Hyundai’s Mikel Azcona and Romeo Ferraris’ Maxime Martin are jointly leading the event standings after the opening day of the FIA eTouring Car World Cup event at Vallelunga, after both drivers topped their qualifying and Quarter Final sessions respectively.
Azcona laid down his marker in qualifying on Saturday morning, when the Hyundai driver was the only driver in Pool Fast to dip below the 1 minute 20 seconds mark around the short Vallelunga circuit.
The Spaniard beat CUPRA’s Adrien Tambay to the top time by over two tenths of a second, whilst all six cars ended up being covered by less than half a second.
Over in Pool Furious, Romeo Ferrari’s Maxime Martin claimed the top time with a lap which was even faster than Azcona’s, although the Belgian was kept honest by CUPRA’s Tom Blomqvist, who was only 0.053 seconds adrift in second.
In the end, four drivers in Pool Furious dipped below the 1:20s mark, including 2021 PURE ETCR champion Mattias Ekström and Hyundai’s Nicky Catsburg, who beat Jean-Karl Vernay into fourth.
Pool Fast combined qualifying results
|1||96||Mikel AZCONA||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||4||1:19.885||–|
|2||27||Adrien TAMBAY||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||4||1:20.105||0.220|
|3||7||Bruno SPENGLER||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||4||1:20.202||0.317|
|4||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||4||1:20.267||0.382|
|5||25||Luca FILIPPI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||4||1:20.290||0.405|
|6||28||Jordi GENÉ||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||4||1:20.369||0.484|
Pool Furious combined qualifying results
|1||36||Maxime MARTIN||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||4||1:19.692||–|
|2||10||Tom BLOMQVIST||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||4||1:19.745||0.053|
|3||1||Mattias EKSTRÖM||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||4||1:19.873||0.181|
|4||88||Nicky CATSBURG||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||4||1:19.944||0.252|
|5||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||4||1:20.151||0.459|
|6||21||Giovanni VENTURINI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||4||1:20.368||0.676|
A close start in the first Pool Fast Quarter Final saw Azcona initially hold the lead, but around Turn 2 Bruno Spengler committed himself fully in his Alfa Romeo and passed the Hyundai driver, as Tambay settled into third.
Spengler’s lead lasted little more than a corner as Azcona immediately re-passed, and the heat then settled into a rhythm as the trio spaced out, unable to get close enough to the car in front to mount overtakes.
Tambay had closed in on Spengler, before picking up a left-rear puncture on the penultimate lap to take him out of contention for second. Azcona therefore won the heat, over a second ahead of Spengler, with Tambay limping to the finish more than a minute later.
The second heat in Pool Fast had Michelisz starting on the inside line, which turned out to be advantageous as all three drivers made equally fast starts – Luca Filippi being squeezed in the middle against CUPRA’s Jordi Gené.
That was basically it as far as the on-track action was concerned – Michelisz opened a gap in the early laps, whilst Gené pressured Filippi for second.
Filippi caught Michelisz after the halfway stage, with Gené succumbing to a puncture on lap four. Romeo Ferraris driver Filippi then sduffered his own puncture on the last lap, giving Michelisz an easy heat win.
Pool Fast Quarter Final 1 result
|1||96||Mikel AZCONA||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||5||6:59.362||1:22.556||1|
|2||7||Bruno SPENGLER||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||5||1.172||1:22.958||3|
|3||27||Adrien TAMBAY||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||5||1:20.011||1:22.953||2|
Pool Fast Quarter Final 2 result
|1||5||Norbert MICHELISZ||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||5||7:05.038||1:23.118||1|
|2||25||Luca FILIPPI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||5||47.403||1:23.279||2|
|3||28||Jordi GENÉ||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||4||+ 1 LAP||1:23.439||3|
Maxime Martin won a fiercely competitive opening Pool Furious Quarter Final. The Belgian held the advantage on the opening lap, but Blomqvist committed himself to using generous amounts of his power-up to claim the lead, so much so that when he had muscled through at the start of the second lap, he was already effectively out of additional juice.
Third-placed Ekström, in contrast, barely used any power-up on the opening lap, and despite this the Swede remained with the pair ahead, thanks to the intense on-track battling.
Martin and Ekström both breezed past Blomqvist going onto lap four, and he just held on for the next two laps, despite having less power-up than the chasing CUPRA. Blomqvist was almost three seconds back in third in the end.
The final heat of the day wasn’t quite as exciting. Catsburg assumed the lead, despite the Dutchman appearing to get the worst start of the trio, his inside line giving him the best line for the first corner.
Catsburg eked out a more comfortable lead, as Hyundai team-mate Vernay came under pressure from the Romeo Ferraris Giulia of Venturini.
However, Venturini didn’t mount a serious attempt to pass, whilst Catsburg went on to claim the heat win over a second clear of Vernay.
Pool Furious Quarter Final 1 result
|1||36||Maxime MARTIN||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||5||7:01.039||1:22.806||1|
|2||1||Mattias EKSTRÖM||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||5||0.190||1:22.836||3|
|3||10||Tom BLOMQVIST||CUPRA EKS||CUPRA e-Racer||5||2.874||1:23.623||2|
Pool Furious Quarter Final 2 result
|1||88||Nicky CATSBURG||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||5||7:00.208||1:22.842||1|
|2||69||Jean-Karl VERNAY||Hyundai Motorsport N||Hyundai Veloster N ETCR||5||1.089||1:22.407||2|
|3||21||Giovanni VENTURINI||Romeo Ferraris||Alfa Romeo Giulia ETCR||5||2.314||1:22.774||3|
Heading into Sunday’s Semi Final and Super Final action, it is Martin (35 points) who is tied with Azcona (35) at the top, followed by Ekström (24), Spengler (24), Blomqvist (22) and Tambay (22).