.

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